Lebkuchen (1)Except, I lie. Not one speck of ginger, fresh or dried, has come near these goodies. They are, in fact, genuine, honest-to-goodness German Lebkuchen. Yes, I know, I know, over here we call them gingerbread. So be it – as long as you keep in mind that ginger plays no part in it.

It’s a new recipe I tried from a cookbook I’ve had for a long time, and I’m very pleased with it. It tastes exactly like Lebkuchen should.  Except for the texture – boughten Lebkuchen, the ones from Nuremberg (which is famous for them), are soft and kind of chewy, more of a cake texture; these things that I baked today went rock-hard once they cooled off, kind of like biscotti. I guess they’re dunkers. Put on a pot of Glühwein (mulled wine), or if you don’t want the booze, some spiced soft cider, and you’re in business. Aaah.

Lebkuchen (3)It’s the quintessential Christmas goodie, loaded with ingredients that for Germans are exotic imports, because they can’t be grown in north-central Europe. Almonds, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg – things that come from the south.

And now they’re going into the cookie tin, the big one with the rounded lid, which years ago came in a Christmas parcel, filled with the real chocolate-glazed Nürnberger Lebkuchen. Of course, it’s the tin for keeping those gingerbread cookies in – just look at the picture on the lid!Lebkuchen (2) It shows exactly that kind of cookie, almonds and all. Baked by friendly little dwarfs, no less, who get the nuts from a squirrel family, take them home to their dwarfs’ cottage, bake them into gingerbread, and then take some back to the squirrels to share.

And just so you can share, too (maybe not with squirrels, but I’m sure you’ve got some friends who might be into it) here’s the recipe:

4 eggs
250g sugar
400g flour
1 tsp baking powder
400g ground whole almonds
100g mixed candied peel
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp each cloves, nutmeg and allspice
1 egg yolk
80 blanched almonds
Beat the eggs with the sugar until foamy. Sift together flour and baking powder, mix with almonds and spices. Stir into the eggs and sugar, knead together into a firm dough. Wrap dough in tin foil or parchment paper; put in the fridge (or on your sub-zero-temperature deck) for two hours to rest.
Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Roll dough on floured surface to 1cm thickness. Cut into 40 even-sized squares; put on a cookie sheet. Beat the egg yolk with a little bit of water. Brush squares with egg wash, decorate with one almond half in each corner (I used sliced almonds instead). Bake on the centre rack of the oven for 20 minutes or until light brown. Cool on racks. Store in Lebkuchen tin with pictures of friendly dwarfs on the outside. Defend from marauding family members so a few cookies are left until Christmas.

And as a bonus, here’s how I make Glühwein and/or mulled cider:
1 bottle of red wine, or 1 litre of apple juice
1 cinnamon stick
about half a dozen whole cloves
if using wine, about 1/4 c sugar (or more, to taste)
Put all ingredients together in a slow cooker or a pot on low heat. Simmer anywhere from 1hr to all afternoon. Serve in mugs. Perfect while shopping at the Christmas market with snow drifting down on you, or perhaps while going carolling. Or just for sitting by the fireside and dunking gingerbread into.

There you are. Life, the Universe, Gingerbread and Mulled Wine. Wassail!

Author: quillandqwerty

writer, editor, maker of things

3 thoughts on “Gingerbread!”

  1. Christmas goodies! Oh Yummy!!

    I know precisely the type of “gingerbread” cookies you are talking about. Warm, chewy, and so good. I know, because during the Christmas season, these cookies, and others like them, were found in the kitchen of my German grandmother, and her kitchen smelled like Heaven’s bakery. Nuts, raisins, fruit…but no ginger. Nutmeg though. And cinnamon–but that might have been her personal preference. I actually prefer this cookie to the other harder ones, because I am not a ginger fan. The smell is nice, but the taste is…well, I’m not big on it.

    Conversely, during the holidays, lurking in the warm and fragrant kitchens of my English grandmother and great-grandmother, were the hard crunchy gingerbread cookies. These were made from rolled and cut cookie dough, that did have ginger in it. This was kind of a big deal–the making of the gingerbread men–and quite an elaborate undertaking.

    The cookies were always baked with a little hole at the very top of the head. After they were cooled, they were then iced elaborately with fast hardening “royal” icing. They usually had clothes and faces iced on to them with jelly drop buttons and licorice hair. Some of them were quite beautiful. Or–they had icing faces, but were actually dressed in tiny little costumes!! No, really. Real clothing. All hand sewn. Little crocheted scarves. Wool hair. Tons of work! Then a ribbon–either red or green–was threaded through the little hole at the top of the head, and they were hung from the Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve. Those, and the hand made candy canes. The idea being, that there was a gingerbread man for every person in the house, and they were treated as one of the Christmas presents. And they were usually labeled. And if the woman had extra gingerbread, she made a gingerbread house, and these were also elaborately decorated with icing, jelly drops, peppermints, and things like candied fruit. None of this gummy bear nonsense. And not a lot of chocolate in those days. It was still considered a luxury item, so chocolates were kind of a big deal also.

    Yes, the gingerbread men were “dunkers”. Lol. They were generally eaten–at least in my family–with a cup of tea either Christmas night or Boxing Day. This tradition of the gingerbread men died with my mom because she was from a different tradition. Over the years she learned to make the gingerbread men the “English” way for my dad’s sake, but…not the same. Ah well. She made other yummies that were just as good. In fact, I don’t know many people these days who keep all the old English traditions anymore. Who has the time to crochet little scarves??? Haha. Or pull melted sugar into candy canes? My granny told me of one lady, who really did “deck her halls with boughs of holly”, and on whose tree, ALL the ornaments were edible. Cookies, pulled sugar ornaments, sugar plums, you name it. AND, she had 5 kids. What a trooper!!

    Sad to say, with my schedule, I generally slave over a hot cash register for most of my Christmas goodies, but I do still feel the need to make my hubby and son some Canadian Butter Tarts, some shortbread, and some sugar cookies. I don’t bother with Gingerbread men. No one really likes them that much. And I buy my candy canes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gah! I only just realised that you commented on this! WordPress has been withholding information from me (they haven’t been emailing me when there’s comments. Grrr).

      Anyway, thanks for sharing this! That’s fascinating about the dressed-up gingerbread men. So neat. Old German traditions are quite big on the edible Christmas tree decorations, too. Every year I make cookies called Springerle, too, which are made in molds with pictures on them; they were traditionally often hung on the tree, as well. And my father always puts apples on the tree; they’re the counterweights for the tree candle holders (yes, real candles on the tree. No, it doesn’t set the tree on fire if you do it right.). My personal theory is that the shiny glass balls that people hang on their trees were originally meant to represent apples or other fruit.
      I love learning about those old traditions. And homemade candy canes? Never even heard of it. How cool is that? Hmm, something else to try making…


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