Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lebkuchen


WheelerandCompany have been in receipt of a large amount of delicious Christmas cookies from our German friends over the last few weeks.  Last weekend we received four packets of various types of Lebkuchen and today a neat parcel of quince and apple sweets and some delicious traditional hand-made biscuits and also our first Christmas cards!  What a treat to nibble with our hot chocolate and krauter tee after school on a dark and wintry Irish afternoon.

Lebkuchen, if you are not familiar with them, are a traditional German chewy, gingery, spiced soft biscuit with a range of coverings such as a thin white icing or a thick dark chocolate.  Recipes often include honey and spices such as cloves, aniseed, coriander, allspice, ginger, cardamom and nuts including almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts and candied peel.  They are usually placed on a disk of rice paper/wafer. 

There are regional variations throughout Germany, my favourite being the Nürnberger Lebkuchen although the Aachner Printen are also excellent.
You can buy them in a simple packet at the Christmas markets or in an ornate tin (mine plays music and the children love it!).

Last year I vowed that I would try my own and I tried twice without much success.  They were much too hard and were more like your average British ginger nut biscuit that the soft chewy goodness I have come to expect from a traditional German one.
This year I altered my recipe and the cooking time and I must say, they are very very good!

I urge you to try this recipe, it makes about 30 biscuits and is exceptionally easy.  It is also a great edible gift for Christmas.

You will need:

235g plain flour
10g ground almonds
2 tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bread soda (bicarbonate of soda)
pinch of ground cloves
pinch grated nutmeg
pinch finely ground black pepper
200ml runny clear honey
85g salted butter
zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

For the icing:
100g icing sugar
1 egg white
1-2 tsp cold water

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter and honey.
Pour the warm liquid over the dry ingredients and the lemon zest, mixing well until everything is combined.
Leave the mix to cool.


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.

When the dough mixture has cooled, start rolling it into small balls about 4cm wide.  Pat them down slightly onto a baking tray.  Place in the oven for 12-15 minutes. 
Note: I used my fan assisted oven and they were ready in 12 minutes.
Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool.


For the icing, combine the icing sugar, egg white and water in a bowl and beat with a small whisk until you have a  runny icing mix.
Tip each cookie upside down in the icing and ensure that the entire top and sides gets a good coating.
Leave to dry on a wire rack for about 15-20 minutes.

These will keep for about a week in an airtight container.


My German friend passed on some advice to me from her grandmother as to how to get your Lebkuchen chewy - apparently if you store them in an air-tight tin with an apple for three days, they will take on a softer more chewy consistency!
The vultures got mine this afternoon so I will experiment on batch 2!

4 comments:

  1. These look wonderful Elizabeth! So glad to see you're keeping the German spirit alive. I really have to get down to my own cookie baking this coming weekend.

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  2. Thanks Vanessa, I even surprised myself this year, after the rock-hard disasters of last year I thought that one had to be of direct German descent to master them correctly! Today however, my sort-of German connoisseur husband gave them the thumbs up! We come to Berlin on 27th December when all Lebkuchen have disappeared for another 11 months, so I really have to master this!

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  3. I love your cookie dish! Is it from that Japanese shop on Savignyplatz?

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  4. Hi Sylee, it is from there! We got a full set for a wedding present from our friends six years ago - I use them everyday, and, apart from a few brakages, they are still going strong. When I am in Berlin over the holidays I have to get a few replacements!

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