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Monday, December 7, 2015

Lebekuchen Recipe

These moist, chewy cookies have a wonderful, heady aroma that says.... "Schöne Feiertage!" (er, that's Happy Holidays in German).

Growing up with a German mother we were raised with some German traditions including how we celebrated Christmas. Instead of Christmas day being THE day we celebrated on Christmas Eve, like normal people. But during the 23 days preceding there were little rituals we had to participate in. For example we always had an Advent calendar. We had the typical paper calendar depicting a glittery, festive village scene with windows you could open on each day. But the best one was a needle point calender. It was white and red and decorated with little holiday motives and cheerful elves. 24 little plastic rings were sewn next the days where my mother would tie itty-bitty presents that each of us kids would take turns opening. We also had an 'Advent Kranz', a fir wreath with four candles which we'd light at the beginning of each week of Advent. Of course I had no idea what Advent was other than it meant I got to open tiny gifts and light candles. Good times.
There's a little gingerbread house on the coffee table and you can see the Advent Kranz hanging in the foreground.
(Mom looks thrilled.)
Presents under the tree is a no-no before Christmas Eve, too. That's when 'Kristkind' delivers the goods and the real celebrating begins. It was always a magical transformation. We kids would hide out in one of the bedrooms watching Christmas shows while "Santa" would secretly deliver all the presents and transform the otherwise spartan living room into a Nüremberg Kristkindlesmarket scene. Mom would lay out the Christmas cookies which consisted of buttery sugar cookies, Anisplätzchen (anise cookies) and Lebekuchen. My mother's lebekuchen was always very dense and toothy. We loved them. The dough was spread out in a single layer when baked then brushed with a lemony icing sugar glaze and cut into diamond shapes. I like to make mine in a more traditional fashion. Individual cookies with 'back oblaten' (flour wafers) on the undersides and blanched almonds on top. It's a lot of work but well worth the blood, sweat and tears. Well, sweat anyway. (Recipe to follow).