HeimatSterne German Lebkuchen Wonderland
If you have never heard about the German pastries or Christmas traditions; Lebkuchen cookies will be your best friend! It will guide you through the delicate matter, and its rich past makes the eating like a history lesson in itself!
Lebkuchen has a very long and rich history in Germany. You can come across many names while searching for the perfect one. It is known as Honigkuchen (eng. honey cake), Pfefferkuchen (eng. pepper cake), or as German gingerbread (not be mistaken with the American gingerbread).
The German word ‘Kuchen’ means ‘cake,’ but the origin of ‘Leb’ is often disputed. There are 3 hypotheses. The first one claims that 'Leb" comes from Old-German 'Lebbe-', meaning 'very sweet' in flavour. According to the second one 'Laib-, meaning 'loaf' refers to the shape of Lebkuchen. The third one assumes, that the pronoun 'Leb-' comes from 'Leben-', meaning 'life'. All assumptions are appropriate, as the cookie is very bread-like and even cakey.
Originally, Lebkuchen were honey cakes made by ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. They believed Lebkuchen was infused with invigorating powers and capable of warding off evil spirits. It was also thought that Lebkuchen bring good luck, and were worn on necklaces by soldiers entering into battle.
The modern form of Lebkuchen was apparently introduced by Belgians to Franconian monks in the 13th Century. From there, the monks spread it to all over Germany where it is still a must and a divine holiday treat.
Despite 800 years of tradition, Lebkuchen has not changed its ingredients. Authentic Lebkuchen contain honey, sugar, flour, and eggs, spices (cinnamon, cloves, anise, cardamom, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice), various nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts) as well as candied lemon and orange zest.
The most popular varieties are:
The King of all Lebkuchen of the highest quality. Elisen Lebkuchen contain at least 25% of almonds, hazelnuts, and/or walnuts. No other nuts are allowed! Additionally, each Elisen Lebkuchen has no more than 10% flour. This is a real cookie!
The wonderful honey and nut Lebkuchen cookies are baked on 'Oblaten" (eng. thin wafers) to prevent the dough from sticking to the cookie pan.
Nurnberger Kaiserlein Lebkuchen
These are Lebkuchen that are baked in the city of Nürnberg. They are the best known because local history tells of Emperor Freidrich III handing out four thousand of these cookies to the children of Nuremberg all imprinted with his image. They are known for having a soft and light texture, and for having a picture drawn or imprinted.
Brown (Braune) Lebkuchen
These cookies are made with dough heavily infused with honey or syrup. After baking, the cookies are covered with a sugar glaze or chocolate.
White (Weisse) Lebkuchen
These cookies get their name from their very light color, which comes from the dough’s large amount of eggs or egg whites. They are then decorated with almonds, candied lemon, and/or orange peels.
Magenbrot is not a typical Lebkuchen but very popular in Germany and Austria. The direct translation means 'stomach-bread' helping in digestion. Magenbrot is known for its diamond shape and dark brown exterior. This pastry has a sweet scent of star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg and sweetened using honey Some types of Magenbrot are coated with a chocolate or icing sugar glaze.