Honey, citrus, spices, oh my! These tasty gingerbread-style cookies are a family favorite of ours and are one of the staples on our gorgeous holiday cookie trays that Mr. The Inspired Parent makes each year.
Depending on which historical reference you read, Lebkuchen or “honey cake,” was likely invented by Franconian monks. It is documented as making an appearance around the 13th century in what is now Germany. There are varieties that are more sweet or more spicy — this version is well-balanced & great with a cup of coffee or tea.
Lebkuchen hold up ridiculously well if kept in an airtight container — we bake these a week or more before our holiday gatherings. Not only is it super convenient since they can be made so far in advance, but the flavor just gets better and better as a few days go by. They’re still quite good warm out of the oven or after cooling, but by days 3-5 (or later!), the spices intensify a bit, adding to the cookie’s complexity & making these the perfect bake-ahead treat for your upcoming gatherings!
- 1 c. dark, runny honey
- 2/3 c. (4.5 oz.) granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. ground cloves
- 3 TBSP. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. allspice
- 5 1/2 TBSP. (2.5 oz.) unsalted butter
- 2 oz. candied lemon peel
- 1 oz. candied orange peel
- 1 oz. almonds
- 4 1/2 oz. hazelnuts
- 3 large eggs (2 for the dough, 1 for the egg wash)
- 4 c. (17.5 oz.) all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1 TBSP. water
- In a pan over medium heat, mix the honey and sugar, stirring constantly until it comes to a gentle boil and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and add the gloves, cinnamon and allspice. Stir to combine and then set aside.
- In a different pan, melt the butter then set aside to cool. Very finely chop the candied lemon and orange peels with a very sharp knife. Then repeat with the almonds and hazelnuts. If you prefer, you can finely chop these four ingredients using a food processor - this is how we make it - just be careful not to over-process.
- In a small bowl, whisk 2 of the 3 eggs 'til frothy (3rd egg will be used the next day). In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour and then add the melted butter, chopped lemon & orange peel, chopped nuts, the beaten eggs and dissolved baking soda. Mix with a strong rubber spatula or wooden spoon 'til all ingredients are combined.
- Using your hands, shape the dough into a flat disc. Place the disc on a plate or in a small bowl and wrap well with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Roll your dough to a 1/4-inch thick and use a 2-inch cookie cutter. Round is traditional, but we like to use a scalloped edge. Place the cookies on the lined cookie sheet. Whisk the remaining egg & and lightly brush the top of the cookies with the beaten egg.
- Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack in your oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
- Store in airtight containers for up to four weeks or in your freezer for up to 3 months.
Adapted from a wonderful cookbook: The Viennese Kitchen, Tante Hertha's Book of Family Recipes by Monica Meehan & Maria von Baich (2011).