These Elisenlebkuchen, the archetypal German gingerbread, hail from the Bavarian city of Nuremberg and are soft and chewy round cookies baked on thin wafers called Oblaten. They are flourless, studded with tiny pieces of candied citrus peel, and rich in ground nuts and almond paste, which help keep them moist and chewy. The lack of flour makes not only a delightfully textured cookie, but also one that keeps incredibly well—always an important characteristic of German holiday baking in general.
Compared to some of the other Lebkuchen varieties—which, due to their high honey content, have very stiff doughs that can be difficult to work with or need a ripening time of a few months (!)—Elisenlebkuchen are quite simple to make. If you have a pair of electric beaters and a big bowl, you've got all you need. (A stand mixer will make your life easier still, but is not essential.) The work of spreading the batter on the wafers and coating the finished Elisenlebkuchen with a glaze after baking is a little fussy, but the payoff is definitely worth it.
And best of all if you plan to give these away, the cookies taste best after at least a few days of ripening once baked, the spices and winey almond flavor intensifying. Their texture improves too, becoming almost juicy and addictively chewy. I like making these on the small side so that they can be eaten in one or two bites.
To make the Elisenlebkuchen you'll need Lebkuchengewürz, a spice mixture specifically for Christmastime baking (a recipe follows), candied citron and orange peel and thin baking wafers, all of which can be found online. (You can find baking wafers at edelweissimports.com, germandeli.com, germangrocery.com, or Amazon.)
Reprinted with permission from Classic German Baking (Ten Speed Press, 2016). —Luisa Weiss