Leckerlee – New York, NY
The bite: Leckerlee Nuremberg-style lebkuchen
The inspiration: a German Christmas market
In 2009, needing a break from her corporate job, Sandy Lee left Manhattan and moved to Berlin. In a serendipitous moment at a German Christmas market, she discovered and became obsessed with lebkuchen (pronounced LAYB’-KOO-KHEN), a centuries-old German gingerbread cookie. That’s great for us because Sandy’s new love for this Bavarian treat led to the opening of her own lebkuchen bakery in New York City, a rather impressive undertaking for someone with no prior baking experience determined to learn a guarded recipe among German bakers.
There is something about the delicious combination of flavors–ground hazelnuts and almonds, spices, notes of citrus, sweetened with honey, and coated in a thin sugar glaze or dark chocolate–that inspired Sandy to learn how to perfect her own recipe after more than one year of research, conversations with German bakers, exhaustive lebkuchen tasting, and experimentation.
Leckerlee is the only company in the US specializing in baking the original Nuremberg-style lebkuchen, widely regarded as the finest gingerbread in the world. This moist, chewy treat–a cross between a cake and a cookie–is baked on edible wafers called oblaten (think large communion wafer) because lebkuchen was created by monks who put its sticky dough on the wafers so it wouldn’t stick to the baking sheets.
The company’s name is a play on the German word lecker which means delicious in German. In certain regional German dialects, leckerle or leckerli are diminutive word forms that can be translated as delicious little treat. The extra “e” added at the end is a reference to the founder’s surname (Lee) and also makes the word easier to pronounce.
Lebkuchen is customarily baked during the winter holiday season and Leckerlee was always intended to be a seasonal business, operating from November through January 31, traditional to the way it is in Germany.