What can I say, I'm a sucker for mildly hard-to-pronounce German sweets (see pfeffernüsse and zimtsterne), especially when they come in a holiday tin. Lebkuchen can be added to the aforementioned list. But if you don't have a sweet German grandma baking them for you (sadly, I don't) then it can be pretty absent from your life.
Thankfully the NYC-based Leckerlee is making these traditional German gingerbread sweets, which originated in the Bavarian town of Nuremberg way back in the Middle Ages. Sandy Lee started Leckerlee (translates to "delicious little treat" in German) after her baking stint in Berlin, where she perfected this recipe with the pros. You can find her at the Brooklyn Flea until December 18 and at her Lower East Side pop-up shop, or she's also taking mail-orders.
Open the delightful red holiday tin with Berlin's coat of arms bear on the lid, and immediately get a big whiff of ginger, orange peel, and other warm, nutty spices. They are chewy and moist, somewhere between a cookie and a muffin top. The minimal flour content (less than 10%) contributes to this softer, denser texture.
Leckerlee makes two varieties: the Classic (covered in a light sugar glaze) and Chocolate (enrobed in a dark chocolate shell), both of which also have an edible "oblaten" wafer at the bottom (a nod to the communion wafer). The ginger, coriander, anise, mace and other spices in the blend are complemented by the sweeter outer edges, but neither of them are too sweet.
This is a holiday cookie for spice fiends (paging Max!) that transport you to a quaint Christkindlmarkt in a snowy German village where you'd be sipping hot mulled wine from a nearby glühwein stall.
Leckerlee is selling the tins of five lebkuchen ($28) through January. Unlike other cookies that start stale-ing after a few days, lebkuchen will remain pretty chewy and equally spice-potent for six to eight weeks.