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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.
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
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*
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.
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.