If you're getting a bit sick and tired of regular old gingerbread, this German Christmas cookie might be more your style. This spiced lebkuchen recipe was passed down from my German great-grandmother, and after a bit of trial and error, I was able to take her rather sparse instructions (mix together, bake at medium) to a foolproof recipe that works every time.
The dough itself actually bakes up more like a cake than a cookie, but once it's cut into bars and topped with the tart icing, it becomes the perfect bite-sized morsel. It also stands up fairly well over a few days, so you can easily keep these around on a cookie plate to enjoy in the days leading up to Christmas.
Because I don't have the huge German family that my great-grandmother had to feed, I usually cut my final brick of lebkuchen base in quarters and freeze three of them, wrapped tightly in foil. This way, I can defrost, ice, and enjoy at my own pace. Of course, if you've got family in time for Christmas, you'll likely need to serve it up all at once.
German Lebkuchen Recipe
1 lb. dark brown sugar
½ cup European-style sweet butter
a few drops of vanilla
juice of one orange
zest of one orange
½ cup chopped hazelnuts
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons baking powder
juice of one lemon
1-3 cups powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one, beating after each addition. Add the orange juice and zest and mix to combine.
Fold in the chopped hazelnuts. Sift in the flour, cinnamon, cloves, and baking powder, and fold in with a rubber spatula until just combined.
Spread on a buttered 11 by 16-inch jellyroll pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs attached. Set aside to cool.
When the cake is cool, make the icing. Whisk the lemon juice and the powdered sugar together. Drizzle the icing over the cooled lebkuchen and cut into squares.
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Top lebkuchen image via Shutterstock
Other images by Emily Monaco