Day 4: Lebkuchen
Posted by loavesandstitches
Several years ago, I was introduced to today’s cookie by a good friend of mine who generously shared a package of lebkuchen that she had squirreled away. We had never heard of them before, but loved them from first bite. Then, we began seeing the everywhere at Christmastime, from Trader Joe’s to the local fancy grocery store. We would buy multiple packs of them during the holidays and save them for special treats.
The best way to describe them is a citrusy-spiced nut cookie, sorta like a nutty gingerbread. They are usually glazed with either an icing or chocolate glaze that protects the cookie from getting dried out, which also makes this cookie an excellent keeper. In fact, I read one recipe that suggested making them two full weeks before you plan to serve them because the flavors develop over time.
Another distinctive thing about them is that they are usually baked on top of an oblaten wafer. These are usually made of some kind of starch and resemble the communion wafers that some churches use.
This year, we are having a little trouble finding a supply of lebkuchen in our area, so I decided I would have a go at making them myself. You start by making a ground nut mixture that includes citrus and spices. I got my spice mix from a friend in Germany who sent me a package awhile back.
Some recipes sort of stop here and just add some sugar and eggs to finish the recipe. However, the recipe I was using called for some flour, a little chocolate, and butter as well, which I understand is not entirely traditional.
Usually, I would pick a more traditional recipe, but I was worried that they would fall apart since I did not plan to use the wafers.
With the addition of flour as a binder, you can bake them with or without the wafers. As I said, I did not have wafers, but at the last minute, I remembered that I did have sheets of rice paper from making nougat. It just took some cutting to make the round oblaten shapes.
You can see I was all ready to bake them when I remembered the rice paper. It was easy to transfer them to a different baking sheet with the paper.
I have to say that I am really pleased with how they turned out. They look just like the ones in the packages, especially after the glaze is brushed on and has time to dry.
And they taste great as well! The texture is just right and the flavors are actually a little brighter than the packaged ones. I think the spices could be a bit stronger, but those may ripen with time. It will be interesting to see if they taste better the longer they sit, but we may not make it that long!
The recipe I used came from an America’s Test Kitchen publication from 2008, Holiday Baking and is not readily available on the internet unless you subscribe to their site. I think this recipe would be a good substitute, though.
Next year, I may try buying some oblaten papers, but for now, I will stick with the rice paper that I have. It worked really well, though it is probably not as thick as the real thing.
I have loved reading all the comments so far, so keep them rolling in! Tell me about the best gift you have ever given someone else for Christmas. I’m looking for ideas!
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