Back home in Germany, I never cared too much for Lebkuchen. They are one of the Christmas goodies that show up earlier and earlier in stores, and I hate being reminded of the cold and darkness of winter, when we still have a gorgeous late summer (and snow shoveling is something that I don't even want to think about!)
If "Cooks Illustrated" had not published a recipe for German spice cookies, I would never have dreamed of making them myself. Sheer curiosity prompted me to try it ("Americans and German Lebkuchen, haha!")
|Freshly baked and incredibly good!|
Instead of the usual chewy, dry-ish, generic store-bought stuff, these Lebkuchen were delicate and moist.
You could actually taste the toasted hazelnuts; and the spices were spicy in a good way, harmonious, not crude or overpowering.
The first time I made them they vanished so fast, I had to make two more batches, to sustain us until Christmas!
This year I went into a Lebkuchen and Mohnstollen production frenzy, having to fulfill several special orders for both German specialties. But the spice cookies are so easy to make that even baking a hundred of them didn't feel too daunting.
I like nut bits to chew on, so I don't process them to a really fine meal. Moreover, I find that cookies with coarser nut meal spread less.
If you want you can brush the bottom with chocolate - but to me this seems a bit overkill. The cookies can really hold their own, they don't need any further enhancement!
|These cookies can hold their own, they don't need further enhancement|
LEBKUCHEN - GERMAN SPICE COOKIES (adapted from "Cook's Illustrated")
(48 - 50)
177 g/6.2 oz whole hazelnuts, toasted
142 g/5 oz whole almonds, toasted
150 g/5.3 sugar
3 g/0.1 oz cinnamon, ground (1 ½ tsp.)
½ tsp. cardamom, ground
½ tsp. nutmeg, ground
3 tbsp. orange zest (2 oranges)
2 tbsp. lemon zest (2 lemons)
175 g/6.2 oz all-purpose flour
38 g/1.3 oz whole wheat pastry flour
10 g/0.4 oz Dutch cocoa (2 tbsp.)
¼ tsp. salt
85 g/3 oz unsalted butter (6 tbsp.)
150 g/5.3 oz light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper (about 20 cookies per baking sheet.)
|Add eggs one at a time|
Whisk flour, cocoa and salt together in a small bowl. In a stand mixer with paddle, beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, last adding vanilla until combined.
|Add nut mixture until just incorporated|
Working with a small truffle scoop, drop dough on baking sheets, 1.5 inches/4 cm apart.
|A small truffle scoop works best for placing the cookies on the sheet|
Bake cookies for 7 minutes, rotate sheets (if you bake on more than one tier) and continue baking for another 6 - 7 minutes, until edges are set, but centers are still soft, puffy, and elastic to the touch, with tiny holes and cracks. (Cookies will look raw between cracks, and seem underdone!)
|Cookies will still look raw between cracks and seem underdone|
Let cookies cool on the sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a rack and let them cool completely.
Lebkuchen should be stored in a tin can in a cool place, they keep for at least two weeks.