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Author Notes: Growing up in Germany, gingerbread (which we call "Lebkuchen" in German) was a mandatory part of the annual Christmas cookie plate. While we have countless different types of Lebkuchen in Germany, my favorite have always been Elisenlebkuchen.
Allegedly named after the daughter of a gingerbread baker from Nuremberg, Elisenlebkuchen are soft round gingerbread cookies baked on top of a thin wafer (Oblaten). They are served either plain or covered with a thin layer of icing or dark chocolate and are sometimes decorated with whole almonds as well. This is my family's recipe, which first came to us via my dad's friend Jochen.
The Oblaten wafers are there to keep the cookies together given their little flour content and how soft they stay even once baked. Thankfully they are cheap and easily ordered online. They tend to come in three different sizes: 50, 70, and 90 millimeters. It does not matter what size you use for this recipe except that you will have to adjust the baking time accordingly (12 to 14 minutes for the smallest ones and 15 to 20 minutes for the bigger ones).
Makes 12 cookies
For the Lebkuchen spice blend:
- 20 grams ground cinnamon
- 1 whole star anise, ground
- 2 grams ground ginger
- 6 cloves, ground
- 2 grams ground mace
- 2 grams ground coriander
- 2 grams ground cardamom
For the Elisenlebkuchen:
- 2 eggs
- 100 grams granulated sugar
- 160 grams candied citrus peel, chopped very finely
- 100 grams ground almonds
- 100 grams ground hazelnuts
- 4 teaspoons Lebkuchen spice blend (from above)
- 12 Oblaten
- 2 to 3 tablespoons water
- 125 grams confectioners' sugar
- 1 handful blanched almonds, optional
- Mix together all the ingredients for the Lebkuchen spice blend and set aside.
- In a bowl, beat the sugar and the eggs until tripled in volume. Stir in the citrus peel, ground nuts, and spice blend until combined. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge to rest overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 320° F (160° C), line a baking sheet pan with parchment paper, and place the Oblaten on the tray.
- Using an ice cream scoop, place a scoop of the dough in the center of each Oblaten. Using the back of a wet spoon, knife, or spatula, flatten the dough evenly all around the Oblaten and to the very edge of the wafer (the dough will barely spread in the oven), trying to ensure that the dough is a little bit thicker in the center of the Oblaten and becomes thinner closer to the edge of the Oblaten.
- Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes, or until the Lebkuchen are set but still soft in the middle and have barely started to brown around the edges. Leave Lebkuchen on the tray to cool down until they reach room temperature.
- For the glaze, whisk 2 to 3 tablespoons of water into the confectioner's sugar until you have a thick but pourable glaze. Using a pastry brush, cover the Elisenlebkuchen with a thin layer of the glaze. Place the freshly glazed cookies on a cookie rack set atop some parchment paper to catch any excess glaze and wait for the glaze to harden. While the glaze is still soft, you can decorate the Elisenlebkuchen with some blanched almonds.
- Stored in a metal tin, the Elisenlebkuchen will keep for several weeks (and some argue they get even better with age, if you can resist eating them for that long!).
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