Libido-lovin ‘Lebkuchen’. A very special Swiss gingerbread recipe to celebrate a white Christmas in Paris.

5 Dec
lebkuchen

Libido-Lovin Lebkuchen

It’s snowing in Paris. Very unusual for November, I am told.

Paris is truly magical this time of year, especially with all the Christmas lights illuminating the whole city and Champs-Élysées- and now the recent addition of fresh white snow is literally the icing on the cake.

Here is a picture of the back garden in my apartment building in Paris- the two pics taken just 2 months apart.

autumn_winter_paris

Sudden seasonal change in Paris- the garden in my apartment building

Saying that, it’s bittersweet really- I mean the snow is beautiful, but the -4 degree temperatures can really take its toll. You can see how European traditions have developed over time to compensate for the long, hard winters, with simple pleasures in winter like copious amounts of cheese consumed in raclettes and fondues, warm spiced red wine, hearty soups and casseroles, and ‘Pain d’epice’ a sweet spiced bread served with traditional hot chocolate.

So, to celebrate my first white Christmas, keep the circulation going and prepare simple Christmas treats for friends and family, I am baking a big batch of Lebkuchen- it’s a kind of gingerbread, which originates from Switzerland and Germany with variations between regions. It’s made of molasses, brown sugar, honey, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Sometimes it has candied citrus, nuts and chocolate coating. Yum.

Now, you’re probably eager to hear what it has to do with Libido? Well ginger has a long-standing reputation for its powerful aphrodisiac qualities. A warm, pungent spice, that when combined with cloves (which has similar qualities), it warms the blood to increase circulation, aid digestion and increase metabolism. Perfect for the winter chill! Gingerbread’s popularity as a gift and aphrodisiac even dates back to medieval era when Knights would present shield-shaped pieces of gingerbread as love gifts to their ladies during jousting contests and tournaments. Embossed with cloves to resemble studs and painted with egg white to represent a polished shield, these love gifts were treasured and highly valuable possessions.

Anyway, I love this stuff and I make a huge batch of it every year with a recipe I’ve adapted over the years originally given to me by a German friend’s mother. It’s a one pot, one-bowl recipe so its quite simple to prepare, it’s completely fat free (of course the sugar content makes up for this) and it keeps for a few weeks in an airtight container so it makes a great Christmas gift when packaged and wrapped up nicely. You can add more or less spice depending on your preference- this version is quite strong.

You can cut the cookie dough into star, heart, Christmas tree, or round shapes- however you like. Or simply bake it in a flat, lipped tray, top it with the lemon glaze and slice it into squares. Sooooo good with a big cup of hot chai tea.

Happy (libido) baking!

Recipe: Lebkuchen (Swiss/German Gingerbread)
Makes approx 50-60 biscuits depending on size of moulds

INGREDIENTS

1 cup honey
1 cup molasses/treacle
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoon lemon juice
4 tbsps candied orange finely chopped (optional)
5 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 teaspoon ground ginger

Royal icing (for piping and decoration)

1 1/2 cups (230g) pure icing sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 eggwhite, lightly whisked

Hard white icing/glaze

Prepare as instructed above for royal icing, but gradually add additional fresh lemon juice until it forms a smooth, spreadable paste for application with a plastic spatula or knife.

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium saucepan, stir together the honey and molasses. Bring the mixture to a boil, remove from heat for 10 mins and stir in the brown sugar, egg, lemon juice and candied citron. In a large bowl, sift and stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger.

lebkuchen_sugars

Caramelising the sugars

sweet ground spices

Cloves, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon

Add the molasses mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. You may need to gradually add extra flour until it makes a moist cookie dough as the consistency will depend on the flour, humidity etc.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or baking trays.

lebkuchen_candied_Citron_Syrup

Adding the molasses mixture and candied orange to the spiced flour

Lebkuchen Cookie Dough

The mix should look something like this

Once combined, put bowl of cookie mix in the refrigerator until it has cooled to room temperature or lower.

Knead a few handfuls of dough at a time on a floured flat surface/bench and roll out the dough ready for the cookie cutters. Alternatively, Using a small amount of dough at a time, roll into small balls and press down to about 4cm diameter, OR roll out dough and place the mix into a rectangular baking tray with dough at approx 1 cm depth.

Rolling and kneading dough
Knead the dough on a floured surface then roll it out flat 

Cut out cookies using desired shapes and moulds and place onto greased trays.

lebkuchen_shapes

Cutting out shapes

lebkuchen_shapes_cut

Cookies cut with moulds

lebkuchen_on_tray

Cookies on greased baking tray

Bake for 10-15 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown and fragrant. Be careful not to overcook the lebkuchen as the sugars will go too hard when they cool and the biscuits will lose the desired soft center.

Allow to cool completely before icing and decorating.

To make the icing hard (piping):

Sift the icing sugar into a small bowl. Add the lemon juice and enough of the eggwhite to form a firm paste. Place in a piping bag fitted with a 1mm nozzle. Pipe royal icing onto the biscuits. Allow to set for at least one hour.

For the spreadable hard icing glaze, simply add more lemon juice and apply with a knife or spatula.

Enjoy!

lebkuchen_1

lebkuchen with spices

Lebkuchen, chai tea, cinnamon and ground ginger

Afternoon tea

Afteroon tea on a snowy winter day

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12 Responses to “Libido-lovin ‘Lebkuchen’. A very special Swiss gingerbread recipe to celebrate a white Christmas in Paris.”

  1. Petros December 5, 2014 at 10:14 am #

    This makes a VERY STICKY gingerbread dough, the stickiest I have ever made in more than 20 years of making gingerbread cookies at Christmas. I was tempted to try this recipe because there’s no butter, but there’s a price for this: impossible to roll out the dough and cut out cookies. The dough is so sticky I could not even cut it reliably after refrigerating the rolled out dough! Either the Swiss have a magic method, or this recipe is much too low on the flour — and I mean by a whole cup. I’ll be going back to butter.

    • frenchforfoodies.com December 5, 2014 at 10:38 am #

      Hi Petros did you let the dough set in the fridge first? If you don’t it will be too wet and sticky to handle. You can add more flour to get the texture you need if it seems too wet

      • Petros December 6, 2014 at 6:56 am #

        I put the dough in the fridge twice: Once after mixing in additional flour (again about 1 cup) and again after I rolled out the dough because it was so sticky I could tell a cut cookie would not be transferable from the cutting board to the cookie sheet. Really makes me think the recipe as written is lacking flour.

        I really like that there’s no butter in this, but I think it’s why the dough is so sticky. Plus, the texture of the cookies I made, after cooling, is almost stale compared to my traditional butter type dough. The taste was good, especially with the orange, but I doubt I’ll make this recipe again with honey and molasses being so expensive.

        • frenchforfoodies.com December 6, 2014 at 8:44 am #

          I just checked my recipe notes and the flour quantity is correct however it does say to add extra flour when kneading until the texture is right, because every time I make them the humidity levels are different. I wonder if your flour and your honey and molasses are runnier too? Really sorry it did not work out for you but I have made them every year for years from this recipe with success and they stay nice and soft for many weeks

  2. Tiff December 15, 2011 at 5:18 am #

    Love this blog!

  3. I'm Delicious... February 22, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    Yet another fantastic recipe! Clearly, I’m a big fan of your blog, being Quebecoise probably helps (what with the French connection).

    And yet again, I’ll be featuring your recipe on my food blog this afternoon.

  4. Paula February 7, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    I think I could eat this all day long, because I love such delicious looking things 🙂

  5. Geoffrey Emerson December 6, 2010 at 9:16 pm #

    Another great post, these look amazing.

    Best of luck with the blog 🙂

  6. valerie December 6, 2010 at 11:09 am #

    Hi,thanks for your blog,I like it,really great.
    So ,you are in France,hope your enjoying,well Paris too big for me,but I am sure it could be nice to know better!! especially little restaurants,les “marches”
    and the persons who live there.Anyway , I was born on the atlantic ocean coast,so my heart is over there!! BORDEAUX,and les “Charentes Maritimes”,like LA ROCHELLE where I was born and I used to live as well in the south coast,in NIMES,so you see each part of our marvellous country have is own “energy”.Now I am living in Spain!!
    Well you seem to be enjoying life,your fotos are splendid,and the recipes reallly “yumi”!! so I will try to bake those delicious ginger breads.
    I wish you all the best for your new life in France, “Noel” is a special moment in each country and in the heart of everyone,I wish you a Merry Christmas full of Happyness ,lights and stars. JOYEUX NOEL;
    Cordialy,Bisous.
    VAL.

  7. Angela December 6, 2010 at 1:12 am #

    Sometimes it can be hard to get the Christmas feel happening when it’s summery and hot, but I’m now very inspired to get baking and make a batch of these gorgeous little biccies – Thankyou for such a gorgeous post!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. No Fat No Sugar Lebkuchen | Bad Table Manners - August 3, 2012

    […] Adapted from French for Foodies […]

  2. An expat Christmas in Paris: eating and shopping in the city of lights « - November 4, 2011

    […] years now I have had my own little tradition of making Lebkuchen- a spicy iced German gingerbread (recipe here). Each Christmas I make an entire day of it and bake and ice about 200 cookies. It’s a great way […]

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