Lebkuchen is a German cookie, a soft gingerbread that is usually baked around Christmas time. This one is gingery, peppery and cinnamony and is topped with a sweet glaze and is drizzled with dark chocolate. In my pursuit of the perfect Lebkuchen, and I’ve baked and eaten quite a few over the last week or two, I discovered that the addition of a little cocoa powder and a little black pepper really made the Lebkuchen special without overpowering the gingerbread flavours.
Traditionally Lebkuchen was made with honey, ground nuts and spices, the exact recipes varying between regions in Germany. Sometimes they contained candied peel, sometimes they were covered in dark chocolate and sometimes they were placed on a disc of ‘communion bread’. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans baked the predecessor to Lebkuchen, a honey cake which they made as an offering to placate the Gods. Over the years honey cake (and then later Lebkuchen) had other uses, as a talisman to take into battle, as a burial gift, as an indigestion aid and my favourite, as a way of paying bribes, taxes or levies!
These cookies keep well and whats more their flavour improves over time. I’ve made batches of them for friends over the last few weeks and I plan to make some just before Christmas as gifts. Now having read their other uses over history, I’m contemplating taking a batch to the tax man!