Lebkuchen is often seen hanging from stalls at German markets, especially the famous Christmas markets!
- 250 g (⅔ cup) honey
- 125 g caster sugar
- 125 g copha (vegetable shortening), chopped
- 500 g (2 ⅔ cups) plain flour
- 25 g (2 tbsp) baking cocoa
- 20 g (2 tbsp) Lebkuchen spice (see Note)
- 1 egg
- 5 g (1 tsp) potash (see Note)
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 egg white
- ½ tsp lemon juice
- 240 g (1 ½ cups) pure icing sugar, sifted
- paste food colour (see Note) (optional)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
The following recipe has been tested and edited by SBS Food and may differ slightly from the podcast.
Resting time 2 hours
Chilling time 1 hour
You can begin the recipe 1 day in advance to make the dough, but it is not necessary.
Place honey, sugar and copha in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat, stirring gently until melted and bubbling. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Pour into a heat-resistant bowl.
Sift together the flour, cocoa and Lebkuchen spice. Beat half of the flour mixture into the honey mixture using an electric hand mixer on the heaviest setting. Mix in the egg. Dissolve the potash separately in water, stirring until dissolved, then mix into the dough until incorporated. Beat in the remaining flour mixture, a little at a time.
When the dough starts to become dry, turn out onto a floured work surface and knead little until smooth. The dough should be nice and warm and easy to work.
Shape into a flat disc, cover with cling film and rest in fridge for 2 hours or until chilled. The dough can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks before baking.
Preheat oven to 180ºC. Allow Lebkuchen dough to come to almost room temperature, then cut into 4 equal portions. Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin, then evenly roll out dough to about ½ - 1cm thick (½ cm for cut-out shapes). Chill the dough for 1 hour or until firm enough to cut shapes easily.
Cut out desired shapes using cookie cutters or create desired shapes using paper templates laid atop the dough and cut around with a small sharp knife. If you wish to hang the Lebkuchen, punch a small hole at the top using a straw.
Place on oven trays lined with baking paper and place in the oven for 8-10 minutes for smaller shapes, being careful not to burn the edges.
Lightly whisk eggwhite and lemon juice together in a bowl, gradually adding icing sugar. Whisk mixture together until combined and smooth. Paste food colouring can also be added to the icing if desired. Spoon mixture into piping bag and decorate biscuits as you wish.
• Lebkuchen spice and potash are available at Gewurzhaus.
• Potash is a baking aid used in some German recipes - especially Lebkuchen. It's also known as potassium carbonate, which, when mixed with water, reacts to create carbon dioxide, giving lift to baked goods. Bicarbonate of soda can be used as a substitute (½ tsp of bicarb soda for every tsp of potash), but the taste may differ slightly.
• Paste food colours are available at cake-decorating shops. Water-based colours (found at supermarkets) make the icing too wet for this application.
• Ina recommends using snap-lock bags for piping. Simply push the icing into one corner and cut off a small piece of the corner with scissors to create an opening. Alternatively, use a piping bag with a 1 mm nozzle.
Photography by Alan Benson