Lebekuchen Recipe

These moist, chewy cookies have a wonderful, heady aroma that says.... "Schöne Feiertage!" (er, that's Happy Holidays in German).

Growing up with a German mother we were raised with some German traditions including how we celebrated Christmas. Instead of Christmas day being THE day we celebrated on Christmas Eve, like normal people. But during the 23 days preceding there were little rituals we had to participate in. For example we always had an Advent calendar. We had the typical paper calendar depicting a glittery, festive village scene with windows you could open on each day. But the best one was a needle point calender. It was white and red and decorated with little holiday motives and cheerful elves. 24 little plastic rings were sewn next the days where my mother would tie itty-bitty presents that each of us kids would take turns opening. We also had an 'Advent Kranz', a fir wreath with four candles which we'd light at the beginning of each week of Advent. Of course I had no idea what Advent was other than it meant I got to open tiny gifts and light candles. Good times.
There's a little gingerbread house on the coffee table and you can see the Advent Kranz hanging in the foreground.
(Mom looks thrilled.)
Presents under the tree is a no-no before Christmas Eve, too. That's when 'Kristkind' delivers the goods and the real celebrating begins. It was always a magical transformation. We kids would hide out in one of the bedrooms watching Christmas shows while "Santa" would secretly deliver all the presents and transform the otherwise spartan living room into a Nüremberg Kristkindlesmarket scene. Mom would lay out the Christmas cookies which consisted of buttery sugar cookies, Anisplätzchen (anise cookies) and Lebekuchen. My mother's lebekuchen was always very dense and toothy. We loved them. The dough was spread out in a single layer when baked then brushed with a lemony icing sugar glaze and cut into diamond shapes. I like to make mine in a more traditional fashion. Individual cookies with 'back oblaten' (flour wafers) on the undersides and blanched almonds on top. It's a lot of work but well worth the blood, sweat and tears. Well, sweat anyway. (Recipe to follow).

Dry ingredients
  • 1 lb all purpose flour
  • ½ cup ground blanched almonds
  • ⅓ cup toasted hazelnuts, peeled & ground
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Wet ingredients
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup honey
  • ⅓ cup orange marmalade
  • ⅔ cup mixed candied zest, minced

Other ingredients or special equipment
  • package of back-oblaten 60mm
  • pastry brush
  • whole blanched almonds (enough to decorate each cookie with 3 almonds)
  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • lemon juice

Sift together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Warm the honey in a small sauce pan on low then add the eggs and whisk until frothy. Stir in the marmalade and candied zest then add to the dry ingredients. Place dough in a large ziplock bag, pressing it into a flat disc and chill dough for about a half an hour in until firm. Or store in the icebox until ready to bake.

Preheat the oven to 325˚.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the wafer on the sheet spaced two inches apart. Scoop out 3TB of dough onto the wafer and press around edges to almost meet the edge. Or roll out chilled dough to about ¾”  thick and cut out using a 2.5” cookie cutter. Place three blanched almonds on top with points to the center flattening the top of the cookie as you press down. Continue with remaining cookies. Bake for about 18-20 minutes. Cookies will spread over the edge of the oblaten about ⅛ - ¼ inch. Cool on racks for about 20 minutes. 

Mix icing sugar with about 1 tsp of lemon juice. Add more if it’s too thick. Brush the glaze on to cookies going all the way to the edge. Let dry completely then store in an air tight container for up to a week. Or freeze up to a month.

Makes about two dozen 3” cookies.

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