The secret to perfect lebkuchen is in the resting phase after glazing. An apple wedge in the storage container provides moisture that softens the cookies. This German classic is from Shauna Sever's book Midwest Made: Big, Bold Baking from the Heartland.

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Ingredients

COOKIES

GLAZE

Directions

  • For cookies: In a 1- to 1 1/2-quart saucepan, combine honey and muscovado sugar. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves and mixture just comes to a simmer. Remove from heat; stir in butter. Cool until warm to the touch. Whisk in egg, lemon zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

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  • In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. With an electric mixer on low speed, beat in egg mixture until a smooth, sticky dough forms. Scrape dough into a lightly oiled ceramic bowl and cover with a plate¿you want the dough to be able to breathe. Allow dough to "ripen" in the refrigerator 1 to 2 days.

  • Position oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven. Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

  • Turn dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Roll dough until 1/4 inch thick. Use a bench scraper or thin spatula to get under dough and scoot it around in the flour occasionally to prevent sticking. Cut shapes using 2-inch cutters. Place cutouts 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Sweep away any excess flour with a pastry brush.

  • Bake until fragrant and lightly browned, about 12 minutes, rotating sheets from top to bottom and front to back about halfway through. (Watch closely. The honey in the dough can make the cookie edges go from light to dark brown quickly.)

  • For glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, meringue powder, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, the water and 1/8 teaspoon salt for a smooth, thin glaze. (Add a few drops of lemon juice, as needed, to achieve desired consistency.)

  • Let cookies cool on baking sheets 5 minutes. Slide an offset spatula under cookies to gently loosen them from the parchment, leaving them on the sheets.

  • While still warm, brush cookies with glaze and transfer to wire racks. Let stand until glaze is completely set.

  • Layer cookies between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container. Tuck a fresh apple wedge in the container. Store in a cool place at least 3 days or up to 2 weeks before serving.

*SHOPPING TIP

Look for dark muscovado sugar in natural foods stores or online. If you can find it, it’s worth every penny for these special holiday treats. If not, organic dark brown sugar tends to be richer in color and will give you a deeper-hued cookie.

WHITE CHOCOLATE VARIATION

Do not glaze cookies; let cookies rest 3 days with apple. Melt 10 ounces white baking chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat. Dip unglazed cookies halfway in melted chocolate. Let stand until set.

Nutrition Facts

147 calories; 4 g total fat; 10 mg cholesterol; 75 mg sodium. 27 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein;

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