Gingerbread is a traditional treat during the Christmas holidays in the United States and many European countries. Whether it's made into houses, cookies or more cake-like treats, it's a holiday dessert that's made in just about every household. Germany takes its gingerbread more seriously than most countries, and it even has a spice mix specifically for these holiday treats.
"Lebkuchengewuerz," or gingerbread spice, is called for in many German recipes. Similar to the mixtures common in the U.S., like apple pie spice or pumpkin pie spice, lebkuchen spice mix is a combination of baking spices that are very familiar. Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice, but also coriander and cardamom, which are not common in American spice mixes, make the honey and nut treats found in Germany at Christmastime so unforgettable. If you do not have access to packets of lebkuchen spice, you can make it at home with this recipe.
Here's how to buy lebkuchen spice and possible substitutions.
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground anise seed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground star anise
- If you have whole spices (which have a longer shelf life), place the spices in a clean knife coffee grinder (one that looks like a food processor inside, not a burr grinder) and grind until they are fine. Alternatively, use store-bought ground spices.
- Sift any freshly ground spices through a fine sieve to remove large pieces and add to other ground spices.
- Mix the spices together thoroughly and place in an airtight container to store.
Uses for Lebkuchen
Lebkuchen, or gingerbread, are German spiced cookies that are a Christmas holiday tradition. They are similar to American gingerbread but often also contain nuts, honey and candied or dried fruit, and they can be soft cookies or cake-like, moist bars covered with thick frosting. Whether cookies, bars or houses, these treats are the main use for lebkuchen spices. Use in your own recipe for gingerbread without the German additions if you like or doctor up gingerbread from a boxed mix.
You could also use this spice mix in hermit cookies, molasses spiced cookies, glazed and spiced orange cookies, sugar and spice cookies or gingersnaps. For a bit of a flavor changeup, substitute lebkuchen for pumpkin pie spice in pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice cookies and pumpkin bread. You can use lebkuchen spice mix in virtually any recipe that calls for even some of its ingredients -- just consider the rest of the uncalled-for spices a flavor bonus.