Tuesday, November 7, 2017

German Lebkuchen; when life with spice is nice!

If you already "get" what Lebkuchen is about, stop reading now.  For everyone else, allow me to fill you in.

Exotic spices from the Orient, Africa, and the Middle East began appearing along the trade routes in Europe hundreds of years ago.  It didn't take long for German bakers to start experimenting with spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, anise, nutmeg, ginger, coriander, allspice, and pepper.

CLICK➽ Imported Lebkuchen & Christmas specialties available right here in the USA.

 Lebkuchen, literally-translated means "life cake" and many Germans believe that their own life simply would not be complete without a generous assortment of this famous German Gingerbread during November and December. 

There are cake-like versions of Lebkuchen, but most Germans think of it as a type of cookie.  Recipes were created that quickly became synonymous with German cuisine and eventually with Christmas traditions in Germany.

CLICK➽ Imported Lebkuchen & Christmas specialties available right here in the USA.

Christmas markets in Germany sell steaming cups of spiced red wine (Glühwein) and the perfect cookie to go with hot wine or a cup of hot chocolate is your favorite variety of Lebkuchen. 

Famous bakeries with familiar names like WickleinLambertz, Bahlsen, Haeberlein-Metzger and Lebkuchen-Schmidt are typically well represented at these outdoor markets across Germany. In the days leading up to Christmas Eve countless millions of German Gingerbread is consumed.

CLICK➽ Imported Lebkuchen & Christmas specialties available right here in the USA.

As fall merges into winter, a typical local bakery (Bäckerei) in Germany will often feature its own Lebkuchen specialties.  Supermarkets feature a huge assortment of commercial Lebkuchen cookies that taste as delicious as they smell.

Even those who may not observe Christmas as a religious holiday often can't resist the aroma of the many spice combinations that give the Lebkuchen varieties their distinct appearance, taste, and texture.

During the winter holiday season, gift-givers like to present friends and loved ones with beautifully decorated keepsake tins filled with Lebkuchen.

The Festtagstruhe (Festive Chest) can be large and elaborate, not to mention collectible and large enough to fill with other specialties like Stollen. However, smaller tins can also bring squeals of delight.

After Christmas the tins are great for storing ornaments, letters, or mementos.

CLICK➽ Imported Lebkuchen & Christmas specialties available right here in the USA.

Some Lebkuchen types are firm and chewy, like Aachener Printen, which often boast notes of honey or incorporate bits of crunchy sugar crystals into plank-shaped cookies.  These cookies lend themselves well to dunking in your favorite hot beverage.

CLICK➽ Imported Lebkuchen & Christmas specialties available right here in the USA.

Most  Lebkuchen varieties are soft and moist.  An example is the classic round or rectangular Nürnberger Oblaten Lebkuchen.  Because of the delicate nature of these famous cookies, the dough is often placed onto thin, paper-like Oblaten wafers (➽ purchase Back-oblaten) and served glazed, or thinly-coated with chocolate, or simply unadorned. 

By the way, Oblaten wafers are 100% edible and without them the delicate cookie would fall apart during baking.  When not backing up a cookie, Oblaten are used as communion wafers.

Bakers often kick up the flavor of Lebkuchen with a hint of citrus peel.  They may also add an extra boost of richness with the generous addition of ground nuts.  An example is the version known as "Elisen" Lebkuchen, which is often pricy because of the quality of ingredients.

CLICK➽ Imported Lebkuchen & Christmas specialties available right here in the USA.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

German Bread? The kneads of a "Brot" addict.

One word:  CRUNCH!
It's all about that crunchy crust.  Well, and it's also about that firm, yet pliable texture.  And that heady smell of rye or sourdough.  And it's about that amazing flavor.  And how the butter (German butter or cheese preferred) settles into the air pockets of every slice.

Those of us who grew up in Germany remember being sent off to the local bakery around the corner to fetch a loaf of fresh German bread (Brot) before we were old enough for preschool. 

It was a rite of passage to walk into a local Bäckerei, filled with the aromas of baking breads, to stand in front of stacks of Bauernbrot, Roggenkruste, Ur-Roggenkruste, Mehrkornbrot, Fein-Mischbrot, Friesenkruste, Steinofenbrot, and a dozen or more varieties of handmade German breads.

Before we were old enough to read we handed a note from our Mutti or Oma to the baker's sales clerk and then waited to be handed a heavy, fragrent loaf or two that might still be slightly warm.  It's a hearty, happy memory that stays with you forever. 

Baking the perfect loaf can certainly be a home-made project for dedicated souls, but most families in Germany rely on the professionals to coax the best flavor and texture out of grains of every type.  The alchemy has been past down across the centuries from baker to baker, but the passion to create breads that leave an impression, and a crunch, is something that gets renewed every time a baker dons an apron.
"German bakers are like Gods to Germans; German bakeries like houses of worship.  So give us our daily bread, pretzels, and pastries." ~ Inga  Bowyer, Oct 2017