These Sugar glazed lebkuchen (German Christmas cookies) are the perfect spicy and sweet cookies for the festive season.
Remember when I made this Citrus pistachio spice cake as my version of lebkuchen because at that point I hadn’t had any yet? Well, I have since not only bought lebkuchen for myself and others, I also made some! Which I guess is clear from today’s title.
Lebkuchen are German Christmas cookies that resemble gingerbread cookies. However, a classic gingerbread cookie is made with molasses and brown sugar, but you make lebkuchen with honey instead.
Lebkuchen are soft, almost cake-or-bread-like. They are spicy, filled with cinnamon and ginger among other things and most importantly honey, as mentioned before! In fact, these are called medenjaki in Slovene. The word “med” means honey, so if I literally translate the word I could maybe call these honey cookies, honeys or honeybuns, although the latter means something completely else in English.
Anyhow, let’s stick with lebkuchen, as that’s the most appropriate word.
Now, you can find a few versions of lebkuchen and I’m pretty sure I haven’t tried all of them yet, so I’ll just talk about the ones that I have. There are the plain lebkuchen, without a filling, simply glazed with a sugar glaze. Some of these are also partially dipped in chocolate. I really like these now, but I wasn’t the biggest fan as a kid.
When I was little my favorite were the chocolate covered ones. The whole combination of a soft aromatic cookie and chocolate is absolutely dreamy. An upgrade of that are the filled lebkuchen which are beyond amazing. My favorite are the ones filled with plum jam.
But let’s get back to the sugar glazed ones. The fact that our tastes change as we grow just might be the best thing in the world, because I fully appreciate the cookies for what they are now that I’m an adult. I absolutely adore them and they’ve become a must-have treat for me every winter.
And this is why I decided to make these Sugar glazed lebkuchen for you guys too. You’ll notice that my spice list isn’t that long and there are many more spices you can add to the mix, like cardamom or cloves. You can also add chopped nuts or dried fruit.
But I kept things simple and the ingredient list fairly short. I think you’ll fall in love with these sugar glazed lebkuchen. They’re the perfect combination of spicy and sweet, with a wonderful lemon sugar glaze and festive sprinkles on top.
May the Christmas week begin in style!
Recipe makes 18 cookies.
- 250g (2 cups minus 2 TBSPs | 9oz) all-purpose flour
- 85g (3/4 cup) almond meal (ground almonds)
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 200ml (3/4 cup + 1 1/3 TBSPs) honey (I use a mixture of light and dark honey)
- 85g (3/4 stick or 6 TBSPs) unsalted butter
- zest from 1 organic lemon
- 160g (1 cup) powdered sugar
- juice from 1 lemon (yield about 30-40ml | 2-3 TBSPs)
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- sprinkles of choice
- Stir flour, almonds, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Heat the honey and butter in a small saucepan over low heat until the butter completely melts. Pour butter into the flour mixture along with the lemon zest. Mix well until the dough forms into a solid ball. It’ll be soft and sticky, but will hold its shape. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel (so dough doesn’t dry out) and leave to cool.
- Heat oven to 180°C (355°F). Using your hands, roll dough into 18 balls and place all on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving some room between the cookies for when they bake and expand. Flatten each ball slightly with your fingers. Bake cookies for 10-15 mins, until they puff up and get golden brown on the bottom. (Make sure they’re not burnt at the bottom!) Remove from oven, transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
- Once cool, make the glaze:
Whisk powdered sugar, lemon juice and salt in a small bowl. The glaze will be thick, but still smooth. Spread 1-2 teaspoons of glaze over each cookie and immediately decorate with sprinkles, because the glaze dries quickly.
- Let cookies dry completely, then store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 weeks. Maybe longer, but they never last that long in my home.
The cookies are naturally sweet from the honey, but if you want them sweeter add a few tablespoons of sugar (white or brown) to honey and butter and cook the 3 together (before pouring the melted mixture into dry ingredients).
As the cookies bake they'll hardly change the color on top, but they can burn on the bottom so watch them after the 10-minute mark. If you're unsure when they're done, take one out and see if the bottom is golden brown and hard if you tap it.
If you are not a fan of sugar glaze, dip these into melted chocolate instead. Whatever you decide to do, they do need a coating of something, to balance out the zingy spices.
Recipe adapted from BBC Good Food.