Saturday, 19 December 2015

christmas baking series - mrs gerlinde pattison's lebkuchen

Today I bring you a very special Austrian lebkuchen recipe from my friend Christian's mother Mrs Gerlinde Pattison, who in fact made this recipe her own after it was passed down to her by her friend Burgi. I’ve got a soft spot for recipes which have been shared and passed down as they always have a story. Lebkuchen is a traditional German and Austrian treat which is eaten during Christmas and is much like gingerbread, although softer and spicier, packed with peel and nuts and often glazed with egg white icing or coated in chocolate. Kuchen means cake in German and Leb (after my quick googling) can mean either laib-loaf, laib-body or leben – life.
This cake-like biscuit has a spiritual background too, as nuns and monks used to bake and shape them. Perfect for the holiday season!

I've had this recipe in my files for a few years now and have been meaning to make it, but the moment wasn't quite right. As you know I love sweet things and most of all I love trying out new recipes for sweet things that I’m unfamiliar with. This recipe just seemed so warm and inviting and that I had to include it in my holiday baking. Packed full of spice and all things nice it even goes the extra mile and indulges you with an irresistible coating of chocolate. I've made this recipe almost exactly as written with only a couple of minor changes - which I hope Mrs Pattison won't mind too much.

I've swapped the walnuts for almonds and omitted the rum just to keep it friendly for all (you can add a couple tablespoons if you prefer to – just leave out the vanilla). One of the key ingredients in the recipe is "Lebkuchengewuerz" which contains a special blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, cloves, allspice, fennel seed, ginger, aniseed, star anise, black pepper and cardamom however this isn’t available in the UK as far as I know. So as I tried my best to replicate this blend by using mixed spice, extra ginger and crushed cloves and nutmeg.  

Ingredients (makes about 24 pieces)
4 medium free range eggs
250g plain flour  
1 tsp baking powder
250g light brown sugar
2 tbs honey
4 tbs lukewarm water
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 tsp powdered cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground ginger
125g almonds chopped
100g chopped peel (Orange & lemon or lime)
50g raisins
Juice and zest of an orange
150g milk or dark chocolate for coating
50g powdered sugar with 1-2 tbs water for a thick piped icing

Preheat oven to 180/160 fan/gas mark 4

In a large bowl whisk eggs and sugar together and add the juice and zest of the orange. Add the peel, raisins and chopped almonds and flavouring and mix thoroughly.

Add the flour and baking power and water and ensure the mixture is smooth with a soft batter.

Grease and line a square baking tin (about 20cm) and bake for 20-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean and the mixture is light brown around the edges.

Cut into small pieces while still warm and enjoy straightway or cool completely and cover in melted chocolate and cool and pipe with icing sugar. 

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