Lebkuchen is a German Christmas specialty, a little like gingerbread. My friends in Leipzig tasted mine last year and said, “it’s very nice, but it isn’t Lebkuchen.” I was puzzled, because the recipe was given to me by a German friend. Surely Lebkuchen is Lebkuchen? Or could there be regional variations?
As it turns out, my friend’s recipe is for Elisen Lebkuchen, a Nürnberger specialty. It is richer than regular Lebkuchen because it is made with a high percentage of ground nuts, usually almonds, hazelnuts or walnuts. In fact the recipe from my friend is made entirely with nut meal rather than flour, so it’s gluten free.
Lebkuchen is richly spiced, rather like Gingerbread. I spiced mine with a commercial spice blend called Lebkuchen Gewürz. My friend advises that the simplest substitute for this would include cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Most Lebkuchen spice mixes are much more complicated than this and may include aniseed, ginger, kardamon, coriander, cloves, mace, allspice and cinnamon.
A year later, I enjoyed my Lebkuchen at temperatures more than 30 degrees warmer than last Christmas. It reminded me of my Leipziger friends who were puzzled by my Nürnberger Lebkuchen.
6 eggs, separated
5 tabs rum or milk
100g mixed candied peel (if desired)
2 tabs cocoa powder
2 tabs Lebkuchen Gewürz (or a mix of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg)
500g ground almonds (or half and half ground almonds and hazelnuts)
Optional (to ice)
200g block of milk or dark chocolate
Separate the eggs, put the whites aside.
Combine sugar, yolks and rum or milk. Beat until foamy.
Add all other ingredients except the egg whites, one at a time. Mix well between each addition.
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold through the other mixture.
Divide the mixture between two lined lamington pans (18 x 28 cm), or spread over a large biscuit tray. You can also spoon out separate biscuits.
Bake at 170 degrees Celcius for ~15 minutes until set in the middle (it will change colour and be firm to the touch).
After the Lebkuchen has cooled you can coat it with melted chocolate.