Sunday, January 6, 2008

Knusperhäuschen (German Gingerbread House)

This is the recepie in it's original format, which can be found at


Klassisches Lebkuchen-Rezept

Dieses Rezept für Lebkuchen kann man zu den klassischen Lebkuchen-Rezepte zählen.

Zutaten für ca. 30 Lebkuchen:
  • 200g Zucker
  • 1 Päckchen Vanillezucker
  • 1Tl Zimt
  • je eine Messerspitze Nelken, Piment und Kardamom
  • 200g Mandeln (gerieben)
  • 50g Orangeat (gehackt)
  • 75g Zitronat (gehackt)
  • Schale von einer ½ Zitrone
  • 250g Mehl
  • 4 Eier
  • 1 gestrichener Tl Backpulver
  • 45 runde Backoblaten, ca. 7cm
  • Zuckerguß
  • Mandeln zum Verzieren (optional)
Zunächst geben wir die Eier mit dem Zucker und Vanillezucker in eine Schüssel und rühren sie schaumig.

Die Mandeln, das Orangeat und das Zitronat sowie die Gewürze geben wir ebenso dazu wie das mit Backpulver gemischte Mehl. Die Masse wird zu einem Teig verarbeitet.

Den Teig streichen wir etwa fingerdick auf rechtechtige Oblaten und backen diese auf einem ungefettetem Blech 15-20 Minuten bei 175-200 °C.


And by translating the above recepie, this is what I used.

200g Sugar

1 packet (8g) of Vanilla Sugar
1 flat teaspoon cinnamon
A pinch of ground cardamom
A pinch of ground cloves
A pinch of ground allspice
200g Almond Meal
50g candied orange peel
75g candied lemon peel
Zest of half a lemon
250g flour mixed with sufficient baking powder (or just use self-raising)
4 eggs.

(Note: The last three ingredients of the orginal recepie assume you don't have baking paper and want to glaze the lebkuchen into biscuts. Naturally, I didn't want to do that, so I've left them off. However, for the sake of completion, Zuckergu
ß is a mixture of beaten egg whites and icing sugar whipped into a paste. Mandeln zun verzieren means almonds for decoration. Backoblaten are kind of like those disks of communion bread. They're thin wafers of edible starch that you place the lebkuchen on top of when cooking. They stick to the bottom of the biscuts and remain there when served. They also remove the need for baking paper, or should I say, baking paper removed the need for them unless they were specifically desired.)

Take the eggs and the sugars and beat them up. Add the almonds, peel, spices and flour. Work to a dough.
Roll out finger-thick, cut to shape and bake for 15-20min at 175-200C.
Allow to cool and decorate.

I kind of forgot to put in the fruit peel, however lebkuchen is traditionally made both with and without peel, so this was no great loss. Also, as Australian flour is less absorbent than the brands of European flour available there (but not here), more flour was needed in order to make the dough workable.

A simple mixture of icing sugar and water with a knob of butter was used to make the icing used to decorate and hold the house together.
Documentation Time!


Gingerbread has been baked in Europe since the eleventh century. In some places, it was a soft, delicately spiced cake; in others, a crisp, flat cookie, and in others, warm, thick, dark squares of "bread," sometimes served with a pitcher of lemon sauce or whipped cream. It was sometimes light, sometimes dark, sometimes sweet, sometimes spicy, but it was almost always cut into shapes such as men, women, stars or animals, and colorfully decorated or stamped with a mold and dusted with white sugar.

Of all the countries in Europe, Germany is the one with the longest tradition of flat, shaped gingerbreads. At every autumn fair in Germany, and in the surrounding lands where the Germanic influence is strong, there are rows of stalls filled with hundreds of gingerbread hearts, decorated with white and colored icing and tied with ribbons.

During the nineteenth century, gingerbread was modernized. When the Grimm brothers collected volumes of German fairy tales they found one about Hansel and Gretel, two children who, abandoned in the woods by penniless parents, discovered a house made of bread, cake and candies.

At Christmas, gingerbread makes its most impressive appearance. The German practice of making lebkuchen houses never caught on in Britain in the same way as it did in North America, and it is here still that the most extraordinary creations are found.



Hansel and Gretel was first collected and recorded by the Grimm brothers in the early part of the nineteenth century. The tale is similar to many children and ogre tales that have been known throughout Europe for many centuries. The version the Grimms collected came from storyteller Dortchen Wild in the town of Cassel. Wild later became Wilhelm Grimm's wife.


The earlier literary tales which bear the closest resemblance to Hansel and Gretel are of French origin. First, Charles Perrault's "Le petit Poucet" (1697) closely resembles Hansel and Gretel in its first half since the parents abandon the children in the woods. A year later, Madame d'Aulnoy's "Finette Cendron" appeared in her Les Contes nouveaux, ou les fetes a la Mode. Her story tells of three princesses who are abandoned by their parents in the woods and find their way to a giant's house. Finetta, the heroine, leaves trails of items to find her way out of the forest, but is foiled on her third attempt when pigeons eat the peas she drops along her path. Later, she burns the giant in his giant oven.


The Gingerbread house certainly only took off in popularity when the Grim Brothers collated their fairy tales, including that of Hansel and Gretel. However, this does not exclude the gingerbread house from legitimately existing in Medieval Germany. As shown in the references above, Germany has a very long history of “Gingerbread” (better known as Lebkuchen and in fact contains no ginger) dating back to the 11th century and was almost always shaped and decorated. Furthermore, the story of Hansel and Gretel carries origins back into the 1600’s. Plus wherever the concept of the candied house came from, it would have likely existed well before its inclusion in Grimm Brother’s version.

Hence it is quite plausible that the Gingerbread House would have existed in Medieval Europe as simply one method of artistic decoration among many, probably more subdued in sugar with a greater emphasis on artistic decoration. Even modern Gingerbread houses tend to resemble traditional German houses with their highly slanted roof-tops and unless this was a traditional element, what other reason is there for that specific shape to have continued in modern usage?

This recepie was presented at the Summer Twilight Tourny Series 3 in December. In an attempt to keep in line with a more plausible format, jelly beans and chocolate based decorations were omitted with greater reliance upon the artistry of shape and icing. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture. I suppose I'll just have to make it again at some stage then...

1 comment:

Teffania said...

Das Kuchbuch der Sabrina Welserin (1553) can be found at

In it you will find:
163 To make Nürnberger Lebkuchen

have fun!