Lebkuchen – German Christmas Cookies

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Back at the beginning of the week I put up a poll about holiday baking, asking what types of recipes you all would like to see featured here on Brown Eyed Baker leading up to the holiday season. (If you haven’t thrown in your two cents yet, head on over and vote!) In the comments section, Heather of Squirrel Bread asked about Lebkuchen and said that she had a couple of recipes but had yet to make them. I emailed her and told her I hadn’t heard of them but would do some research and plan on making them. Less than a day later I was browsing through some of my cookbooks just looking for ideas and inspiration and wouldn’t you know, I ran across a recipe for Lebkuchen. I considered it fate and set out to make a batch right then and there. I did some reading and research and looked at other recipes and came up with this gem.

lebkuchen-spices

Lebkuchen is a traditional German cookie that is usually baked for Christmas. It is most like a soft gingerbread cookie, made with molasses and full of warm spices. The glaze provides the perfect complement, a little sweet and with a hint of lemon. All of the flavors blend together so nicely and taste like the holidays; one bite and you will want to crank up the holiday music and trim the tree. You could roll these a little thinner and use cookie cutters to cut out shapes and decorate them. No matter how you make them, you will be glad you did!

lebkuchen-group

Lebkuchen

Yield: 18 cookies

Prep Time: 15 minutes (active) 2 hours (inactive)

Cook Time: 10-12 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours 45 minutes

Ingredients:

For the Cookies:
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
1¼ teaspoons ground nutmeg
1¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1 egg
¾ cup light brown sugar
½ cup honey
½ cup molasses

For the Glaze:
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two baking sheets or line them with parchment paper.

2. Sift together the flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Set aside.

3. Beat the egg and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl.

4. Beat in the honey and molasses until thoroughly combined.

5. On low speed, stir in the flour mixture until just combined.

6. Turn the dough out from the bowl onto a well-floured surface. Knead the dough, adding more flour as kneaded, until a stiff dough is formed.

7. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 2 hours or overnight.

8. On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough into a 9x12-inch rectangle. Cut the dough into 18 3x2-inch rectangles. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

9. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let cool. Whisk together the confectioner's sugar, water and lemon juice and brush or spread on top of the cookies.

10. Allow the glaze to firm, and then store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

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106 Responses to “Lebkuchen – German Christmas Cookies”

Comment Pages 1 2
  1. Neel on November 13, 2009 at 1:17 am

    Love you photography. The white surface that you put the cookies on, is that a shiny white plate? or did you use mirror like reflecting plate?

    Reply

    • catherine on July 14th, 2011 at 12:12 pm

      Love your site, its energetic and enthusiastic as well as yummy. However…as a journalist, I’m surprised that you didn’t credit the cookbook/cook who wrote the recipe. Just noticed this on the Lebkuchen cookie site. Maybe I missed it. If so, my apologies.

      Reply

  2. Mags on November 13, 2009 at 2:10 am

    “auch du lieber”… or at least that’s what I’m imagining my mother to say about this recipe. Thanks for bringing back some childhood memories. I can almost smell them.

    Reply

    • Gabbi on December 23rd, 2012 at 10:58 pm

      I like to call these stank cookies.. They came out horrible & I hated them

      Reply

      • Sven on May 16th, 2013 at 12:48 pm

        Well maybe that’s because you’re a bad cook.
        or, you just messed up the recipe.

        Reply

        • Liz on November 19th, 2013 at 5:16 pm

          I made them today and think they forgot something in the recipe, they are as hard as a rock. I made lebkuchen before but with a different recipe and came out real good

          Reply

          • kate on December 12th, 2013 at 6:41 pm

            i also made these, today. something is definitely missing, as they came out like hockey pucks. tried making them a little thicker, and got doughy hockey pucks. flavor was good, but some re-vamping is needed.

            Reply

            • Jenn on December 19th, 2013 at 6:25 pm

              I think a 1/2 tsp baking soda is missing. Try adding it for a softer cookie.

            • Rhea on December 19th, 2013 at 6:45 pm

              I made this and added some baking soda. Also the bake time is too long. The ones I left in the oven ten minutes were too hard. The ones I took out sooner were just right.

  3. marina mott on November 13, 2009 at 2:48 am

    Absolutely delicious !! I agree : we can almost smell them!!

    Reply

  4. shelly (cookies and cups) on November 13, 2009 at 7:17 am

    Wow, never heard of them before, but they sounds really delicious.

    Reply

  5. Christy on November 13, 2009 at 7:18 am

    These look so yummy and would be wonderful for the holidays! I bet they smelled wonderful as they baked.

    Reply

  6. heather on November 13, 2009 at 8:44 am

    you baked them! i remember walking around Munich… the street vendors’ stalls hung with heart-shaped Lebkuchen covered in bright colored icing. thank you for working on that for me. it’s like a pre-Christmas post-gift! they look terrific.

    cheers,

    *heather*

    Reply

  7. Liz Brooks on November 13, 2009 at 9:07 am

    This sounds great!

    Reply

  8. Michelle on November 13, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Hi Neel – I just used a shiny white plate to photograph the cookies.

    Reply

  9. Dolce on November 13, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Lebkuchen are also cookies baked in Alsace (North Eastern France) before Christmas :) I love them!!

    Reply

  10. Hana on November 13, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    A cookie without butter? I must try that!

    Reply

  11. Steph on November 13, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    I’m not a huge fan of lebkuchen, but these look really good! I like that they are flatter.

    Reply

  12. Alicia on November 14, 2009 at 12:20 am

    Looks very tasty – I have made german cookies once before and they were to die for!

    Reply

  13. Jason Sandeman on November 14, 2009 at 6:14 am

    My Oma used to make these, and I think I will be making them again for Christmas! Thank you for the recipe!

    Reply

  14. Carolyn on November 14, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    My Dad told me he would eat these as a kid, so last year I attempted to make them for Christmas. However, they turned out rock hard! I was scared for my teeth when I bit in. I did some research and found that they were often left in airtight containers with orange slices to soften them up (though this didn’t work for me either). I don’t know if you have any advice to offer – did yours come out of the oven nice and soft already? I’d love to try them again this year.

    Reply

    • Patty Deffenbaugh Karber on January 4th, 2011 at 11:05 pm

      My Tante told me they made these at the first of December so they could hang them on the tree. Hers were usually Star shaped and hard as a rock.
      We loved them anyway. She would always send me hunting for oplate? too put under her maccaroons and the lebkuchen she would make. I’d like to carry on a family tradition but she stored so many recipies in her head. Her cakes were wonderful.

      Reply

      • Mary-Catherine on November 15th, 2011 at 11:58 am

        The wafers you put the cookies on are called oblaten. They are thin, paperlike, and tasteless, and prevent the cookies from burning on your baking sheet. This way you don’t have to grease the baking sheet first. These are used often in german cookie recipes.

        Reply

    • Mary-Catherine on November 15th, 2011 at 11:56 am

      Try leaving apple slices in airtight containers instead. This will soften them up!

      Reply

  15. Kerstin on November 14, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    I love your shot of all the spices! These look amazing, I should make them for my Dad!

    Reply

  16. Danielle on November 15, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    these sound really good. I like the glaze thats put over them

    Reply

  17. alexandra s.m. on November 16, 2009 at 10:28 am

    This reminds me of my childhood and My papa used to bring them from Basel for Christmas…thank you so much!

    Reply

  18. stephchows on November 16, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    oo these sound delicious with all those spices!

    Reply

  19. BethieofVA on November 16, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    I love these cookies. Lucky me, I have a friend living in Germany who mails me some every year!! Yours look divine.

    Reply

    • jen erceg on September 21st, 2011 at 1:46 am

      BethieofVA I have been trying hard to find a way to have their festive tins sent to australia. Schmidt will send them for $277 dollars postage… way too much. However the tin does weigh five kilos when packed.

      If your german friend or yourself could give me any tips i would appreciate it.

      with thanks Jen from Perth Aust.

      If you can give me any clues as to

      Reply

  20. Rachel 'Tha Pizza Cutta' Joyce on November 16, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    ohhh, these might be on my christmas cooking baking list! Thank you so much :)

    Reply

  21. Miriam/The winter guest on November 16, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    I attempted to make them last year… not really succeeded. Yours look beautiful!

    Reply

  22. Danielle on November 16, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    I have never made these cookies but know of them as my family is of German descent. My new years resolution that started last week is to learn about and make (and of course blog) about real German food. This is one of the better recipes I’ve seen for lebkuchen. Usually when I try to buy them they are hard and I don’t care for them. I am saving this recipe and making for Christmas this year.

    Reply

  23. lululu on November 16, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    I love your photos! Always highlight every single detail bit!

    Reply

  24. Natalie on November 16, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    These cookies look great, and I love the picture of the spices. I can smell them from here!

    Reply

  25. Jeniffer Paxton on November 17, 2009 at 1:32 am

    Many years ago I worked for a German family (in Australia) & was lucky enough to join them in their Christmas celebrations. Seeing your Lebkuchen took me back to that time. Simply gorgeous cookies & photography.

    Reply

  26. Divina on November 17, 2009 at 2:45 am

    I haven’t tried these but love the spices. Very Christmas-y

    Reply

  27. Andrea@WellnessNotes on November 17, 2009 at 10:39 am

    These look & sound delicious! I usually buy a few packages of Lebkuchen at Trader Joe’s as my son loves them. But you have inspired me to bake some myself this year! Thanks for experimenting & sharing! :)

    Reply

  28. wasabi prime on November 17, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Lovely — I’ve seen this traditional recipe in cookie books and have always been curious to try it!

    Reply

  29. The Foodie Forkful on November 17, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    Wow those look amazing (both the recipe and your photographs). I’ve gotta try these.

    Reply

  30. Wendy on November 18, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    I make a version of these cookies every year, however I don’t use any molasses and I replace some of the flour with ground almonds. I also heat the honey – then add the brown sugar. When they come out of the oven I brush both sides with a thin icing. They are chewy and delicious – my whole family and neighbourhood are fans. I make them early in the season and keep them in a sealed container till around Christmas. My recipe comes the closest to the cookies I had in Germany as a child.

    Reply

  31. Minnie on November 18, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    I’ve just bumped them to the top of my bake for xmas list, thank you!

    Reply

  32. ashley on December 1, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    these are one of my moms favorites, from germany and she hasnt been able to find good ones in the US so i will have to make these for her~ thanks!

    Reply

  33. dokuzuncubulut on December 2, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Wow. delicious recipe. I like your foto..

    Reply

  34. Amar on December 13, 2009 at 1:38 am

    I will try this and the true test will be when my husband’s Oma (age 94) will taste them. She is now in a nursing home and she could not make them last year, either. So, I hope this will be a nice Xmas present/ surprise for her.

    Reply

  35. Bettina on December 19, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    About their hardness…when my grandparents were still alive, they sent us lebkuchen and other cookies from Germany every Christmas, and I remember that the lebkuchen would get softer over time. You couldn’t eat them right away. So don’t give up hope, Carolyn! I haven’t tried this recipe yet – it’ll be a first for me for lebkuchen – but I’m really excited to see how it goes!

    Reply

  36. Pat Grantier on December 19, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    I make our family’s version of these every year. The Hebron ND cookbook has 8 different recipes for lebkuchen. All have butter and honey boiled first, then flour added along with eggs spices and ground citron and nuts. They are topped with a split almond and brushed with egg yolk wash before being baked. Wonderful!

    Reply

  37. Bettina on December 19, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    O.k., I did it! I made them! I think I didn’t put in enough of the liquid sugars, and so when it came time to knead the dough, I just had a bowl full of powder. So I added two more eggs, which I think made them a little rubbery. But they’re still delicious. They don’t look *anything* like in your photo, but hey, it’s my first time, afterall…

    Reply

  38. Judy on July 27, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Nice recipe and yumy cookies, but the preheating and cookie sheet prep instructions shouldn’t be at the beginning if the dough has to be refrigerated! Put these instructions in the middle instead.

    Reply

  39. mes on August 2, 2010 at 1:44 am

    My grandmother made Lebkuchen, though not from the same recipe. The comments on the cookie’s hardness made me smile. Grandma always made them several months in advance and stored them in tins or an old ceramic crock until the holidays. They’re so much better after they mellow for a few months, or a year.

    Reply

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  43. Hannah Faye on December 11, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    So I was really excited about these, and i followed your recipe exactly. They turned out rock hard and rather gross.

    Reply

  44. Tracey Price on December 14, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    I just made these for my husband to try. The smell amazing while baking, they are a hard crunchy cookie but have a great flavor. Always fun a s a baker to try new recipes thanks

    Reply

  45. J. Mullenix on December 15, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    My grandparents on both sides were German, and they, like my mother, made Lebkuchen cookies for Christmas. Their receipe calls for molasses, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, Anise oil, and Citron and candied fruit. The cookies were never soft and chewy and I can remember years when they were so hard that you had to soak them in milk to eat them. They were also brushed with honey, not frosted, and decorated with an almond sliver.

    Reply

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  47. NIck in Mass on December 25, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    I LOVE lebkuchen !! I would always beg my mother to make several batches early in the holiday period so we’d have them til after New Year’s (ya right , haha ). After she made them , we’d store them in tins and hide them in the bottom of the china cabinet until holiday company came over and then we’d retrieve them . Several times , we missed a tin or two tucked way in the back and didn’t find them until the following year and guess what ??? they were even better ! They were a little hard , but absolutely perfect for coffee/tea dunking. Thanks for the memories and now I’ll have to try my hand at making them .

    Reply

  48. adrie on October 7, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    your cookies look yummy i cooked them and my german teacher said they tasted just like the ones he had in germany

    Reply

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