Best German gingerbread cookies (Lebkuchen)

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These moist, fluffy, sweet and easy-to-follow German gingerbread cookies with a cake-like texture are guaranteed to be your favorite cookies for the holidays! Loaded with candied fruits, spices and nuts.

Today I would like to share with you Beate’s go-to German gingerbread cookie recipe otherwise known as Lebkuchen or Pfefferkuchen in German, that she got from her childhood friend Josefine, 40 years ago. These gingerbread cookies are soft, moist, taste insanely delicious and they smell heavenly while baking in the kitchen. They taste very similar to the world famous Nürnberger Lebkuchen (Nuremberg Lebkuchen).

What are German gingerbread cookies?

Lebkuchen belong to German Christmas tradition. There are different recipes depending on where you’re in Germany. This time of the year in every supermarket, bakery or at every Christmas market you go, you’ll be greeted by gingerbread cookies of different shapes and sizes.

German gingerbread cookies are sweet, fluffy and moist baked goodies with a cake-like texture. They have high energy density and longer shelf-time, thus why they were used in the 13th century in winter to feed the poor. Traditionally gingerbread cookies are sweetened with honey (you might have heard of Elisenlebkuchen) and strongly spiced with a mixture of different spices (aka. Gingerbread spice mix). However this recipe uses sugar.

This recipe calls for homemade crumbs made from Bamberger Hörnla (Franconian version of croissant, with a rounder form), but you can also use any croissants that you get your hands on. Making 70 to 80 cookies is very time consuming, but all worth it. You must definitely have a helping hand, to speed up everything a bit or feel free to half the recipe.

What you’ll need to make German gingerbread cookies

For the dough

  • 250 g ( about 9 oz/ 2 cups) plain flour
  • 600 g ( 1 1/3 lbs /3 cups) sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 15 g (3 tablespoons) gingerbread spice mix
  • 30 g (6 tablespoons) ground cinnamon
  • 7 g (1 tablespoon & ½ teaspoon) ground cardamom
  • 1 knife tip ground cloves
  • 7 g (2 teaspoons) ammonium bicarbonate (hartshorn salt)
  • 100 g (3,5 oz) candied orange peel
  • 100 g (3,5 oz) candied citrus
  • 450 g (1 lbs) hazelnuts, ground/ cut into small pieces
  • 200 g (7 oz) almonds, ground
  • 7 Barmberger Hörnla or croissants (1 day old, about 320 g/ 11 oz)
  • 1/2 liter (8 fl oz/ 1 cup) lukewarm water
  • 70 – 80 Oblaten (baking wafers, 70 mm/ 2,8 inches)

For the glaze

  • 300 g (11 oz) dark chocolate
  • icing sugar
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice/ rum
  • about 70 whole almonds

You’ll also need

  • 5x baking sheets
  • parchment papers
  • knife
  • cutting board
  • 2 spoons
  • 2 pastry brushes
  • kitchen machine with dough hooks (optional)
  • Bowls

How to make German gingerbread cookies

Make the dough

Put all the spices and ammonium bicarbonate in a bowl and set aside.

Using a sharp knife cut candied fruits into small pieces.

Crack eggs in a bowl and lightly beat them.

Grind down the croissant in food processor or crush them by hands. If your croissants are not well dry, simply toast them in the oven.


Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, except water and spices. Add water little by little and in between add the spices. Mix all the ingredients very well and let stand for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime if you’re using almonds with skin for decoration, put them in a cup or a bowl and pour hot water over them. Let them soak for about 10 minutes. Drain the almonds and squeeze them one by one with your hands to remove the skin. Using a knife split the almonds into halves.

Preheat the oven to 180 °C (356 °F), with both top and down heat.

Two baking sheets are for baking, two to arrange glazed cookies and one you’ll use it to cool the cookies before glaze.

Shape and bake gingerbread cookies

Line a baking sheet with a parchment paper and arrange oblaten on it.


After 30 minutes fill a cup with water. Wet your pointing finger on the left hand. Using a spoon scoop a bit of the mixture and put it on the oblate with the help of your wet finger. Dip the second spoon in the cup with water and flatten the dough on the oblate.

Arrange almond halves on the flattened cookies and bake 30 minutes.

  • You should always dip your finger in the water before transferring the dough to the oblate. The same applies to the spoon that you’re using to flatten the cookies.
  • For cookies that will be coated with icing sugar you add almond halves before baking and for cookies that will be coated with chocolate you add almond halves after baking.

While the first baking sheet is in the oven, prepare the second baking sheet.

Melt the chocolate over a hot bath or in the microwave. In a separate bowl mix icing sugar with lemon juice or rum.

After 30 minutes remove the baking sheet from the oven. Using a slotted spoon or a pizza cutter transfer the cookies to one of the three remaining baking sheets and let cool.

Bake the next cookies.

While the next baking sheet is in the oven arrange Oblaten on the baking sheet that you’ve just used to bake the first gingerbread cookies, scoop the dough flatten it and bake when the oven is empty. Repeat the process until you have used up all the dough.

Glaze gingerbread cookies and let cool

Using a pastry brush the baked and cooled cookies (with almonds) with icing sugar.

Brush the cookies that you have baked without almonds with chocolate and decorate them with almonds.

Put the cookies on the two remaining baking sheets and let dry and cool completely overnight at room temperature. Otherwise your gingerbread cookies will become molded if you store them immediately, without giving them enough time to dry.

How to store gingerbread cookies

Put the cookies in airtight containers and store in a cool and dry place for up to 4 weeks. Just make sure to put a parchment paper between the layers, so that the cookies will not seat on each other.

More German recipes you’ll love:

Best German gingerbread cookies (Lebkuchen)

These moist, fluffy and easy-to-follow German gingerbread cookies with a cake-like texture are guaranteed to be your favorite cookies for the holidays! Loaded with candied fruits, spices and nuts.
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time3 hrs 30 mins
Rest Time30 mins
Total Time4 hrs 25 mins
Course: Baking, Cookies
Cuisine: European, German
Keyword: Christmas, holiday gifts, holiday season, how to, Lebkuchen, Pfefferkuchen
Servings: 80 gingerbread cookies
Author: Ester from esterkocht.com

Equipment

  • 5 baking sheets
  • Parchment paper
  • 2 pastry brushes
  • 2 spoons
  • Cutting boards
  • Knife
  • Bowls
  • Kitchen machine or hand mixer with dough hooks

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 250 g ( about 9 oz/ 2 cups) plain flour
  • 600 g ( 1 1/3 lbs /3 cups) sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 15 g (3 tablespoons) gingerbread spice mix
  • 30 g (6 tablespoons) ground cinnamon
  • 7 g (1 tablespoon & ½ teaspoon) ground cardamom
  • knife tip ground cloves
  • 7 g (2 teaspoons) ammonium bicarbonate (hartshorn salt)
  • 100 g (3,5 oz) candied orange peel
  • 100 g (3,5 oz) candied citrus
  • 450 g (1 lbs) hazelnuts ground/ cut into small pieces
  • 200 g (7 oz) ground almonds
  • 7 Barmberger Hörnla or croissants (1 day old, about 320 g/ 11 oz)
  • ½ liter (8 fl oz/ 1 cup) lukewarm water
  • 70 - 80 Oblaten (baking wafers, 70 mm/ 2,8 inches)

For the glaze

  • 300 g (11 oz) dark chocolate
  • icing sugar
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice/ rum
  • about 70 whole almonds

Instructions

Make the dough

  • Put all the spices and ammonium bicarbonate in a bowl and set aside. Using a sharp knife cut candied fruits into small pieces. Crack eggs in a bowl and lightly beat them. Grind down the croissant in food processor or crush them by hands. If your croissants are not well dry, simply toast them in the oven. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, except water and spices. Add water little by little and in between add the spices. Mix all the ingredients very well and let stand for about 30 minutes.
  • In the meantime if you're using almonds with skin for decoration, put them in a cup or a bowl and pour hot water over them. Let them soak for about 10 minutes. Drain the almonds and squeeze them one by one with your hands to remove the skin. Using a knife split the almonds into halves. Then preheat the oven to 180 °C (356 °F), with both top and down heat. Two baking sheets are for baking, two to arrange glazed cookies and one you'll use it to cool the cookies before glaze.

Shape and bake gingerbread cookies

  • Line a baking sheet with a parchment paper and arrange oblaten on it. After 30 minutes fill a cup with water. Wet your pointing finger on the left hand. Using a spoon scoop a bit of the mixture and put it on the oblate with the help of your wet finger. Dip the second spoon in the cup with water and flatten the dough on the oblate. Arrange almond halves on the flattened cookies and bake 30 minutes. You only add almonds before baking to cookies that you'll be coating with icing sugar. The ones that you'll be coating with chocolate, you'll add the almonds on them after baking and brushing them with chocolate.
  • While the first baking sheet is in the oven, prepare the second baking sheet and melt the chocolate over a hot bath or in the microwave. In a separate bowl mix icing sugar with lemon juice or rum. After 30 minutes remove the baking sheet from the oven. Using a slotted spoon or a pizza cutter transfer the cookies to one of the three remaining baking sheets and let cool. Bake the next cookies. While the next baking sheet is in the oven arrange Oblaten on the baking sheet that you've just used to bake the first gingerbread cookies, scoop the dough flatten it and bake when the oven is empty. Repeat the process until you have used up all the dough.

Glaze gingerbread cookies and let cool

  • Using a pastry brush the baked and cooled cookies (with almonds) with icing sugar. Brush the cookies that you have baked without almonds with chocolate and decorate them with almonds. Put the cookies on the two remaining baking sheets and let dry and cool completely overnight at room temperature. Otherwise your gingerbread cookies will become molded if you store them immediately, without giving them enough time to dry.

How to store gingerbread cookies

  • Put the cookies in airtight containers and store in a cool and dry place for up to 4 weeks. Just make sure to put a parchment paper between the layers, so that the cookies will not seat on each other.

Notes

  1. You should always dip your finger in the water before transferring the dough to the oblate. The same applies to the spoon that you're using to flatten the cookies.
  2. For cookies that will be coated with icing sugar you add almond halves before baking and for cookies that will be coated with chocolate you add almond halves after baking.
  3. You don't have to coat all the cookies with icing sugar or chocolate or add almonds on them. You could also leave some plain if you like.
  4. The gingerbread cookies taste more flavorful the next day.
  5. You can buy ammonium bicarbonate (ammonia carbonate) also known as baker’s ammonia or hartshorn salt from the drugstore or chemist. Feel free to substitute ammonium bicarbonate with baking powder, if you can't find ammonium bicarbonate. However DON'T let the dough rest!! You should bake the cookies immediately!! Store the cookies in an airtight container and let sit for at least 5 days before eating so that they will become flavorful.
  6.  

Did you make this recipe? I’d love to see! Snap a pic and share it on Ester kocht Facebook Page or @ester.kocht on Instagram.

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One Comment

  1. Da hast du aber eine Menge Arbeit hineingesteckt. Deine Lebkuchen sehen toll aus 🙂

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