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More on Lebkuchen - The Lebkuchen Story

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Joined: Feb 5, 2006


Posted to Thread #4809 at 4:27 pm on Dec 5, 2006

I found this story on the net.

I'm not sure about the honey part as you said they did use sugar in the early days, but heck, this is a great story. Read it as a bed time story for lebkuchen lovers! :-)

Lebkuchen, Small Cakes with a Big History

Long before the first snowflake falls, people flock to the small shops and kiosks that have magically sprung up to buy one of the seasons bestsellers - Lebkuchen. These wonderful small cakes - it would really do them an injustice to call them cookies - simply melt in your mouth and leave you yearning for more. This is something that you definitely can't eat just one of.

But to buy the best Lebkuchen, you need to look towards the city most famous for its Lebkuchen, Nürnberg. What makes Nürnberg so famous for Lebkuchen? You need only look at a bit of the history of Lebkuchen and to its forerunner, the honey cake, to find the answer to that question,.

The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans considered honey to be a gift of the gods and hoped for magic, healing and life-enhancing properties from the honey cake. So they not only ate honey cakes, but they often wore them into battle as a talisman or were buried with them. The Teutonic people in pre-Christian Europe used the honey cake as protection against evil spirits who were abroad during the twelve nights of Christmas.

Then, in the 13th century, the honey cake became Lebkuchen. The use of wafers on the bottom of the Lebkuchen may indicate a monastery as their origin. The monks particularly liked the dry gingerbread cake seasoned with black pepper, because it caused a thirst, while the nuns preferred the sweeter kind of bread. Naturally, something as good as this couldn't be kept a secret for long. So, in 1395, the first Lebkuchen bakery in Nürnberg was opened.

But again, you ask, why Nürnberg? Its location at the intersection of the ancient salt and trade routes that carried sacks of spices from the east via Venice and Genoa, was the major reason. Extra supplies of spices were brought to Nürnberg for the bakeries. For the second essential ingredient of Lebkuchen, they only needed to look nearby at the imperial woods surrounding Nürnberg. These huge woods, known as the "Holy Roman Emperor's Apiary" offered an abundant supply of honey. Unfortunately, the 30 Years War brought about a decline in the Nürnberg Lebkuchen, as two lengthy sieges of the city cut off the spice trade. After almost two centuries, the old markets had to be built up again.

After almost one hundred years of appealing, in 1643 the city council approved the founding of the Nürnberg Lebkuchen Baker's Guild. Fourteen highly respected master bakers made up the Guild when it was first formed.

In 1927, the Berlin District Court appointed the designation "Nürnberg Lebkuchen" as a mark of origin. This means that only Lebkuchen produced within Nuremberg city limits may bear the name of Nürnberg and its motifs.

The passage of time from the founding of the first bakery has seen some changes to the basic Lebkuchen recipe. These days, the spice cakes come in different flavors and types. Brown Lebkuchen are made of dough that is smoothed out or cut and not baked on a wafer base. They contain 50 parts of sugar or sweetener to 100 parts of ground cereal products and are produced without oil based seeds. White Lebkuchen derives its name from its light colored dough. Its mixture contains at least 15% whole egg and/or egg products. They are only made in rectangular shape and are not iced. Wafer Lebkuchen contain at least 12.5% almonds, walnuts or nut kernels, and have the white wafer on the bottom. Kaiserlein, or Little Emperor Lebkuchen, was named after Emperor Friedrich III. It is said that in 1487 he held an Imperial Diet and invited the 4,000 children of Nuremberg to attend. The children were presented with a Lebkuchen bearing his image, which was perhaps one of the first printed pictures. Elisen Lebkuchen was named after the daughter of a Nürnberg Guild member and have been the Guild's masterpiece since 1808. They must contain at least 25% almonds, hazelnuts and/or walnuts. A wide range of Diät Lebkuchen is also available for diabetics.

Now that you've gotten a general overview of these flavorful cakes, I would be remiss if I didn't leave you with some recipes for them. A perfect drink to go with these cakes is Glühwein, which follows.

Guten appetit!

(White Lebkuchen)

5 eggs
1 pound sugar
1/2 cup unblanched almonds, grated
1/2 cup mixed citron an candied orange peel, finely chopped
grated rind of 1 lemon
4 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Beat eggs with sugar until mixture is thick and pale yellow. Mix in almonds, candied fruits and lemon peel. Sift flour together with baking powder. Stir into egg mixture gradually, blending well between additions. Dough should be fairly stiff and not sticky. Turn onto lightly floured board and knead until smooth. Shape dough into finger-thick rolls, then cut in 1" slices. Grease a baking sheet, arrange cookies on it and let dry uncovered, at room temperature, overnight. Bake in a preheated 300 degree oven until cookies are light golden brown, about 20 minutes.

(Elise's Lebkuchen)

5 eggs
1 pound dark brown sugar
1 pound grated unblanched almonds
1/2 cup citron, chopped
1/2 cup candied orange peel, chopped
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon powdered cloves
1/2 teaspoon powdered cardamom
1/2 teaspoon powdered nutmeg
grated rind of 1 lemon
Round oblaten*
Egg white or chocolate icing

*The oblaten can be found either at bakers supply companies or fine gourmet shops.

Beat eggs and sugar until mixture is thick. Fold in almonds, candied fruits, spices and lemon rind. Stir well. Spread in mounds on wafers. Place on a greased baking sheet and let dry uncovered, in a warm room, overnight. Bake in a preheated 300 degree oven about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool completely and brush cookies with icing.

(Egg White Icing)

2 egg whites
1 1/4 cups confections sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Whip egg whites until they stand in stiff peaks. Add sugar and lemon juice and continue beating until thick and glossy.

(Chocolate Icing)

4 ounces dark semi-sweet chocolate
1/4 cup butter

Melt chocolate over hot water until dissolved. Cut butter into small pieces and stir into chocolate until melted. Spread while warm.

(Spiced Wine)

2 bottles red wine
1 cup sugar
1 stick cinnamon
3 or 4 slices lemon, each studded with 3 or 4 cloves

Heat all ingredients together until they reach the boiling point, but do not boil. Pour into glasses or mugs and serve.


"I Love Cooking With Wine. Sometimes I Even Put It In The Food."

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