Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tradition from a German Heritage

Lebkuchen Day 2007: the first batch out of the oven.

It’s almost here! One of the most important, exciting, cookie-filled days of the calendar! It’s called LEBKUCHEN DAY and it is:

-always the Saturday before Thanksgiving
-the official start of the Christmas season
-a time of joy and laughter
-many, many hours of baking

The Lebkuchen tradition has been in the Kiefer family (Emily’s father’s family) for generations, and we take it very, very seriously. The Day requires the availability of every surface area in the house; my parents will make about 350 cookies; my sister’s family and Anders & I will both make around 160. After the rolling, baking and glazing, they are cooled, carefully wrapped and bagged, and frozen so as to last through the season. A thawed Lebkuchen is as good as a freshly baked Lebkuchen.

Lebkuchen are German holiday cookies, as prevalent in Germany around Christmas as gingerbread men are in America. They are spicy and typically sweetened with honey, and often contain nuts and pieces of fruit. Kiefer Lebkuchen are soft, delicately spiced diamond-shaped cookies, and we suspect they have healing powers and know for a fact they have joy-giving properties.

The taste experience begins with a thin layer of sugar glaze that cracks at the first bite. You then sink into the silky texture and complex, nostalgic flavors of this heavenly holiday treat. A bite of Lebkuchen in your mouth is like the memory of all your favorite Christmas foods baking in the oven. The rich sweetness of molasses, chewy bits of dates, a rousing suggestion of cinnamon and nutmeg and subtle nutty tones compose the character of a Lebkuchen: the most heartening and satisfying cookie that will ever pass your lips.

Lebkuchen batter is made on Batterday Saturday, the week before Lebkuchen Day. The blended ingredients mellow for a week in the fridge. The batter is heavy, dark and fragrant -- currently my two huge heaps of batter are taking up quite a bit of space, and I’m ready to get them out of the fridge and under my rolling pin!

Saturday is Lebkuchen Day!


blythe said...

So is the recipe top-secret or are you going to share it?

Cute pic, btw! We need to get more pics of the food we make on here. :-)

blythe said...

Speaking of dates... hubby came home with a huge thing of dates from Sam's Club (a craving?) Maybe I could use some in a smaller-sized batch of lebkuchen?

Emily Anne said...

I was going to follow up with the recipe, and haven't gotten there yet. It's not top secret, you just have to promise to appreciate their value as the World's Best Cookies.

carlamom said...

Dearest Emily Anne,
I love the picture of you (delightful) and can't wait to try the recipe!

We used to buy them at PattyCake Shop.
Thanks for sharing your tradition and thoughts!
You are a peach!
Auntie C.

KathleenK said...

Emily, your tradition sounds exactly like mine, but the result of your recipe looks so much different! I just wanted to say hello to a Kiefer relative, even if distant, and embrace in the tradition that makes family so special. Warm wishes!