Making Lebkuchen, Germany’s Christmas Gingerbread Cookies

posted in: Bavaria, Europe, Germany | 0
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Before the Christmas markets open this week and the holiday season gets into full swing, I just wanted to post a short journal because I’ve just had the best several days!
My week:
I sucked it up this week and decided to “rip off the bandaid” so to speak and attempt to get my 6-month provisional work permit renewed into a more permanent one. I technically had until December 24 to do so, but I had nothing better to do than to supplicate myself to the German government and made an appointment.
Contrary to some of the personnel I dealt with five months ago, this time Herr Burger (seriously, that was his name, along with an umlaut!) was very helpful and patient with my less-than-perfect German. Since there had been a question about the legitimacy of my health insurance last go-around, I had what I hoped was the appropriate paperwork in hand.
The insurance passed muster, but then they started to worry about my income. It was difficult to explain to Mr. Burger that, in addition to the teaching income for the German school, I had freelance writing income. Long story short, I had to come back two days later with more paperwork about my income.
So on Friday I showed up armed with highlighted printouts and well-rehearsed German phrases I hoped would allay his fears. I submitted them dutifully and was asked to wait in the hall. The “alien office” is right across the hall from the German equivalent of the DMV, so I got to witness an anxious, near-tears German teenager waiting to get her drivers license. I thought I was nervous!
Presently a man older than Mr. Burger came out and asked me into his office. He turned out to be Herr Herrmann (Mr. Mister-Man). I am here to explain how magnificently relieved I was that this man spoke excellent English! I was able to have a conversation with him without looking like a complete idiot and to explain my finances to his satisfaction!
Another long story short: I got my 12-month “real” work permit pasted into my passport! Here’s photographic proof:
Well, I may be guilty of doctoring the ID photo a little for this journal, but, trust me, this one looks WAY better than the real one!
After that I strolled downtown and shot some photos of the Christmas market preparations.


This way to the tree lot:


This guy was lending just the right soundtrack:


Dressing up the streets:
Then I hung out for a while in my new favorite café:
It was just the sort of day I love Europe for! And so was the next day.
Earlier in the week my good friend Hilde called to tell me she’d gotten all the ingredients and would teach me how to make Lebkuchen this weekend. This is a wish I’ve had for over 20 years – and yesterday it came true!
Lebkuchen is the traditional German Christmas cookie – most call it gingerbread, although there is no ginger in it. It is usually in the form of a cookie and has a luscious blend of spices like cloves and cinnamon in it. If you’ve never tried it, you might be able to find some in specialty shops in the States. I’d recommend it!
There are commercial retail outlets popping up everywhere here for Lebkuchen, and nearby Nuremberg is famous for it. Each German hausfrau has her own family recipe, too. And let me tell you – no commercial Lebkuchen, though they are delicious, can hold a candle to a good homemade one!
The best part was that Hilde gave me her personal, secret recipe! Seriously, I’m not allowed to give it out but she let me copy it down. Since I am compiling a book of German recipes, she gave me a couple of variations to include in my book, but I can’t give away her secret ingredient.
First you have to spread the dough on flat, unleavened papery wafers call Back-Oblaten. These resemble large communion wafers. She had them in 70mm and 50mm diameters. We were working with the 70’s first and later went to the smaller ones. You have to leave a tiny border around the edge of the dough or the finished cookie will overhang the edge and break off.
Proof that I was there doing my part:
When they come out of the oven they look like this:
We left some of them plain. Others got a coat of chocolate:
A few got a coat of sugar glaze:
Hilde’s husband Adi was the self-appointed “packer” and sometimes “overseer,” telling us to hurry up and chop-chop, etc. Here he is packing the finished cookies into a tin box. Traditional Lebkuchen tins are very ornate.
For our coffee break we had a slice of Hilde’s fresh, homemade Stollen (I got that recipe, too).
We must have made over 200 cookies and every one a work of art. Of course I got to bring some of them home. It took us about five hours, and that’s not including the two or three hours it took Hilde to grind the hazelnuts and other stuff to make the dough before I arrived.
Over dinner we had glasses of hot Gluhwein and wurst as we congratulated ourselves on all the work we’d done. I am proud to report that Hilde gave me the “good job” seal of approval. Then she declared that I have to make all the Lebkuchen next year because it’s so much work and she is now officially retired! We’ll see…
Now I’m ready for Christmas myself. Look forward to photos of the Christmas markets soon!
Photo for No Apparent Reason:

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