Lebkuchen Cookies – This is my paternal grandmother’s recipe for traditional German Christmas cookies with a lemon sugar glaze.
The holiday season isn’t complete in our house without baking up a few batches of Lebkuchen. Growing up I called these German Gingerbread cookies, but this recipe actually has no ginger. Instead, there is a blend of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. If you want a true gingerbread, see this soft gingerbread cookie recipe.
What is Lebkuchen?
Traditionally lebkuchen is a German Christmas cookie sweetened with honey and brown sugar. It has a slightly spicy flavor thanks to a blend of warm spices known as Lebkuchen spice. These soft cookies were invented in the 13th century by medieval monks in Franconia, Germany.
Today, many regions of Germany have their own lebkuchen recipe. Some versions have orange peel or lemon peel, others are topped with chocolate, etc. The version I make and the one here comes from my paternal grandmother who didn’t add any fruit but did top hers with sliced almonds and a lemon sugar glaze.
You may notice a slight difference in my cookie glaze color. If you glaze your cookies when they are too warm, the icing turns more brown. Completely cooled cookies have that nice white glaze. Either way, they taste the same.
How to Make German Lebkuchen Cookies
When making these German Christmas cookies, it is best to make the dough a day ahead. Once mixed, the dough has to rest in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, but overnight is better. Here’s how to make that dough.
First, in a mixing bowl, combine the flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking soda, cloves, and allspice.
In a separate mixing bowl, beat the egg and the brown sugar together for 3 minutes. An electric mixer on low will make this easier. If you are curious why 3 minutes, beating for that amount of time adds more air into the mixture resulting in lighter cookies.
Next, stir in the honey and molasses to the egg/sugar mixture.
Last, add all the dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Beat until well blended. Your dough will be crumbled, but when pressed together will hold its shape.
Transfer dough to waxed fabric, plastic wrap, or a storage container with a lid. Wrap it up or cover and chill for at least 3 hours.
When you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350˚F and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
Place the cookies an inch apart on a cookie sheet and top with a few sliced almonds. There is no need to press them down as they will stick to the cookie as it rises during baking.
Bake for 9-10 minutes. They will be done when you can touch the cookie top without leaving an imprint.
Remove baking sheets and immediately transfer to a wire cooling rack.
While the cookies are cooling, combine the ingredients for the icing in a small bowl.
When the cookies are almost completely cooled, dip the top of each cookie in the icing and spread with the back of a knife. You can also use a pastry brush and brush it on. Place the glazed cookie back on the wire rack to dry.
After the icing has hardened, store in an airtight container. Between layers of parchment paper to prevent sticking. If your cookies harden too much, add half of an apple to the container. It adds just the right amount of moisture to make the cookies become soft again. Just be sure to remove the apple after two days, otherwise, mold can start to form.
Want more cookie recipes? Try these:
- Norwegian Kringla Cookies
- German Sour Cream Twists
- Spicy Double Chocolate Snickerdoodle Cookies
- Lemon Snow Balls
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup dark molasses
- A handful of sliced almonds for decoration
- 1 slightly beaten egg white
- 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
- 1/2 to 1 tablespoon water
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Serving Size:1 cookie
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 111Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 24mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 1gSugar: 16gProtein: 2g