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Coming from a German background, Christmas has always meant Lebkuchen in my father's family. Having failed to get my aunt's recipe, I found this recipe from a friend in Germany, and made them last year for another friend who had spent his childhood in Germany. They brought tears to his eyes! They taste best when allowed to mellow for a while, so I make them as soon as I can after Thanksgiving. Prep time does not include chilling the dough overnight.
- 1⁄2 cup honey
- 1⁄2 cup molasses
- 3⁄4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 3⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1⁄3 cup diced candied citron peel
- 1⁄3 cup chopped hazelnuts
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1⁄2 cup water
- 1⁄4 cup confectioners' sugar
- In a medium saucepan, stir together the honey and molasses. Bring the mixture to a boil, remove from heat and stir in the brown sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and lastly the egg.
- In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg. Add the molasses mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in the citron and hazelnuts. Cover dough and chill overnight.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets. Using a small amount of dough at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into small rectangles and place them 1 inch apart onto the prepared cookie sheet.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until no imprint remains when touched lightly.
- Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat to between 234 and 240 degrees F (soft ball stage). Remove from heat and stir in the confectioners' sugar.
- Quickly brush the icing over the cookies while they are still hot (Important!) and remove them to wire cooling racks. If icing becomes sugary while brushing cookies, re-heat slightly- adding a little water until crystals dissolve.
- Store in an airtight container with a cup of orange or apple for a few days to mellow. (I never did understand that part of the instructions, and my friend had no clarification - but I take it to mean store with a cut-up apple or orange - maybe a small cup of juice? I don't know - I just stored the cookies in an airtight container by themselves!).
TIMING ADVICE: Start the icing soon enough (My Flub #1). Make sure the icing is exactly at the soft ball stage (My Flub #2). Frost the cookies while they are still warm (My Flub #3). I ended up using mostly my own icing (conf sugar milk) since I was not about to redo it all. Hopefully next Christmas will go better. Made for my husband in memory of my MIL and her German family tradition (this identical recipe!). My DH is lucky I even attempted these cookies... Oh, and my dough was a bit sticky, but the chilling and rolling it out on a pastry cloth made it quite easy to handle.
Absolutely delicious! I feel I should warn potential bakers, though, that even after chilling overnight the dough is *extremely* sticky. When it says to "roll out on a lightly floured surface", it really means that it should look like a bag of flour exploded on anything that might look cross-eyed at the dough, or else the dough will stick to *something*.
OOh these look great! I lived in Germanyy for 5 years and so I missed these little gems sorely around Christmas time now that we are living in North Carolina. I will have to try the recipe sometime! :)