Dating back to the 14th century in Nuremberg, Germany, Elisenlebkuchen have stood the test of time as one of Germany’s most popular and beloved of all Christmas treats! You’ll fall in love with this authentic German Lebkuchen recipe!
Having grown up in Germany it’s the Christmas season when I get the most homesick. The snowy landscapes, the decorations, the Christmas markets, and all the delicious Christmas goodies…you just can’t beat Christmas in Germany. One of Germany’s most famous Christmas treats (and one of my personal favorites), is Elisenlebkuchen, and that’s the German Lebkuchen recipe we’re sharing today.
What is Lebkuchen?
Lebkuchen go all the way back to 14th century Germany where they were created by Catholic monks. Prepared in monastery bakeries, Lebkuchen included honey, a variety of spices and nuts. These ingredients not only had symbolic religious meaning but were highly prized for their healing properties. Those clever monks not only created an exceptionally delicious sweet treat, they found an additional use for their communion wafers: They increased the diameter size and used them as the base for the sticky gingerbread dough – a perfect solution.
A quintessential sweet treat throughout all of Germany during the Christmas season, Lebkuchen is one of the most popular and beloved of all German holiday confections. There are a variety of German Lebkuchen, each distinguished by slight alterations in ingredients and most especially the amount of nuts used. But the most highly prized of all are the Nürnberger Elisenlebkuchen. The title is a regionally protected one and only Lebkuchen produced in Nürnberg can be sold as such. The distinguishing characteristic of the Elisenlebkuchen is that they use no flour and have a very high ratio of nuts, specifically a combination of almonds and hazelnuts.
Shutterstock / Nürnberg, Henkersteg (Hangman’s Bridge, original construction in 1457)
What is Lebkuchengewürz?
An absolutely critical ingredient in these Lebkuchen is Lebkuchengewürz. You cannot make these without Lebkuchengewürz. Period. Not if you want them to taste like real Lebkuchen. And Lebkuchengewürz is virtually impossible to find here in the U.S. unless you’re lucky enough to have a well-stocked German grocery store near you. Even Amazon only has one option to choose from and it’s pricey and I’m not sure how good it is (update: here is another one.) But have no fear because I’ve got you covered!
Here is my recipe for homemade Lebkuchengewürz, an absolutely magical blend of spices. And even if you find some store-bought Lebkuchengewürz locally or online I still recommend that you make your own because it’s a hundred times better! A richer, deeper, more vibrant flavor. If you add this homemade Lebkuchengewürz to any authentic German recipe calling for Lebkuchengewürz you’ll close your eyes and feel like you’re back in Germany.
Why You Should Make Your Own Candied Orange and Lemon Peel
Virtually everyone I know detests store-bought citrus peel. And I’m in full agreement. The stuff tastes like chemicals. No matter the brand, store-bought candied lemon and orange peel is just gross. And it’s a shame because a lot of Christmas baked goods call for candied citrus peel and people buy it because they think they have no other options. But there IS another option. And if you’ve ever put off making things like fruit cakes or German Lebkuchen because you hate that store-bought, chemical-flavored stuff in the plastic container, let me tell you: Homemade candied citrus peel is a 100% deal changer. Not only does it taste good, it tastes amazing and it will make your baked goods taste even more amazing!
Please, please do yourself a favor: Put that store-bought stuff back on the shelf and make some Candied Orange Peel and lemon peel (click link for recipe). Your life will change forever!
Growing up in southern Germany I always looked forward to when the Elisenlebkuchen came available. And as good as the store-bought ones are, wait till you try homemade!
The texture and flavor of these Elisenlebkuchen is sublime. They keep for a long time and their flavor only gets better the longer they sit and the flavors can ripen. For a truly unforgettable German Christmas pastry, you must give these traditional German Lebkuchen a try!
German Lebkuchen Recipe
This German Lebkuchen recipe is actually quite easy to make. It’s simply a matter of gathering up all the ingredients you need and then the rest is a breeze.
In addition to the step-by-step photos of the preparation process, I also filmed the process so you can see the entire process from start to finish via video! Sometimes it helps to have clear visual. Check out my video in the recipe box below.
On a side note, here’s a little trivia for you classical music lovers. I specifically chose Pachelbel’s Canon as the backing track. Can any of you guess what Pachelbel has to do with Nürnberger Elisenlebkuchen? Answer: Pachelbel was from Nürnberg. Score!
Let’s get started!
You can use a hand mixer or a stand mixer. Place the eggs in a large bowl and beat the eggs until foamy.
Add the brown sugar, honey and vanilla extract. Beat until combined.
Finely mince the candied lemon and orange peel. The best way to do that is to place them in a bowl and toss them with about 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour to prevent them from sticking together.
Note: If you want truly amazing results, make your own candied citrus peel. The flavor is amazing. It’s super easy to make and once you’ve tried it you’ll never get the store-bought stuff again! Here is my recipe for candied orange peel and lemon peel (same method for both).
Place it in a food processor and pulse until finely minced.
Add the nuts, salt, baking powder, Lebkuchengewürz and candied lemon peel.
If using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment and beat on medium for about 2 minutes until thoroughly combined. If you’re not using a stand mixer, beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined.
The mixture will be wet. If it’s too runny to scoop onto the oblaten add some more almond or hazelnut meal.
An essential item for Elisenlebkuchen are Backoblaten. You can get Backoblaten in three sizes: 90mm, 70mm and 50mm. 50mm is mostly used for smaller items like cookies. You can use either 90mm or 70mm for the Lebkuchen depending on how large you want them. Amazon currently has the 70mm oblaten available.
Alternatively, you can also use white communion wafers.
Scoop some of the mixture onto the Backoblaten, smoothing the top and leaving just a tiny bit of an edge around the rim. Place them on a lined cookies sheet.
In an oven preheated to 300 degrees F, bake the Lebkuchen on the middle rack for 25-28 minutes. Remove and let cool completely.
Once the Lebkuchen have cooled, make the glaze.
For the chocolate glaze, add the chocolate and oil (I use and love coconut oil for this) and a small bowl and microwave, stirring occasionally, until melted. You’ll want to use it immediately as it will start to firm. If it does firm up simply reheat it for a few seconds in the microwave.
For the sugar glaze, in a small bowl combine the powdered sugar and water and stir until smooth.
Traditionally Lebkuchen are made with these two glazes and some are kept natural (no glaze). Choose whatever you prefer. Chocolate-dipped Lebkuchen have always been my favorite.
Position a wire rack over a cookie sheet to catch the drippings.
Dip the Lebkuchen into the glazes, letting the excess drip off and placing them on the wire rack to set. Place three blanched almond halves on each Lebkuchen while the glaze is still wet. Let the Lebkuchen sit undisturbed until the glaze is fully set. Keep the Lebkuchen stored in an airtight container.
For more delicious and authentic German Christmas goodies be sure to try our:
Authentic German Lebkuchen (Elisenlebkuchen)
- 5 large eggs
- 1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon quality pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups almond meal
- 2 cups hazelnut meal
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 teaspoons Lebkuchengewürz
- Homemade Lebkuchengewürz , (STRONGLY recommended), click link for recipe
- 4 ounces candied lemon peel
- 4 ounces candied orange peel
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (to coat the candied peel) (can substitute gluten free)
- Homemade Lemon and Orange Peel , click link (STRONGLY recommended instead of store-bought!)
- Backoblaten either 70mm or 90mm
- white communion wafers (these can be substituted for Backoblaten)
- Blanched whole almonds cut in half lengthwise
- For the Chocolate Glaze:
- 3 ounces quality dark or milk chocolate
- 2 teaspoons coconut oil or oil of choice - do not use butter
- Directions: Place chocolate and oil in a small bowl and microwave stirring occasionally, until melted. Use immediately. If glaze becomes firm, reheat in the microwave.
- For the Sugar Glaze:
- 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons water or milk (use water for a clear glaze or milk for an opaque glaze; substitute some heavy cream for the milk for an even more opaque/whiter glaze)
- Directions: Place sugar and water in a small bowl and stir until smooth.
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
- Toss the candied lemon and orange peel with about 1/4 cup all-purpose flour to keep it from sticking together and then pulse in a food processor until finely minced. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Add the sugar, honey and vanilla extract and beat until combined.Add the ground almonds and hazelnuts, salt, baking powder, Lebkuchengewürz, and candied lemon and orange peels and stir vigorously until thoroughly combined. (You can use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat for about 2 minutes). The mixture will be wet but if it is too thin to scoop onto the oblaten add some more almond or hazelnut meal.
- Scoop the mixture onto the Backoblaten, smoothing down the top and leaving just a slight space around the edges. Set them on a lined cookie sheet.Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25-30 minutes. Remove the cookie sheet and allow to cool completely.
- Once cooled, place a wire rack over a cookie sheet (to catch the drippings). Dip half the Lebkuchen in the chocolate glaze and half in the sugar glaze, letting the excess drip back into the bowl and then place the Lebkuchen on the wire rack. Arrange 3 almonds on each Lebkuchen while the glaze is still wet. Let the Lebkuchen dry completely until the glaze is hardened.Keep stored in an airtight container. Will keep for several weeks and the flavor improves with time.Makes about 35 if using 70mm Backoblaten and about 25 if using 90mm Backoblaten.
Originally published on The Daring Gourmet December 16, 2015