This traditional German Christmas cookie recipe (pronounced leeb-kook-in)  was given to my mother by my father’s Aunt Flora who told my mom her mother made this cookie every year. Did you follow all that? I know I should draw one of those family tree diagrams. What it means is that when my daughter makes this cookie she is the fifth generation to make it – that we know for sure. 

This recipe may look complicated but it’s not. I’ve done it in stages to fit my schedule. I’ve chopped the citron and nuts one day and worked on the rest of the batter the next. The batter has to be refrigerated at least overnight. I’ve mixed the batter and refrigerated it. Days later I’ve mixed up the glaze and a small batch of the dough. Then later (days or a week) I’ll do the rest. The cookies need to “age” so doing them early in December works. I’m sure my great grandmother didn’t have time for a complicated recipe any more than I do. What’s really important is that this is a great tasting cookie that is not overly sweet. For us it’s one of those things we always have – a tradition. Gather these ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. molasses 
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1 t. grated lemon rind (mom hates lemon so she uses lime)
  • 2 3/4 c. all purpose flour
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1 t. cloves
  • 1 t. allspice
  • 1 t. nutmeg
  • 1/3 c. cut-up citron
  • 1/3 c. chopped nuts
  • Icing (see below)

In a saucepan, mix honey and molasses and bring to a boil. Take off the burner and let it cool. Then add the sugar, egg, lemon (or lime) juice and rind.  Whisk together the flour and all the spices. Mix that in with the honey mixture along with the citron and nuts. Don’t over mix. Just stir until blended. Cool completely, at least overnight. I’ve kept it in the refrigerator for a week (tight-lidded container) with no consequences.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Prepared a lightly floured rolling surface. Prepare the icing (recipe below) and keep the icing warm so it will spread easily. We usually use a double boiler with the water below just simmering. A small crockpot works good too.

Work with a small amount of dough at a time and keep the rest in the refrigerator. Use a lightly floured rolling pin and roll to 1/4 inch. 

Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter,  cut the dough into rectangles so they are about 1 1/2 inches by 2 1./2 inches. No need to get out a ruler. You can eye-ball it. Just a simple rectangle is what you’re going for. We’ve tried using cookie cutters on these but the excess dough, when re-rolled, makes the cookie tough.  

Place each cookie an inch apart on a greased cookie sheet. Parchment paper works well too. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. They are done when you touch them lightly with your finger and they bounce right back.

While the cookies are baking mix together the Icing:leb

Blend 1 c. sugar and 1/2 c. water in a small saucepan. Heat until it is 230 degrees on your candy thermometer or a simple thread starts to form if you drip a little drip into a cup of cold water. Take off the heat. Stir in 1/4 c. powdered sugar. If the icing becomes too sugary, warm it up again and add a little water. I use my mini crock pot.

Brush the icing over the top and remove immediately from the cookie pan.

When they are cool store them in tight fitting containers with a slice of apple inside each container. This helps the cookies to “age” or mellow. My mom has always made them the week after Thanksgiving and sends them out in the mail a week or two before Christmas.

I’ve always stashed a few away – you know, for Epiphany and they are still good. Beyond that they are still edible but pretty hard. I hope you’ll give these ancient cookies a try. Whatever you bake for the holidays, I hope you’ll enjoy it and make many happy memories.