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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Elisenlebkuchen – A Bavarian Christmas Specialty

As many of you know, I am German. For the most part that doesn’t really show all that much, but come Christmas time, it shows big time Smile Once advent is upon us there is usually no stopping me and I spend quite some time baking, crafting and decorating, with and without the children.

Wonderful smells fill the house, tins upon tins of German Christmas cookies start piling up on top of the refrigerator and snitching little fingers are constantly on the prowl for little goodies!

One of the things I really look forward to making every year are Elisen Lebkuchen, also know as Nürnberger Lebkuchen. Nuremberg being the city this particular type of “gingerbread” originated from.

They are not just ordinary gingerbread rounds though, far from it. They are moist, nutty, fragrant and utterly delicious. They are pretty easy to make and for some of you maybe best of all, they are gluten-free!


Anyway, lets get to it.

One of the really important things for german christmas baking are “Oblaten.” They are very thin baking wafers that are quite tasteless by themselves, but they have oh so many functions. First and foremost they keep your cookies soft! Second they help with uniform sizing and make your cookies slide off the baking tray so easily. But, first and foremost … they keep your cookies moist!

This is important for Elisenlebkuchen, as they really need to sit for a while to reach their “prime!”

I generally have some on hand, either from Germany or from local stores that carry German ingredients. I tend to use round because that is what I can get, but square or rectangular works just as well! And they can be cut to size really easily with a pair of scissors!

They keep forever! I mean literally. I found some in my pantry from years ago and they were still perfectly fine! So if you get some, stock up! I also have a couple more recipes where these will come in quite handy!

Should you not be able to find them but still want to try this recipe, there is a way around it. Granted it won’t work quite as well, but it is a passable substitute. I will explain it in the directions later.


First to the ingredients. Since this is a German recipe, everything is not only in grams, but it is also precise Open-mouthed Baking with “unreliable” measurements like cups is just not the done thing! Surprised

So please, please use kitchen scales! Success is so much easier to achieve in baking when the ingredient amounts are correct!




  • 470 g Sugar (16.6 oz)
  • 6 Eggs; approx. 55 g each (1.9 oz each)
  • 1/2 tsp EACH of the following ground spices:

Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Allspice, Nutmeg, Cardamom

  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 240g Hazelnuts; coarsely chopped (8.5 oz) *almonds/pecans/walnuts work too, but it’s not nearly as good :)*
  • 240g Hazelnuts; finely ground (8.5 oz)
  • 50g Walnuts; coarsely chopped (1.8 oz)
  • 100g candied orange peel; finely chopped (3.5 oz)
  • 100g candied lemon peel; finely chopped  (3.5 oz)
  • peel of one lemon
  • peel of one orange
  • baking wafers (50mm)

For the coating:

Bittersweet and/or milk chocolate, melted (I usually add some coconut oil or cocoa butter to make the coating a bit smoother and thinner, about a tsp per bar of chocolate)

Powdered sugar  + water (1 cup of powdered sugar and 2 tbsp water whisked together does about half of these)



Chances are you can only get the hazelnuts whole. Grind them as fine as you can in your food processor! For the coarse chopped nuts, put the whole nuts in the food processor and pulse a few times. Then add the candied peel and pulse a few more times until the peel resembles finely chopped consistency. For an extra boost in yummy nuttiness, toast half your hazelnuts prior to chopping/pulsing!

PB265988[1]{The candied peel and the chopped hazelnuts in the food processor.}

Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix well.


Cover the bowl and let it sit in the refrigerator for 24 hrs. It may seem a little runny at first, but it will thicken up quite a bit in the next 24hrs.

When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 F.

Lay out the baking wafers on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Scoop equal amounts of the nut mix onto the wafers and smooth out. I find that the easiest way to get the round ones uniform is to use an ice cream scoop. Scoop some nut mixture into your slightly moistened hands, makes a smooth ball and then press it as a disc onto the wafer and smooth the edges down. Make sure that the disc is just slightly smaller than the wafer, as the dough will rise some.

lebkuchen[1] Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the Lebkuchen are lightly golden brown. It is important that they are not quite done in the middle though.

Place them on a cookie rack to cool slightly.

If you are going to be icing them with the sugar glaze, it is better if they are still a little warm. For the chocolate coating they need to be entirely cooled however. Try and brush the coating on as thinly as you possibly can!

If you have used baking wafers, just brush on a thin coat of chocolate coating  or sugar glaze. Let completely dry and store in a cookie tin.

If you didn’t use baking wafers, you will need to dip or brush your entire cookie. First a coat at the bottom, let dry, then a coat on the top of the cookie. This will also seal the moisture and flavors inside!


Lebkuchen need to sit for a while to develop their prime taste and texture. They need a minimum of 10 days in that cookie tin, so take that into account when planning to make these!

They will however keep for several weeks in a cookie tin and personally I think they taste the best after they have matured for about 2-3 weeks!



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  1. Hallo Birgit, Happy 1. Advent from a fellow German. I'm so glad to have found your blog. It is really nice and I was looking for a lebkuchenrezept that I can do with American ingredients.
    The Bavarian Christmas linky party is now open-won’t you come and join us at http://dobermans-by-the-sea.blogspot.com/2010/11/1st-christmas-linky-party-at-dobermans.html

  2. I enjoyed stumbling onto your blog today. I also make Lebkuchen every Christmas. My recipe uses honig instead of sugar, but otherwise is very similar. Here's to German family Christmas baking traditions!

  3. Those sound very yummy! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  4. This is such an interesting recipe, because it is so different from what I am used to. It sounds yummy! Thank you for sharing it at Theme Party Thursday!

  5. I've been playing with Elisenlebkuchen recipes for years - and yours looks great, I can't wait to try it tomorrow!
    I was especially please to see your gluten-free comment, however, my Kuechle brand wafers are made from wheat and starch - do you have a wheat free source for these or should I just omit them for my celiac friends?

  6. The ones I can get locally are made with rice, so I've been lucky. I've also used the "edible paper" from this source and just cut it to size with a pair of scissors prior to baking.
    This paper doesn't feel as sturdy as the oblaten, but it works fine for baking. I hope that helps!

  7. Apparently I was told that Asian grocery stores have rice paper, which might be suitable for this.

    The recipe lists
    - peel of one lemon
    - peel of one orange

    What do I do with those? I assume I also chop them finely?

  8. You can chop the peels, or you can use a zester/grater/rasp/microplane to remover the peel from the fruit. I prefer the latter as it's a one step process and it ensure very fine bits with no white part, which can be bitter.
    As for the rice paper, the only kind I've seen in the Asian grocery stores are the rice paper wraps, which are meant to be cooked/baked/fried with something inside them. I have never tried those, so I can't comment if it would be suitable for this. I suspect that the consistency would be different to the kind I have linked to in my post. Not that you couldn't pull it off after the cookies are baked and enjoy the cookies anyway!

    The rice paper I refer to is essentially a really thin rice wafer, while the rice paper wraps are dried thin sheets of a dough that was made from rice flour and water.
    But it might work just fine! If anyone has tried them, please let us know!

  9. I'm so glad to have found your site. I was lucky to find gluten free lebkuchen at my local store in Virginia last year, but have searched high and low to no avail this year. I guess I will have to make them. Thank you for the recipe.
    My daughter was born in Nuremburg (American military family) and I try to get her German things and lebkuchen for Christmas.

  10. Hi, Judy! I'm glad you found it too!

    And yes, it's not quite Christmas without Elisenlebkuchen :) Especially if you celebrated Christmas anywhere near Nuremberg!

    You might also be interested in the Cinnamon Stars (Zimtsterne) and the Gebrannte Mandeln recipes. Both are gluten free :)
    Nothing like the almonds to give you that Christmas market smell wafting all through the house!



    My family lived about an hour from Nuremberg :)

  11. Lebkuchen isn't usually gluten free is it? So glad this one is!

  12. No, not usually. The Elisenlebkuchen variety tend to have much fewer gluten, not that that helps any, but they are largely made from nuts, rather than wheat flour.
    However, usually you get the gluten then through the "Oblaten" which are the little white round things they are baked on, which are made from wheat flour.

    But luckily you can make them yourself and totally gluten-free :)

  13. I've made Elisenlebkuchen every Christmas for the last few years, but decided to try a your recipe instead of my usual one this time - it's a lot easier, they held their shape much better, and they smell delicious as well, so I'm very happy!

    I have a question though: I covered half of them in chocolate, which I've never tried before, and it's summer here in Queensland, so would it be OK to store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator? Otherwise I can see the chocolate melting...

  14. I don't see why not! The only issue I could imagine is that there MAY be some condensation if the very fresh ones are kept in the fridge, so I would try putting a paper towel in the bottom of your air tight container to keep them dry, just in case!

    I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipe! Merry Christmas!

  15. Thanks - I'll try that. And a Merry Christmas to you too!

  16. this is the best elisenlebkuchen recipe ever. i halved the candied orange and lemon and added a bit more of the spices. the subtraction of the candied orange and lemon did not alter the consistency and was exactly as i like it, i feel too much can be over-powering.

    thank you so much for this recipe. i live in germany and made these last year and everyone was completely in awe and many remembered them and asked for them again this year.

    thanks again and fröhliche weihnachten!

  17. I'm so glad you liked them! They are definitely a must around here every Christmas and take me straight back to my childhood Christmases! Frohe Weihnachten to you too!

  18. Birgit, hi
    I decided to make it. quick question ...
    could you please suggest on how to make candied lemon and orange peel?
    thank you again

  19. You can purchase it in any grocery store - in the baking section.
    If you want to make it yourself, please google "homemade candied peel" and you will find many wonderful recipes.

  20. Hi, I would really like to make these but when grinding my nuts I did it for slightly too long and they are beginning to clump together like the beginnings of nut butter! Could I still use it do you think?

  21. Hi Ben!
    The texture will be different, but it should be ok at that stage! Once it's already nut butter and too much of the oil is released, you would probably have issues with the dough coming together but when it's just at the beginning, it works fine!

  22. I've been searching for a lebkuchen recipe for the last three years and although I found many good recipes it wasn't until I found yours that it took me back to my childhood! Thank you so much for your recipe! I made it exactly as described and they are perfect. I'm making another batch tomorrow to share with my parents and siblings because I know they're all going to want some!

  23. I'm so happy you enjoyed them, Stephanie! For me they are truly childhood Christmas too ... well, those and Stollen :)

  24. Birgit,
    I have adapted your recipe and have been baking them to great success for the last three years. Just a tweak I made: I wanted them to have that bitter almond flavor so I use about 15 bitter apricot pits from the health food store along with the ground almonds as the base. The makes them taste more like the Bahlsen bran Contessa I love so much -- think I love yours better since they are fresher!! Anne

    1. Oh, wonderful idea! I do love that bitter almond flavor, too! I may just try this! Also, for a more authentic flavor, if you can find citron or a "European mixed peel" which includes citron, it pushes it even further in the direction of the Contessa flavor! King Arthur Flour sometimes has it, but they are often sold out!


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Birgit Kerr