Updated: Feb 25, 2019
Here we go, I finally get to share some of my heritage on this blog: It's almost Christmas, and as a German-American, who was born and raised about 30 Minutes outside of the Gingerbread Cookie Capital of the World - Nuremberg, Germany - I just can't allow a Christmas without Lebkuchen (German Gingerbread Cookies) in my house. It's like Christmas without a Christmas tree - that would just be silly. But, as I'm now an expatriate to New York, true Lebkuchen - and I'm talking about the ones made WITHOUT FLOUR - are hard to come by here in the US, and having them sent to me is just wayyy too expensive. Which is why, for the first time this year, I made these babies from scratch! They turned out excellent; tasted just like the real deal, and they're actually quite healthy - loaded with Lactation goodness - which is why I'm sharing this recipe with you guys today!
What makes these cookies healthy and, if you're here for the breastfeeding part, Lactation friendly? Well, the great thing about authentic Nuremberg Lebkuchen is, they are made without wheat, oil or butter - their main ingredient is NUTS! Yep, a whoooole bunch of them. And by golly, nuts are packed with some serious healthy goodness! Almonds and hazelnuts, which are the main ingredient in this recipe, are loaded with fiber and protein; they are a great source of Vitamins and Minerals (including Vitamin E, Manganese and Magnesium); they contain phytonutrients such as proanthocyanidins (which, by the way, transfer into breast milk!) and best of all, the fat in these nuts is almost exclusively healthy monounsaturated fat! Hence, your breast milk is going to be sending some super healthy stuff baby's way after eating these!
Let's get started:
You will need three organic (!) Lemons and three organic (!) Oranges. It's important to use organic fruit in this case because you'll be using the peel, which is loaded with nasty chemicals if you use conventionally grown ones. You'll also need a cup of sugar and some water - that's it!
Here is what I did (swipe for slide show):
I washed the oranges and lemons well (even though they're organic - make sure you still wash them well to get rid of any waxes and residues). Then, I scraped off the peels, leaving as little of the 'white' as possible on the fruit. Then, I boiled the peels for about 10 minutes. IMPORTANT: Rinse and replace the water twice during this process - this gets rid of some of the bitterness. After 10 minutes and rinsing the peels, I added a cup of sugar and a cup of water to the peels. I let this simmer on low for about 50 minutes until the peels were translucent. Then, I took the peels out an dried them overnight. Finally, I chopped them up and voila, you have yourself some homemade candied lemon peel and homemade candied orange peel!
Once that is done (or if you've decided to purchase them instead and your package has arrived), you're ready to make your Lebkuchen!
First, beat the eggs, sugar and honey together with an electric mixer until they are thick, fluffy and white. This will take at least 5 minutes. Don't skip this step - it is necessary since you won't be using any flour and baking powder in this recipe to air out the dough! In the meantime, you can go ahead and grind/chop your nuts (make sure your nuts are unsalted/unflavored; I highly recommend these Almonds and these Hazelnuts). You may use any ratio of ground to chopped nuts, but I personally think the cookie will be better if you use more ground than chopped nuts. Also, finely dice your candied orange and lemon peels.
Once your egg and sugar mixture is fluffy, carefully add the ground/chopped nuts, diced lemon peels, spices and the paste from the vanilla bean to your mixture. Mix this up until combined. Store this dough in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, you are ready to bake your cookies! Scoop out about a loaded tablespoon each of dough and place it on a round wafer (you can bake it without a wafer, but the traditional Nuremberg Lebkuchen is usually placed on one of these Backoblaten). The best way to form your Lebkuchen is to form a ball, place it on your wafer and press down on it until it is flat, although I had a mold which my mother sent me from Germany.
Now, bake these babies on 350 degrees F (or 175 degrees Celcius) for about 12 to 15 minutes. They are done once the edges begin to brown. Once they are done, remove them from the oven and place them upside down to cool on a clean surface so they stay nice and flat.
Once they are cool, you may (or may not) want to glaze them. You can either use a dark chocolate glaze for that (melted dark chocolate morsels with a bit of coconut oil) or a powdered sugar glaze (powdered sugar dissolved in water and/or lemon juice).
Merry Christmas, everyone!