THE BLOG
12/11/2013 06:01 pm ET | Updated Feb 10, 2014

German Lebkuchen: The Original Gingerbread

2013-12-11-Germanlebkuchen.jpgHolidays are when traditions take center stage.

Every culture has their own special way of celebrating the holidays with their specific holiday foods. In this holiday post I want to share one recipe that embodies the holidays in a very special way.

Can you guess what it is? Here is a hint: it is as simple as a cookie. A cookie that has been made specifically for the holidays for hundreds of years by various cultures is still the number one selling holiday cookie today.

If you're thinking gingerbread cookies you would be correct! Gingerbread men, gingerbread holiday shapes and don't forget the "granddaddy" of them all: gingerbread houses. The making of these holiday cookies are a time-honored tradition in many families across the world.

But, the one country that takes gingerbread making to a whole other level, especially for the holidays, is Germany.

Of all the countries in Europe, Germany is the one with the longest tradition of flat, shaped gingerbreads. Christmas is when gingerbread makes its most impressive appearance. The German practice of making lebkuchen houses (gingerbread houses) has caught on worldwide and is a fun and festive tradition in numerous countries around the world.

Nuremberg, Germany is considered to be the mecca of gingerbread. Each bakery keeps its recipe a secret. The Lebkuchen (gingerbread) has a Protected Designation of Origin and must be produced within the boundaries of the city. In 1643, the city officially recognized the Lebkuchen-Baker profession by creating the "League of Lebkuchen-Bakers." In 1645, the league created strict guidelines that commercial bakers had to follow in order to sell their lebkuchen.

Gingerbread Fact: In Nuremberg, Germany, the quality of the lebkuchen gingerbread was so high that it was used as currency.

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German Lebkuchen(makes approx: 35 cookies)

Ingredients: dough:

  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup and 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon dark molasses
  • 2-3/4 cups and 3 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Optional:

1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon slivered almonds
1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon candied mixed fruit peel, finely chopped

Ingredients:

For the icing:

  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1-1/3 cups and 2 tablespoons sifted confectioners' sugar
Method: Cookie dough:

  • In a large bowl, beat the egg, brown sugar and honey until smooth. Stir in the molasses.

  • Combine the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and allspice; incorporate into the molasses mixture. Stir in the almonds and candied fruit peel, if using.
  • Cover or wrap dough, and chill overnight.
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch in thickness.
  • Cut into the desired shape. Place cookies 1 1/2 inches apart onto cookie sheets.
  • Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until firm.
  • Make the lemon glaze. (See recipe below.)
  • While still warm, brush the cookies with the lemon glaze.
  • Lemon Glaze:

    To make the glaze: In a small bowl, stir together the egg white, lemon juice and lemon zest. Mix in the confectioners' sugar until smooth. Brush over cookies.

    Fröhliche Weihnachten ~ Merry Christmas!