An authentic soft, spiced, almond-based Gluten Free Lebkuchen cookie with a hint of citrus and sweetened with honey. Traditionally found in German Christmas markets.
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A Recipe for Soft Gluten Free Lebkuchen Cookies
The gluten free Lebkuchen pursuit is on. I am obsessed! Perhaps I am not the only one to love these delightful German Christmas cookies and to feel they are missing out? Hopefully this mission will be to the benefit of all…
Recently, Schär went some way to answering the Christmas prayers of many Coeliacs with their gluten free Lebkuchen. The rush of excitement however was (for me) yet another gluten free disappointment. Although they tasted ok, the spice level was a bit bland and the texture a bit ‘stick to the teeth’. Hopes of Christmas market memories dashed. A determination to make something better spurred…
Gluten Free Alchemist readers will no doubt have seen another recent post for German Gingerbread Cookies (also a type of Lebkuchen) on the blog. But there are many different types of Lebkuchen. The Lebkuchen posted here are very different to the previous recipe, being much softer and infused with a citrus kick alongside the traditional Lebkuchen spice.
They are nonetheless based on traditional recipes and aim to reach the dizzy gluten free heights of uniquely delicious Germanic taste and texture authenticity… They also make fantastic foodie gifts!
If you want to know more about Lebkuchen cookies and why you get them at Christmas, check out my previous Gingerbread Cookies post.
A German Lebkuchen Recipe – Traditional Ingredients and Flavours
Honey, Nuts, Flour and Oblaten for Gluten Free Lebkuchen
Soft and almost cake-like, this Lebkuchen recipe leans on time-honoured ingredients. Sweetened with only honey and with a good proportion of ground almonds in the mix, these treats are close to a type of Lebkuchen called Elisen Lebkuchen (a soft, round Lebkuchen cookie which originates in 18th Century Nuremberg).
Elisen Lebkuchen have traditionally been made with little or no flour and baked onto back ‘Oblaten’ edible flour wafers for stability. To be called Elisen Lebkuchen however, they must also contain at least 25% nuts and no more than 10% flour. I have read that the addition of molasses (black treacle) is forbidden, in favour of honey.
Back Oblaten appear to be fairly essential to holding nut-based soft Lebkuchen together. Back in the 14th Century, they were also used to prevent sticking when baking. Whilst you can get gluten free Oblaten, they are difficult to source. To be honest, I don’t particularly like the texture they give either (traditional or not).
Thus, to maintain structure without back Oblaten, a little more flour has been used in my gluten free Lebkuchen recipe. I have used my Gluten Free Alchemist rice free mix B for best texture. The ratio is nonetheless balanced to ensure the spongy softness akin to more traditional Lebkuchen recipes. Indeed there still remains more than 20% nut content.
German Lebkuchen – Authentic Spice
Although Lebkuchen are often referred to as ‘gingerbread’, most traditional German recipes contain very little of the stuff. But they do contain an incredible array of other spicing which is crucial to the authenticity and which arguably makes German Christmas cookies Lebkuchen. Central to flavour as well as aroma are the use of cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, mace and coriander seed. Some recipes also variously add star anise and/or cardamom.
I did not have a ready-made Lebkuchen spice mix (known as Lebkuchen Gewürz) to hand, but the careful balance of spices in the Lebkuchen recipe below includes all the key necessary ingredients. You can of course buy jars of Lebkuchen spice (Steenbergs do one – link below). Or if you want to grind from scratch, this recipe for Lebkuchen Gewürz from the Daring Gourmet will guide you.
The combination of spicing against the honey and nuts makes these gluten free Lebkuchen cookies magic. They may look simple (being traditionally decorated, if at all, with a light sugar glaze or a thin layer of chocolate), but the complexity and depth of flavours that hit the palate married with the soft chewiness will take your tastebuds to heaven and back.
Gluten Free Lebkuchen Cookies – How to Mellow and Store
To be sure, these German Christmas cookies taste great fresh from the oven. But if you want them at their very best, they need to mellow and mature a little. Soft Lebkuchen benefit from a day or two at room temperature in an airtight container. Why? because this allows the flavour of the spices, citrus, honey and nuts to develop and mingle, becoming rich and complex. The aroma that hits you when you open the tub will instantly remind you that waiting is good! Sometimes patience is essential if you want a good thing to become amazing…
To store, simply layer the Lebkuchen between sheets of baking paper.
Keeping these gluten free Lebkuchen in an airtight container or tin will also ensure they stay sumptuously soft with an almost fudgy cakey texture. These cookies are not meant to be crisp or crunchy. Indeed, the generous ratio of nuts in the recipe will keep them moist for weeks (although I can guarantee they won’t last that long). Once that lid has been popped and the waft of Christmas hits you, the temptation to eat them all may become overwhelming.
So with temptation offered, I share with you my recipe for Gluten Free Lebkuchen 2. As always, if you make them, please let me know. I love seeing your photos on social media and hearing how you have found the recipes I have created. Take a pic and tag me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.
If you like these, you might also like other Christmassy Biscuit & Cookie Recipes on Gluten Free Alchemist :
- Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
- Christmas Spiced Star Biscuits
- Ginger Biscuits
- Baci Di Dama (Ladies Kisses)
- Dark & Chewy Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cookies
- Jammy Thumbprint Cookies
- Pistachio & Vanilla Shortbread Cookies
- Nutella Thumbprint Cookies
- German Gingerbread Cookies
- Christmas Gingerbread House
- Chewy Toffee-Apple Cookies
- Chocolate-Espresso Puddle Cookies
- Soft Italian Amaretti Cookies
- Peanut Butter Cookies
Gluten Free Lebkuchen Cookies
- weighing scales
- Mixing bowls
- mixing spoon (silicone/wood)
- small saucepan (+ hob)
- zester/fine grater
- baking trays
- baking paper (non-stick)
- wire rack
- 210 g plain gluten free flour blend Best to use Gluten Free Alchemist Rice Free Flour Mix B (see notes below for link)
- 140 g ground almonds (almond meal)
- 1 tsp GF baking powder
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- ½ tsp ground allspice
- 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp mixed spice
- 1 orange (fine zest only)
- 250 g clear honey
- 80 g butter or dairy free spread
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 150 g icing (confectioners) sugar
- 1½ tbsp lemon juice
- 1½ tbsp orange juice
- In a large mixing bowl, weigh and thoroughly mix together the flour, almonds, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spices and fine zest of 1 orange.
- Weigh the honey and butter into a small saucepan and set over a gentle heat, stirring until the butter has just melted and blended into the honey.
- Pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients and the lemon juice and mix until thoroughly blended and even.
- Set aside to cool, folding occasionally with a mixing spoon.
- Once cold, tip the dough onto a sheet of baking paper or clingfilm and wrap well. Place in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours.
- Prepare a couple of large baking trays by lining with baking paper (batch-bake if necessary).
- Once the dough is firm, pull off small pieces and roll into balls about the size of a walnut. Place on the baking trays with room to spread between each ball. Place back into the fridge to keep firm until ready to bake.
- Heat the oven to 160 C/320 F/Gas 3.
- Bake the cookies for 13 to 15 minutes until just firm to the touch and just beginning to darken. Although they will firm up as they cool, they will remain slightly soft in texture.
- Allow to cool completely on the baking trays.
- Sieve the icing sugar into a small, wide-bottomed dish and add about half the citrus juice. Stir thoroughly into the icing sugar until smooth.
- Depending how thick you want your glaze, add the rest of the juice a drop at a time until you have reached the desired consistency.
- Take each cookie and holding with your fingers, turn over and dip the top into the glaze. Hold so that the excess can drip off back into the bowl, before placing upright on a wire rack (with either a baking tray or a piece of paper underneath to catch the drips).
- Leave the cookies until the icing has fully set and dried.
- Best when allowed to mature for a couple of days. Store in an airtight container, layered with baking paper until ready to eat.