As December begins, and we leave the crisp leaves, and cool breeze of fall behind, we look forward to the upcoming Christmas holiday filled with family and friends. As we explore the German culture, it might be hard to imagine German cuisine without thinking of frothy mugs of cold beer, as well as plenty of bratwurst and sauerkraut, but it is much more than a partner to lively celebrations, and outdoor festivities. German fare incorporates long-standing, traditional recipes that come with stories and second servings.
If you’ve never quite thought about German culinary traditions this way, imagine tangy fruits, sweet breads, and savory sauces, considered as the main staples of this country’s meals. From freshly baked Stollen (yeast bread made with nuts and fruits), to Bienenstich Cake (a sheet cake filled with custard and almonds), there is no question that bread is a welcomed and familiar friend of any German dining experience. Many yeast and bread products are often the centerpiece of the occasion and as such, prepared especially for birthdays, anniversaries, and weddings.
Baumkuchen, for example, is a traditional German wedding cake filled with 15 layers of flavor. These sweet traditions have found their way into the kitchens of homes across America. German chocolate cake, Black Forest Cake, and soft baked pretzels (Bretzels) are favorites for all of us.
Perhaps the most popular is Lebkuchen, a gingerbread that marries spicy and sweet by combining items like honey, ginger, lemon, and coriander with several variations available in bakeries throughout Nuremburg, where Lebkuchen originated.
For the chocolate lover, there is Dominosteine, a chocolate covered gingerbread cube filled with sweet jam. If you are simply craving the classic taste of a flat gingerbread with a bit of a twist, you will enjoy Zimtsterne, which is gingerbread with a hint of hazelnut and cinnamon.
It is only fair to say that any good food must include love and pride amidst the ingredients; love for those for whom it is prepared, and pride in the tradition of your country as you follow the recipe that has been passed on for centuries. Yes, some celebrations can be vivid and colorful, like the annual Oktoberfest.
However, at other times, what truly shows the world the beauty of the German culture is a plate full of warm gingerbread cookies passed from one hand to another at a welcoming table.
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
4-1/2 cups flour
1 tsp ground cardamom seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
Orange and lemon zest
2 tsp baking soda (dissolved in hot water)
Melt butter, sugar, and honey together over low heat. Remove from stove; add eggs, flour, spices, fruits, and soda dissolved in water. Chill overnight. Roll out and cut or pat thin on cookie sheet.
Roll out on lightly floured board and cut in diamond shapes or put in a buttered pan and make into bars. Bake in 350°F oven 10 to 15 minutes. Frost while still warm. Mix confectioner’s sugar, salt and almond extract, add lemon juice or cream to spreadable consistency. (Recipe from www.Cooks.com)