Lebkuchen has been around in one form or another for centuries in Germany, crispy, cake form, chewy, almost like the brownie debate. This is a slightly chewy bar cookie affair. Indeed, one could argue that this is the German answer to brownies, before chocolate came on the scene centuries later.
The common factor in all lebkuchen is honey and spices, very expensive commodities way back then. It is in many ways the ancestor of today’s gingerbread. Some authentic recipes take two days to make, and it is excellent, but this version is a rapid form you can make (and eat) in one day. Notice this recipe calls for molasses and brown sugar, which would not have been an authentic ingredient six hundred years ago. They pretty much would have relied on honey and perhaps beet sugar (see note below).
I made mine yesterday, about one third of the batch is left, as the “other half” found out about them. They happen to be his favourite. The recipe calls for a glaze, but I am going to dispense with that, as I like to let the gingerbread taste shine on its own. Feel free to decorate any way you wish, see the photos for one way of doing it.
The recipe itself came from Better Homes and Gardens Cookies for Christmas, now an older book, but it is also probably online by now. Better Homes used to print thin hard-bound books that contained recipes that were not complicated, hence this simpler version here. So, if you want to take a quick trip to Germany, here we go.
• 2 cup all purpose flour
• 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (or your own mixture)
• 1/2 tsp baking soda
• 1 egg
• 2 tbsp cooking oil
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 1/3 cup honey
• 1/3 cup dark molasses
• 1/2 cup chopped almonds
• 1/2 cup mixed candied peels and fruits, finely chopped
• Additional fruits, nuts and rinds for decorating
1. Stir together flour, pumpkin pie spice, and baking soda.
2. In a large mixer bowl, beat together egg and oil.
3. Add brown sugar and beat till fluffy.
4. Stir in honey and molasses.
5. Add flour mixture and beat all till well mixed.
6. Stir in chopped almonds and candied fruits and nuts.
7. Spread in a greased 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pan. (I keep a can of spray oil handy, constantly greasing whatever you feel comfortable using to push the dough around. This part is a bit tedious, but if you keep at it, it will eventually behave and spread to all parts of the pan.)
8. Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven (325 for convection) for 15-20 minutes or till done. Immediately score into bars with a sharp knife. Garnish each with additional candied fruit. (I like the look of the red cherries.) Cool thoroughly.
9. Cut into bars.
Notes: If anyone knows where one can find beet sugar, let me know. It is used more extensively in Europe, particularly in Germany, than N. America. Apparently it is around if you know where to look.
Better Homes and Gardens. “Cookies for Christmas.” Des Moines, Iowa: Meredith Corporation, 1985.
You can follow Sue van Slooten’s adventures at her personal website, and you can email her. Sue teaches cooking and baking classes at her home on beautiful Big Rideau Lake, Rideau Lakes Township, Ontario. She specializes in small classes for maximum benefit. Give her a call, sign up for a class, and she’d love to see you. Read all of Sue’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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