Monday, November 24, 2008

Lubkuchen: Time to put that candied peel to work!

I don't know where I first had the thought to start baking lebkuchen. All I recall is that a few years ago I just had to bake them. It probably had something to do with my springerle fixation and wanting to become more versed in the Christmas baking of the Old World. Those Germans really know their sweets! ^_^

Well, regardless of where the impulse originated, I'm certainly glad it did, as these cookies are Christmas cookies incarnate! Plus they're made with the candied citrus peel I told you about yesterday! (double score!)

Lebkuchen are essentially a soft, German spice cookie (one among many). The base is a nut flour mixture, sweetened with honey and flavored with cinnamon, clove, ginger, and candied citrus peel. Originating in Franconia, Germany, the lebkuchen has had a place in traditional German Christmas celebration since the late 13th century. So the cookies have been around for over 700 years, they gotta be winners with that kind of record!

The recipe isn't hard, and is pretty straight forward. It is also fairly traditional from the sources I've looked at, and the lebkuchen I've tasted in the past. The only real part where I deviate from tradition is that in traditional lebkuchen, you place the cookie dough balls onto oblaten, a thin wafer cookie, which prevents them from cementing themselves to the pan. I've been unable to find small oblaten anywhere but online, and I'm not really keen on having to have them shipped every time I want lebkuchen. Thus I just bake mine on a parchment paper, which works beautifully. You could also do as the recipe suggests and use rice paper.


For nut flour
3/4 cup hazelnuts (3 1/2 oz)
3/4 cup sliced almonds (2 1/2 oz)
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

For cookies
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup mild honey
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped fine-quality mixed candied fruit such as citron, orange, and lemon
4 (11 1/2- by 8 1/4-inch) sheets edible rice paper, cut with scissors into 32 (2 1/2-inch) rounds (optional)

For icing

2 cups confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons water

Make nut flour:
Finely grind nuts with remaining nut flour ingredients in a food processor.

Make dough:
Beat together brown sugar, honey, and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until creamy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in nut flour at low speed until just blended, then stir in candied fruit.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Arrange rice-paper rounds, shiny sides down, on 2 large baking sheets. Roll level 2-tablespoon amounts of dough into balls with dampened hands, then put 1 on each paper round and flatten slightly (dough will spread to cover paper during baking).

Bake cookies in upper and lower thirds of oven, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until surface no longer appears wet, about 15 minutes total. Transfer to racks to cool.

Ice cookies:
Sift confectioners sugar into a bowl, then stir in water until smooth. Evenly brush tops of cooled cookies with icing. Let icing set, about 1 hour.

Fröhliche Weihnachten!


Amy said...

Hi Tom, these look wonderful and I can't wait to make them myself!! I was wondering if it would be possible to use an all purpose or whole wheat flour in place of the ground nuts? I don't want to ruin the recipe, but I just thought I'd ask! :-) Thanks a lot!!


Tom said...

Amy, I suppose it would be possible to do so, but I can't say how that would affect the outcome of the cookies. I'd imagine that having more flour, you'd probably need more moisture added to the recipe. They flavor would also likely be less complex, as the hazelnuts and almonds add a lot of flavor to the cookies. I wouldn't do it myself, but that shouldn't stop you from experimenting with it. If you do try the lebkuchen sans nuts, be sure to tell me how it went. I'd be interested to hear. ^_^

Peppercorn Press said...

Yummmmm.... These look and sound delicious! I make a sugar cookie with citrus which adds a lovely flavor. I can imagine the spice, nut and citrus flavors combined are scrumptious! Thanks for sharing.

Jerry said...

These look fantastic and sound delicious!

Cindy B said...

Tom, These look great and my BF just said "We should try putting some of your homemade citrus peel candy in a cookie." Of course, by "we", he means "I" should, but he knows how I do love to bake. Do you think I could bake them on my silpat sheets to make them easier to remove? Since I discovered them, it's silpat all the way with me.
I also remember that Lubkuchen taste better after storing them for a few days. Any thoughts on that? Maybe I'm confusing them with Pfefferneuse, which my dad insisted on getting each Christmas (and we all loved).