German Gingerbread Hearts, How to Bake and Decorate Lebkuchenherzen for Oktoberfest
Cookies play a role in our celebrations all over the world, and can be a fun way to explore different cultures.
When you think of Germany's Oktoberfest, I'm sure pretzels and beer come to mind. However, there's another special treat you will see being sold in the Bavarian Markets during the festival: Lebkuchenherzen. Lebkuchen refers to German gingerbread, while herzen means heart!
These hearts are adorned with names or sweet sayings similar to Valentine's cookies, and given to loved ones.
For even more fun, the cookies are strung with ribbon and can be used as decoration or worn around the neck. I love the idea of wearing cookies!
Above: a woman with a Lebkuchenherzen around her neck that says "Greetings from Munich", the heart on the right says "I love you"
How to make a German gingerbread heart at home:
There are many regional variations on this recipe, but we love this version because it holds its shape while still having a soft bite!
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Makes a dozen 4" hearts using this cookie cutter
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
2 large eggs
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 ½ - 5 cups all-purpose flour (Adjust flour if the dough is sticky)
- Preheat oven to 375º F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat® mats.
- Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together butter (or shortening) and sugar until smooth. Add molasses, and mix until combined.
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add cornstarch, ginger, cinnamon, salt. Mix on medium-low speed until combined.
- With your mixer on low, add the flour, ½ cup at a time, until the dough forms a ball and pulls cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. If your dough is still too sticky, add up to an additional ½ cup of flour. The dough will look dry, but will come together after a few minutes of mixing.
- Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper. Place rolled dough in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours.
- Cut the heart shapes and use a drinking straw to punch out two holes if you wish to put a ribbon on your cookies.
- Transfer shapes to the prepared baking sheets, and bake for 10 - 15 minutes. Let fully cool before decorating.
The colors for Leckuchen are bright and vibrant, but feel free to be creative!
Most hearts have a decorative border and a sweet saying on the inside.
Products used to decorate:
Writing: PME Supatube #2
Borders: Ateco Star Tip #18
German phrases for your hearts:
- Ich liebe Dich - I love you
- Prost - cheers
- Schatzi - treasure (something you call your sweetheart in Germany)
- Bärchen - little bear (a common pet name)
- Knuddelbär - cuddle bear
If you wish to string your hearts on ribbon, wait a day until the royal icing has fully dried.
You hearts will last up to 3 weeks in an airtight container. Give them to your loved ones with a beverage of choice, and lots of love!
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