Lebkuchen are one of the most famous German Christmas biscuits – people all around the world know and love them. But what a lot of people don’t actually know, is that there are generally two kinds of Lebkuchen in Germany: there is Lebkuchen made with butter, flour and either honey or black treacle used to make gingerbread houses and the gingerbread hearts you can buy at the Oktoberfest, and then there is Lebkuchen made just using eggs and ground nuts with minimal or no flour.
The ones made with only ground nuts are called Elisenlebkuchen and come from my home city, Nuremberg. In order to be called Elisenlebkuchen they have to have a certain amount of ground nuts in them and only a very small amount of flour is allowed. A lot of Lebkuchen sold in supermarkets are stretched with flour, and are just not as good as the real thing. And over here in the UK, all the Lebkuchen I have seen everywhere are made just with flour, only sometimes with a very small percentage of nuts. For me, Elisenlebkuchen are definitely the best ones and I make them every year for Christmas and they always disappear so quickly! So I really recommend giving these ones a go, I’d love to know what you think of them.
The batter is very very sticky and the baked Lebkuchen are still quite sticky underneath. That is why each of them sits on a piece of edible wafer paper and I wouldn’t recommend making Lebkuchen without it. In Germany you can buy this in pretty much every supermarket in different shapes and sizes, called Oblaten. In the UK you can get edible wafer paper in big sheets on Amazon and cake decorating shops. You can just cut those to the size you need – I usually make my Lebkuchen as 5cm circles, because you can then eat more than just one. 😉 But you could make them larger or even rectangular to make cutting easier. I actually get my lovely mum to send me some every year, so I can make my Christmas biscuits.
I have given you amounts to cover half of the Lebkuchen with chocolate and half with glacé icing. I like both, but if you have a preference for one or the other, feel free to just make those. The icing is brushed onto the Lebkuchen when they are still fresh and hot out of the oven. This makes it easier to get the icing all over them and it also makes it shinier once it’s set. Traditionally they are decorated with halved blanched almonds or just left plain with icing or chocolate on them. But for a more modern twist, I usually decorate some with sprinkles as well. For the halved almonds, I have found the easiest thing to do is to just get a packed of blanched almonds and pick out the ones that are already broken in half. Because nobody has time to stand there and cut almonds in half!
Makes 60 Lebkuchen
You will need
250g caster sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp each ground nutmeg and cloves
1 tbsp lemon juice or ½ tsp lemon extract
250g ground almonds
250g ground hazelnuts
200g mixed peel
Edible wafer paper, cut into 5cm circles
125g icing sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
50g blanched almonds, halved lengthways (optional)
150g mix of dark and milk chocolate
- Using an electric whisk, beat the eggs with the sugar for 5-10 minutes until pale and foamy. Add in the spices and lemon juice or extract and mix in. Fold in the nuts and the mixed peel. Leave to stand for 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 160°C / gas mark 3 and line two baking trays with baking paper.
- Put the edible wafer paper circles onto the trays and fill a small bowl with water. Using two teaspoons dipped into the water, scoop a slightly heaped teaspoon of the Lebkuchen mixture onto each wafer paper circle. Dip the teaspoons into the bowl of water every time so the mix doesn’t stick. Smooth the Lebkuchen into a nice circle using the spoons, then bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
- While they are baking, mix the icing sugar with enough lemon juice to make a thick spreadable icing. Brush half of the Lebkuchen with the icing while they’re still hot and stick on 3 almond halves on each one.
- Transfer both the iced and un-iced Lebkuchen to a cooling rack and leave to cool completely. While they are cooling, melt the chocolate in the microwave in short bursts and stirring in between each one.
- Brush the cooled un-iced Lebkuchen with the chocolate and decorate with sprinkles, if you like. Leave to set. Will keep in an airtight container for a few weeks.