German Honey Spice Cookies

Honey-based spice cookies dominate the German Christmas cookie landscape.  The most notable are Pfeffernüsse and Lebkuchen cookies.  Around this time of year, Trader Joe’s carry Lebkuchen cookies made in Nürnberg, Germany.  They are so, so delicious!!  They are chewy, spicy, and contain candied citrus peel and nuts.  No, this post isn’t about Lebkuchen or Pfeffernüsse cookies, but instead a related honey cookie recipe that I came across in an old edition of The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker.  What attracted me to this recipe is that it does not contain fats from butter or oil.  I wanted to see what this butterless cookie would end up tasting like.

I didn’t capture on film a step-by-step account of my cookie making this time around–sorry!  In sum, you basically mix together sugar, spices, candied citrus peel, lemon zest, eggs, honey (brought to a boil and then cooled), and flour (with baking soda) in a bowl, set it overnight for at least 12 hours–yes, this is a two-day affair–drop it by the spoonful onto greased or parchment-lined cookie sheets, bake for a short time, glaze them, and they are done.

Below is a photo of the cookies baked and just out of the oven.  They are pretty large, like 4 inches across. They spread a bit while baking, but I found that the lighter the baking pan, the less they spread and the higher they rise.  When still warm, they are rather delicate, so be careful when transferring to a wire rack to cool.  [Note:  It is better to bake the cookies on parchment-lined baking sheets because on the greased-only pan, they stuck a little for me.]

Here I am in the middle of glazing the cookies.

Here are the glazed cookies set on a wire rack until the glaze hardened.

Here is my assessment of these butterless cookies:  They have got to be THE most delicious, Old World style spice cookies that I’ve ever eaten!  They are light, moist, chewy, and pleasantly spiked with citrus peel.  Yes, they take two days to make, but you’ll find that it’s well worth the extra effort.

Print Recipe
German Honey Spice Cookies
2017 © HollyTrail.com adapted from the German Honey Cookie recipe in The Joy of Cooking © 1975 by I. Rombauer and M. Rombauer Becker
Course Dessert
Cuisine German
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
For cookies
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1 cup candied orange peel, or mixture of candied orange and lemon peel (purchased or homemade--see recipe link in Notes section below)
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
For glaze
  • 2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Course Dessert
Cuisine German
Servings
cookies
Ingredients
For cookies
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1 cup candied orange peel, or mixture of candied orange and lemon peel (purchased or homemade--see recipe link in Notes section below)
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
For glaze
  • 2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
Day 1
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine honey and water and bring to a boil. Let cool until warm to the touch.
  2. Meanwhile, sift together flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and spices. Mix in chopped citrus peel, almonds (optional), and lemon rind.
  4. In a medium bowl, beat eggs until light and foamy. Mix in orange juice.
  5. Pour egg mixture over sugar/peel mixture and mix until well-combined. Mix in cooled honey. Stir in flour mixture. Cover bowl with aluminum foil and let sit at room temperature overnight for at least 12 hours.
Day 2
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease cookie sheets. Using a soup spoon, drop dough onto cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Carefully lift with a spatula (cookies are fragile) and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  2. Mix together glaze ingredients. If too runny, add more confectioner's sugar. If too thick, add more lemon juice.
  3. Brush the tops of each cookie with glaze and place on wire rack to set.
Recipe Notes

Link to candied orange peel recipe.

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