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Lebkuchen


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5 replies to this topic

#1 TylerK

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 12:47 PM

I tried experimenting with my usual Christmas repertoire this past year by trying RLBs Lebkuchen from her Christmas cookies book. For the candied fruit I used mandarin peel that I had candied. The flavour of the cookies was excellent, but I wasn't very pleased with the texture. They were rock hard. I like a crunch/crispy Christmas cookie, but not one that I need to fight to bite through.

The problem is, I have no idea what these cookies are supposed to be. The history and tradition described at the beginning of the recipe drew me in, but I have never eaten them before nor seen them for sale anywhere. Before I saw them in the book I had never even heard of them. Is there anyone on here that would be able to describe the desired taste/texture of these cookies and help me come up with a way to make them better next time? What is the process that you use to make them?

#2 Snadra

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 02:50 AM

Is there an instruction to mellow the cookies with an apple slice or similar? All the versions I have had are a softer cookie, which I understand get that way after aging and mellowing. They should still have a chew to them, but should not be hard or crunchy.

#3 SylviaLovegren

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 06:16 AM

Lebkuchen needs to sit for a few days to soften up. If you try to eat them right after they're made, they are like rocks. You can use a slice of apple or something juicy enclosed with them to speed the process, but the honey is hydroscopic and will gradually absorb moisture from the air to soften the cookies.

When I made them this year it was late and I couldn't muster the energy to pull out tins and put them away, so I just loosely covered the baking pans with foil and stored them in the cold oven overnight, planning to tin them in the morning. I was amazed to discover the cookies were already nearly soft enough to eat -- apparently covering them tightly immediately slows down the hydroscopic process. Sometimes laziness pays!

#4 TylerK

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 06:37 AM

Thanks a lot for the responses. I'll have to read through the recipe again, but I don't recall it saying too much about why the cookies should sit before eating them. First it said that if you like chewy cookies to take them off the tray right after baking, but if you like crunchy cookies to leave them on the tray to continue cooking until they cool. Later on in the recipe it says to let them age before eating them, but I don't think it explained why. I had them stored in a plastic ziplock bag for over a week before serving them, but they were still very hard. I'll try one of your ideas next time.

It also indicated that it was traditional to let the nut, sugar and honey mixture ferment for a while before even making the cookies but didn't go as far as to advocate for it in the recipe instructions. Would this also bring a textural change to the final product?

#5 SylviaLovegren

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Posted 12 January 2013 - 07:04 AM

This was the first year I tried letting the dough "age" (because I needed to make it ahead of time and then bake on a different day). I found no difference in the taste or texture, although perhaps part of the quick softening came from the aging rather than my overnight storage? Now that I think about it?

Shorter me: no clue!

#6 TylerK

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Posted 12 January 2013 - 07:16 AM

Just reading through the recipe again right now. Below is a short quote from the recipe text (RLB's "Rose's Christmas Cookies):

"Today the mixtures are often prepared in ahead (in olden days as much as a year in advance) to ripen in large vats until they lose their stickiness."

She then says that the fermentation adds flavour and leavening.

I did a web search and found very little regarding pre-baking fermentation. That said, there appear to be as many recipes for Lebkuchen as there are recipes and blogs that discuss it. Some use a lot of flour while others just the ground nuts. Some even treat it more like a cake than a cookie.