Nürnberg-Style Lebkuchen or Ginger Bread

2h 30min
Stanislava Dimitrova
How it's made: 

Lebkuchen or Gingerbread can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, who prepared gingerbread for rituals and celebrations. The recipe was brought to the courts of the wealthy Europeans in the 11th century by the Crusaders, who brought spices from the Middle East. As the exotic spices became affordable to the mass, gingerbread became more popular and part of the festive table of every family.

One of the earliest recipes for gingerbread was prepared from ground almonds, bread crumbs, rose water, sugar and ginger, of course. The soft dough was shaped in wooden moulds, which often beard the likeness of kings and queens or religious symbols.

In the 16th century, the British replaced the dry crumbs in the recipe with flour and added eggs, which resulted in a recipe that could be shaped into different figures - angels, hearts and the popular gingerbread man.

Queen Elizabeth I awarded her guests with gingerbread man tied with ribbon. Because of the ginger preserving quality, gingerbread become a favorite treat at fairs, popular gift and when exchanged, a symbol of love.

This recipe is the result of about a dozen attempts to recreate the recipe for the Nürnberg Lebkuchen, some culinary advice from my neighbor Mrs. Borkenhagen and a huge amount of cookies, devoured in the last few months. I do not claim authenticity, but I guarantee that you'll love the taste of these cookies.

Each bakery keeps it's recipe a secret because the Nürnberg Lebkuchen has a Protected Designation of Origin and must be produced within the boundaries of the city. In 1643 the city officially recognized the Lebkuchen-Baker profession by creating the "League of Lebkuchen-Bakers." In 1645, the league created strict guidelines that commerical bakers had to follow in order to sell their lebkuchen. Here is a recipe that will help you make a Nürnberg-like Lebkuchen at home.

Combine the raisins, candied orange and lemon together and shred into a food processor until it becomes a rough and very sticky mass. Pour into a bowl of appropriate size, add almonds, rum, cover with kitchen foil and let it stay overnight.

On the next day, add cinnamon, *Lebkuhen mix and baking powder to the mixture. Beat the eggs. Melt the butter and sugar and let it cool off a little. Stir in eggs, butter and honey and mix until you have medium-soft and very sticky batter.

Since the batter is very soft and can not be rolled out or shaped by itself, the Nürnberg Lebkuchen is baked over oblaten. Oblaten is very thin (about 1 mm) wafer, usually round.

Place about 2 tablespoons of sticky batter over the wafer base. With a spoon or finger, dipped in water to avoid sticking, shape the Lebkuchen by gently pushing the batter to the wafer's edges until an even layer of about 1 cm of batter covers it. Place on baking sheet. Let the Lebkuchen rest for half an hour, decorate with almonds and bake in a preheated to 180 ℃/375℉ oven for 15-20 min. If you do not have oblaten or similar wafer, shape the batter into balls, bake them on a baking sheet and gently remove, once they cool off.

Dip the cookies in chocolate or sugar glaze if you wish. The Nürnberg style ginger cookies are rich in flavor. Each bite is a magical mix of almonds and aromatic fruit pieces. As I've already said, you are definitely going to love it.

Shopping list: 
400 g ground almonds
100 g candied orange
100 g candied lemon
200 g raisins
4 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
20 ml rum
120 g butter
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. *Lebkuchen mix
1/2 pack backing powder
oblaten /round wafer/
*Lebkuchen mix
2 tbsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground anise seed
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