Lebkuchen

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Lebkuchen

star rating (21) rate this recipe »
Published prior to 2008

These spicy gingerbread-like bars, which are traditional holiday fare in Germany, contain no fat save that in the egg. Still they're almost as addictive, with their hard sugar glaze and their nippy bite of crystallized ginger (substituted for the more typical citron, unless you really happen to like that particular ingredient). They keep very well too, especially when a piece of apple is tucked into their airtight container to soften them. They're a perfect accompaniment to hot tea after a blustery afternoon of scouring the shops for just-right presents.

Bars
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
2 teaspoons each lemon peel and orange peel, or 1/4 teaspoon each lemon oil and orange oil
2 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup finely chopped blanched almonds
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3 rounded tablespoons diced crystallized ginger, finely ground*

Glaze
1 cup confectioners' sugar
6 tablespoons brandy or apple juice (or a combination)

*A small food processor is the tool we prefer for this task.

In a medium saucepan, bring the honey and brown sugar to a boil while stirring occasionally. Remove the mixture from the heat and cool it until it's just warm.

In a large bowl, beat together the cooled honey mixture, the egg, and the lemon and orange peel or oil. Add the flour, baking soda, almonds, spices and ground crystallized ginger and beat until very well-combined. The dough will be on the stiff side, but also very sticky. Cover the bowl and refrigerate it overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch pan.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 9 x 13-inch rectangle. Carefully transfer the dough rectangle to the prepared pan, either by wrapping it around the rolling pin and then unfolding it into the pan, or using a giant spatula. Try to fit the dough into the pan without pressing down too hard around its edges; otherwise these areas will be dense and tough.

Bake the bars for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Prepare the glaze while the bars are baking by stirring the brandy or apple juice into the confectioners' sugar and mixing until smooth. Transfer the baked bars to a cooling rack and immediately brush on the glaze with a pastry brush; let the glaze soak into the bars somewhat before applying another layer.

Let cool completely before cutting into 1 x 2-inch bars. Store the bars in an airtight container with a slice of apple (for its softening powers). If you make the lebkuchen 2 to 3 days ahead of time, they'll taste even better. Yield: 54 bars.

Nutrition information per serving (two 1 1/2-inch bars made with apple juice, 37g): 111 cal, 1.2 g fat, 2g protein, 8g complex carbohydrates, 16g sugar, 1g dietary fiber, 10mg cholesterol, 13mg sodium, 58mg potassium, 3RE vitamin A, 1mg vitamin C, 1mg iron, 29mg calcium, 23mg phosphorus.

Tips:
If you are fan of candied peel and citron, you can replace the grated peel with 1 cup diced, candied peel. To save on dishes, pulse the crystallized ginger and blanched almonds in the food processor together.

Reviews

1 23  All  
  • star rating 07/24/2014
  • Carol from northern Michigan
  • Very good -- although I make a glaze that uses kirschwasser and lemon juice instead of brandy. Here's the formula, in case anyone is interested: Sift 1 1/3 cups confectioners' sugar and 6 tbsp. cornstarch. Whisk in 2 tbsp. of lemon juice and 2 tbsp. kirsch. Then whisk in hot water, one tablespoon at a time, to form a smooth and spreadable (not pourable) icing.
  • star rating 12/19/2013
  • Eva from Natick, MA
  • We've made lebkuchen in our family for years, but I thought I'd be adventurous and try this recipe based on the stellar reviews. It's much thinner than the recipe I've made in the past, but the taste is great. The main problem is the glaze. As others have mentioned, it does not set. I applied the first coat when it was warm and let it absorb, then several layers once it cooled. It was a gooey mess on top, never actually setting. I ended up whipping up a better ratio of powdered sugar to liquid - fingers crossed that it solves the issue.
  • star rating 12/03/2013
  • CarolBee from New York
  • This is a delicious recipe easily made in the food processor start to finish. I tried Jean from Ithaca's technique and simply pressed the dough evenly into the pan and refrigerated it overnight. No rolling. Next time I will use 1/2 tsp cloves as I often find cloves overpowering. I added the zest of a lemon and an orange to improve the flavor.
  • star rating 12/01/2013
  • Martha Ziegler from Riverside CA
  • I will have to disagree with the individual that said Lebkuchen is not a bar cookie. My mother is German and we lived for many years with my German grandmother in Ulm. All the Lebkuchen I saw was cut into bars. This recipe is a fair representative of the recipes I saw while there. My mother would let her cookies sit for a couple weeks before serving.
  • star rating 01/27/2013
  • Janet from Alexandria, PA
  • I have been to Germany at Christmas time and loved the lebkuchen and always wanted to try a recipe. I decided upon yours. They always work. I finally made them for this past Christmas and they turned out very good. However, when it was time for making the glaze I realized I did not have apple juice or brandy. So I improvised with triple sec ( it's orange flavored, and it has orange in the recipe, was my logic). The glaze was clear and seeped into the lebkuchen. It was gooey and delicious! However, it was better as it aged because the triple sec flavor nearly knocked you off your feet at first! I really enjoyed making, and eating, this recipe and will make it again next Christmas, but will make sure I have apple juice. Love your recipes.
    To keep the glaze from sinking in, you might need to increase the confectioners sugar 2-3 Tbs. Also, I'm quite certain the triple sec had a role to play in the stickiness. You can always use straight water, too (not nearly as flavorful, but glazes the cookies with a glaze that dries instead of oozes!) Best, Kim@KAF
  • star rating 12/23/2012
  • WrdyWmn from California
  • This recipe was a real disappointment for me because of the glaze. I had the same problem as an earlier commenter: the glaze was clear and gooey. It looked nothing like the picture, and just made the top of the bars unpleasantly soggy. I followed the directions to let the first layer of glaze soak in before applying the rest -- it seems I should have waited until the cake was cooler? That would be a helfpul addition to the recipe directions. Normally I have had great success with KA recipes.
    I am sorry you had some difficulty with the glaze. If you would like more assistance, please contact us at 1-800-827-6836. We would be happy to help! Elisabeth
  • star rating 12/14/2012
  • Traute from Virginia
  • I was born and raised in Germany and Lebkuchen come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. I have not made this one, but it sounds great and I will give it a try. to GirlG from Ohio, do some research and you'll find that Lebkuchen cut in bars a quite popular, especially in southern Germany. The one coming to mind is "Baseler Leckerli", very similar to this one, but also has many versions.. Merry Christmas everyone and happy baking. Traute in Va
  • star rating 12/10/2012
  • Anna from San Francisco CA
  • Fürchte nicht. Ich bin ein gebürtiger Deutscherin. In meiner Familie, wir genossen sowohl die Kuchen und ausgeschnitten Lebkuchen. (Fear Not. I'm a native German. In my family, we enjoyed both cake and cutout Lebkuchen) There are as many authentic recipes for Lebkuchen as there are for chocolate chip cookies or chicken soup. Both are good, whether they're ornately iced, crunchy and hung off the tree, or soft and stored in a tin. I've tried many recipes, but my favorite isn't my family's 'authentic' recipe; it's one an elderly neighbor shared with my mother.
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