Lebkuchen – German Christmas Cookies

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Lebkuchen (sometimes known as pfefferkuchen) is the German answer to gingerbread, and it’s a traditional holiday treat that dates all the way back to the 13th century. Sweet and chock full of warming spices, these cookies are a bright note in the dark winter months, but deliciously addictive all year round. Softer than gingerbread, they also have the essence of orange and lemon running throughout and the snap of a sweet hard glaze on top.
Many versions are made with molasses, and some include ground almonds, and spices like coriander or cardamom, while others even include candied fruit. Pretty much all versions, though, include honey. In fact, in its earliest days, Lebkuchen was even known as “honey cake.”
Our version is a little simplified, relying on almond extract for flavor rather than ground almonds. Dark brown sugar brings in a molasses flavor, and a traditional grouping of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice adds a warm bite throughout. They’re an easy drop cookie, and should be taken out of the oven while they’re still soft. The key to keeping them soft is to store them in an airtight container with a slice of apple or orange peel. The moisture from the fruit is what gives them their signature consistency so you might even want to make them a day ahead to give them a chance to soften overnight!

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