Around the holidays you can buy buckets of pre-made lebkuchen dough at the grocery store, and now I know why. This recipe yields a dough that is so difficult to work with that there is no reason to put yourself through it unless you’re really mad about something and want to take it out on an inanimate object to avoid jail time.
The dough turned into a hard, gooey mass overnight and it took me an hour to get it to where I could roll it out. First I incorporated the extra flour and seasoning by doing some preliminary hand kneading, then I transferred it to my stand mixer in two batches. This only partially got the dough together, so I did another round of hand kneading and machine mixing. The dough broke one of the paddle attachments.
But the ordeal didn’t end there. I slightly bent the handles on my rolling pin before I gave up using them, and used only the middle part of the pin to roll. Even standing on my tip toes and throwing my full body weight into the pin I had a hard time rolling the dough to 1/2″ thickness.
Of course, the cookies tasted good and everyone in my family really liked them, so I will likely be obliged to make them again. Dammit.
500 grams (18 oz) sugar
3/8 liter (13 oz) water
500 grams (18 oz) honey
1 kilograms + 40 dag (49 oz) flour, divided
1 pinch of baking powder
1 pinch of baking soda
1 piece zested orange peel
1 piece zested lemon peel
1 to 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (to taste)
1 to 1 1/2 tsp nutmeg (to taste)
1/2 to 2/4 tsp ground clove (to taste)
1 to 1 1/2 tsp anise (to taste)
simple syrup made from sugar and water
1. Caramelize the sugar. To do this, put it in a ungreased pan with a wide bottom over medium heat. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon until the sugar starts to melt. Once it starts to melt stir continuously, breaking up clumps. Eventually the sugar will completely liquefy and turn reddish brown — caramel.
2. While the sugar is melting, heat 3/8 liter (13 oz) water in a separate wide-bottomed pan over low heat. When the sugar has become caramel, add it to the water. The mixture will hiss and boil at first, but this is OK. Completely dissolve the caramel in the water. It dissolves faster when left alone, with only the occasional scraping of clumps off the bottom and side with a wooden spoon.
3. Add the honey to the caramel water and heat thoroughly. Remove pot from heat and stir in 1 kilogram (35 oz) flour. Cover and let the dough rest for a day.
4. Add 40 dag. (14 oz) of flour and the remaining ingredients (except the simple syrup)and roll the dough out to a thickness of half an inch. Cut the dough to any shape and brush the tops of the cut-out shapes with water.
5. Bake at 350 degrees: the exact baking time depends on the thickness and size of the shape cut. The cookies that I made (pictured above) took about 25 minutes. Let the cookies cool slightly then brush the tops with a simple syrup.