Making German lebkuchen is a festive delight. Whether you make traditional circles or cut into stars and hearts, friends and family will love these Christmas biscuits.
For the lebkuchen
- 200g/7oz runny honey
- 85g/3oz butter
- 200g/7oz plain flour
- 100g/3½oz ground almonds
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground allspice or mixed spice
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground cloves (optional)
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder (optional)
- ½ unwaxed orange, finely grated zest and juice
- pinch sea salt
For the sugar glaze
- 100g/3½oz icing sugar
- 2 tbsp boiling water
For the chocolate glaze
- 200g/7oz dark, milk or white chocolate, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
Heat the honey and butter in a small saucepan over a low heat until melted. Tip into a large mixing bowl and put in the fridge for 5 minutes.
Remove the honey-butter mixture from the fridge and sieve in the remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. (The mixture will be sticky.) Return to the fridge for about 1 hour, or until completely cold.
With damp hands, break off pieces of the dough and roll into balls slightly smaller than a golf ball. Transfer to the baking trays and flatten down slightly, leaving enough space between each lebkuchen to spread during cooking. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the lebkuchen has risen and are firm to the touch. Set aside to cool slghtly on the baking trays, before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the sugar glaze, mix the icing sugar and water in a bowl. Dip one side of the lebkuchen into the glaze and return to the wire rack, icing side up, to set.
Alternatively, to make the chocolate glaze, melt half the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl over a simmering saucepan of water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. When the chocolate has almost melted, take the pan off the heat and add the remaining chocolate. Stir until all the chocolate has melted. Dip one side of the lebkuchen into the chocolate and return to the wire rack, chocolate side up, to set.
You can also use a combination of the icing and the chocolate glaze. Simply dunk one side of the lebkuchen in the icing and leave to set, before dunking the other side in the glaze and leave to set to completely.
To make shaped lebkuchen, wait until the dough has cooled but still soft. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to 2.5cm/1in thick. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes and bake as above. If your cookies are quite large they may need a few more minutes in the oven.
To make filled lebkuchen, wait until the dough has cooled but still soft. Roll out on a dusted work surface to 2.5cm/1in thick. Dot the right-hand half of the dough with teaspoons of apricot jam, cherry jam or chocolate spread, ensuring there is space in between. Fold over the remaining dough and flatten with your hands around the dots of jam. Use a cookie cutter to cut out the shapes, ensuring the jam is in the centre of each cookie. Bake as above. If your cookies are quite large they may need a few more minutes in the oven.
If you want to add decorations to your cookies, drizzle melted white chocolate or a thick sugar icing over the lebkuchen and top with sugar snowflakes for a fun finish.