As many of you know, I am German. For the most part that doesn’t really show all that much, but come Christmas time, it shows big time Once advent is upon us there is usually no stopping me and I spend quite some time baking, crafting and decorating, with and without the children.
Wonderful smells fill the house, tins upon tins of German Christmas cookies start piling up on top of the refrigerator and snitching little fingers are constantly on the prowl for little goodies!
One of the things I really look forward to making every year are Elisen Lebkuchen, also know as Nürnberger Lebkuchen. Nuremberg being the city this particular type of “gingerbread” originated from.
They are not just ordinary gingerbread rounds though, far from it. They are moist, nutty, fragrant and utterly delicious. They are pretty easy to make and for some of you maybe best of all, they are gluten-free!
Anyway, lets get to it.
One of the really important things for german christmas baking are “Oblaten.” They are very thin baking wafers that are quite tasteless by themselves, but they have oh so many functions. First and foremost they keep your cookies soft! Second they help with uniform sizing and make your cookies slide off the baking tray so easily. But, first and foremost … they keep your cookies moist!
This is important for Elisenlebkuchen, as they really need to sit for a while to reach their “prime!”
I generally have some on hand, either from Germany or from local stores that carry German ingredients. I tend to use round because that is what I can get, but square or rectangular works just as well! And they can be cut to size really easily with a pair of scissors!
They keep forever! I mean literally. I found some in my pantry from years ago and they were still perfectly fine! So if you get some, stock up! I also have a couple more recipes where these will come in quite handy!
Should you not be able to find them but still want to try this recipe, there is a way around it. Granted it won’t work quite as well, but it is a passable substitute. I will explain it in the directions later.
First to the ingredients. Since this is a German recipe, everything is not only in grams, but it is also precise Baking with “unreliable” measurements like cups is just not the done thing!
So please, please use kitchen scales! Success is so much easier to achieve in baking when the ingredient amounts are correct!
- 470 g Sugar (16.6 oz)
- 6 Eggs; approx. 55 g each (1.9 oz each)
- 1/2 tsp EACH of the following ground spices:
Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Allspice, Nutmeg, Cardamom
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
- 240g Hazelnuts; coarsely chopped (8.5 oz) *almonds/pecans/walnuts work too, but it’s not nearly as good *
- 240g Hazelnuts; finely ground (8.5 oz)
- 50g Walnuts; coarsely chopped (1.8 oz)
- 100g candied orange peel; finely chopped (3.5 oz)
- 100g candied lemon peel; finely chopped (3.5 oz)
- peel of one lemon
- peel of one orange
- baking wafers (50mm)
For the coating:
Bittersweet and/or milk chocolate, melted (I usually add some coconut oil or cocoa butter to make the coating a bit smoother and thinner, about a tsp per bar of chocolate)
Powdered sugar + water (1 cup of powdered sugar and 2 tbsp water whisked together does about half of these)
Chances are you can only get the hazelnuts whole. Grind them as fine as you can in your food processor! For the coarse chopped nuts, put the whole nuts in the food processor and pulse a few times. Then add the candied peel and pulse a few more times until the peel resembles finely chopped consistency. For an extra boost in yummy nuttiness, toast half your hazelnuts prior to chopping/pulsing!
Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix well.
Cover the bowl and let it sit in the refrigerator for 24 hrs. It may seem a little runny at first, but it will thicken up quite a bit in the next 24hrs.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 F.
Lay out the baking wafers on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Scoop equal amounts of the nut mix onto the wafers and smooth out. I find that the easiest way to get the round ones uniform is to use an ice cream scoop. Scoop some nut mixture into your slightly moistened hands, makes a smooth ball and then press it as a disc onto the wafer and smooth the edges down. Make sure that the disc is just slightly smaller than the wafer, as the dough will rise some.
Place them on a cookie rack to cool slightly.
If you are going to be icing them with the sugar glaze, it is better if they are still a little warm. For the chocolate coating they need to be entirely cooled however. Try and brush the coating on as thinly as you possibly can!
If you have used baking wafers, just brush on a thin coat of chocolate coating or sugar glaze. Let completely dry and store in a cookie tin.
If you didn’t use baking wafers, you will need to dip or brush your entire cookie. First a coat at the bottom, let dry, then a coat on the top of the cookie. This will also seal the moisture and flavors inside!
Lebkuchen need to sit for a while to develop their prime taste and texture. They need a minimum of 10 days in that cookie tin, so take that into account when planning to make these!
They will however keep for several weeks in a cookie tin and personally I think they taste the best after they have matured for about 2-3 weeks!