Lebkuchen (German Gingerbread)

Has anybody read the book, The Baker’s Daughter, by Sarah McCoy?  It was one of the many books I received for Christmas (thanks, Grandma!), and I devoured its pages within a day over break.  It’s a story split between Nazi Germany during World War II and El Paso, Texas in the present day.  It focuses on a German teenager as she’s growing up in her parents’ bakery and a magazine writer who interviews that same German woman in the bakery that she now owns in Texas, sixty years later.  Although they’re in seemingly opposite times, the two girls go through many of the same predicaments in finding themselves as they come of age.  I don’t want to share any of the nitty gritty details, but I cannot recommend this book enough.  I’ve always been interested in stories taking place during the Holocaust, and it was an interesting change to read a story from the eyes of a non-Jewish German and how they did things to survive through that terrible time.  The baking side of things was a plus, me obviously being a pretty avid baker.

One of my favorite parts about this book was at the end, the author included recipes from the stories with little comments from one of the book’s main characters.  There’s a mixture of both German and American/German hybrid recipes.  I couldn’t wait to test a few of them out!  Throughout the story, lebkuchen (German gingerbread) played a key role; the girl’s father made lebkuchen hearts every year for Christmas with each family member’s name iced on, and they were a major staple sold in the bakery.  After hearing so much about them, I had to try them first.  I’m glad I did.

What’s interesting about this recipe is that they use almond oil instead of any butter, and it’s in a very small amount.  I quickly grabbed a bottle of almond oil while I was at work (GNC) so that I’d have everything for the recipe.  It’s quite a simple cookie that you can either cut out into squares or any shapes you’d like.  I chose squares for simplicity.

The lebkuchen is lightly spiced and very soft in texture.  It’s definitely the kind of “biscuit” sort of cookie that goes great with a cup of tea.  Because I’m not a huge fan of sugar glazes over cookies, I glazed about half of them, and added a healthy dose of cinnamon to the glaze.  With the added cinnamon, I was sort of sad that I only glazed half of them, once I started eating them.  So good!

adapted from The Baker’s Daughter
makes about 2 dozen square shaped cookies

For the cookies:

    • 1/2 cup honey
    • 1/2 cup molasses (I used robust)
    • 3/4 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
    • 3 T almond oil
    • 1 egg
    • 2 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
    • 2 t cinnamon
    • 1 t baking powder
    • 1/2 t baking soda
    • 1/2 t salt
    • 1/2 t cardamom
    • 1/2 t ginger

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring the honey and molasses to a boil.  Allow it to cool slightly, then stir in the coconut sugar, almond oil, and egg.  Pour the wet into the dry ingredients, and mix until well combined.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge overnight.

Once chilled, roll out the dough over a lightly floured surface, and cut into desired shapes.

Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake at 350ºF for 12-15 minutes (depending on the size/shape of your cookies), until they spring back to the touch.  Let cool slightly before glazing (recipe below).  Store in an airtight container.

For the glaze:

    • 1 cup white sugar
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
    • 1/2 t cinnamon
    • 1/2 t vanilla

Bring the white sugar and water to a boil, and continue heating for about five minutes, to ensure the sugar is dissolved.

Remove from heat, and stir in the powdered sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Brush over the still warm lebkuchen.  Allow to harden before storing.