During my First Baking Job in the 1970's, we made traditional German Lebkuchen (“life cakes”) at Christmas. All the bakery breads were worked up on the top of an old wooden pétrin—a sturdy affair on wheels, with a heavy wooden lid that one could slide off. Beneath the lid was a trough, where now-anonymous bakers had formerly mixed their doughs by hand, before the advent of mechanical mixers. Sometime in September, we mixed together good honey and white rye flour and left it in the trough of the pétrin until December. For weeks we would work up dough on the lid of the pétrin while beneath our steady hands the honey dough was aging. A few weeks before Christmas we would remove the honey dough and mix the final dough by adding ground spices, leaveners, egg yolks and milk, and sometimes chopped nuts. Once baked, the Lebkuchen were wrapped and again aged for at least a week before being displayed for sale. Any stray loaves that didn’t sell were good to eat for many weeks into the New Year, thanks largely to the hygroscopic nature of the honey.
|Ammonium*, Dissolved in Milk|
|Potash*, Dissolved in Milk|
|Candied Orange Peel, Diced|
|Anise Seed, Ground Or Whole|
|Black Pepper, Ground|
* The potash and ammonium are placed in separate bowls. Add just enough milk to dissolve them, using a whisk. Potash can be replaced with baking soda at the same weight. Ammonium can be replaced with baking powder at the same rate. The resulting Lebkuchen may not be quite as light, but for many bakers there are no alternatives. Ammonium is easy to procure, but potash is hard to come by in the U. S. web search might turn up some sources.
Note: Some of the roundings in the U.S.A. and Home columns are not exact based on the Metric column. For instance, ammonium has been rounded up, while potash and salt have been rounded down. When using ingredients in minute amounts, the metric system emphatically shows itself as the best possible way to scale ingredients. It’s easy, for example, to weigh 2 g; not nearly as easy to weigh its equivalent: .07 oz.
© 2004 All rights reserved. Published by Wiley.