Elisen Lebkuchen Authentic German Gingerbread Cookies Recipe
These Elisen lebkuchen are the ultimate Christmas cookie. They are flourless and butter less but have a wonderful chewy texture are chocked-full of nuts, candied lemon peel, spices, rum extract, and a hint of lemon. This Christmas cookie is one of my all time favorites, and once you tried it I believe it will be one of your favorites too. If you like spiced cookies with a chew this is right up your alley.
These cookies are allegedly named after the daughter of a gingerbread baker from Nuremberg. But according to Wikipedia, “it is uncertain whether Elise was the daughter of a gingerbread baker or the wife of a margrave”. Lebkuchen have been around since the middle ages but Elisen lebkuchen where invented in 1808 and are a flourless variety.
There can be many spice variantions for Elisenlebkuchen by my tried and true favorite is a family recipe that includes cinnamon, clove, rum extract, and lemon extract for flavor. It is from a very old cookbook (with pages already falling out :)). I prefer the simple combination of the cinnamon and clove without a myriad of spices that can be overpowering or bitter. It also has a blend of almonds and hazelnuts (which I found at Trader Joes). If you are finding hazelnuts too difficult to find you can substitute the hazelnuts with more almonds, or substitute walnuts for the hazelnuts. This recipe uses a lot of nuts and the finished product is less smooth but I find it tastes better with a higher nut content. The nuts keep the cookie moist and shelf stable for several weeks.
To keep the cookies from sticking to the baking sheet they are made with oblaten. Oblaten are a thin wafers that Europeans use for cookies that would otherwise stick to the baking sheet or fall apart. Oblaten can be purchased online from Amazon.com and other various specialty retailers. If you are wondering, yes they are like the communion wafers Catholics use. Lebkuchen where invented in the fourteenth century by Catholic monks.
Other than the oblaten you will need eggs, sugar, vanilla sugar (you can make this and I have a recipe here), cinnamon, clove, rum extract, lemon extract, candied lemon peel or candied citron peel, almonds, hazelnuts (you can substitute walnuts or extra almonds but it won’t taste as authentic), and Dr. Oetker Backin (a German baking powder which can be found on Amazon.com).
For the light icing, which is optional, you will need powdered sugar and hot water. For the chocolate icing you will also need cocoa and coconut oil. I like mine better without icing but I always make some with icing because it looks better for guests.
The exact quantities are in the recipe card below.
Grind the nuts in a food processor till they resemble breadcrumbs. Start with the almonds first then place them in a bowl. Then grind 75 grams of hazelnuts. Once you have to add the hazelnuts to the dough and find that the dough is too runny to stay on the oblaten, then grind up to 50 grams more. Gradually add it to make a slightly firm dough.
Whip the eggs till they become lighter in color about 15 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and beat till thick and creamy about 10 minutes.
You will also need a scale to accurately measure the ingredients.
In a separate bowl mix the spices, candied peel, backin, and almonds. Then add it to the egg mixture.Add enough ground hazelnut till the dough is firm enough to not run off the oblaten.
The dough should look somewhat like this, but I have to confess I was a little overzealous with the hazelnuts. The dough ended up a little too thick. Which made my lebkuchen lumpier than they should be. But they still taste just as delicious and most people won’t know ;).
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Place one tablespoon of dough on each oblaten. Use a butter knife to spread the dough to the edge of the wafer. Place on a ungreased cookie sheet. A note, Oblaten can come in two different sizes. I bought the smaller ones at 50 mm. Just use less then a tablespoon if you have the smaller ones and reduce the cooking time to 10-15 minutes.
With the larger oblaten bake for 15-20 minutes. The middle should feel soft and the edge firm. Allow the lebkuchen to cool then add the Icing as desired.
You can make two different types of icing for Elisen lebkuchen. Both varieties of the icing are mixed with hot water.
A light powered sugar icing.Or a dark icing with added cocoa and coconut oil. Microwave the cocoa icing for a few seconds, if the water you added is not hot enough to melt the coconut oil. You can also decorate the top with whole almonds.
For either icing mix well and baste on with a basting brush.I placed them over a cookie tray to contain the mess.
These cookies keep well for several weeks at room temperature in a tin or any container with a lid.