Article

Lebkuchen

Categories: Friday feeling

Festive German ginger biscuits from Cinnamon Tree Bakery

“I’m quite good at languages normally,” says Maximo at Cinnamon Tree Bakery, “but that word...” He points helplessly at the mottled brown biscuits in front of him, and syllable by syllable we sound out the name. “Leb-ku-chen.” Though it sounds like a cuddle on Christmas morning, it looks, like so many festive treats, pretty unremarkable: brown, mottled and sticky to the touch.

They are, as you may have guessed, German in origin, though the bakers are Scottish; their bakery Peckham-based. They’ve chosen to make Lebkuchen because “so many of the visitors to the Market are German, and we wanted to dedicate something to them.”

This small, sweet gesture assumes a rather poignant significance in light of the tragedy in Berlin, where lebkuchen, strung up on ribbon and decorated in festive wishes, are a traditional feature of their beloved Christmas markets.

Stub of crystallised ginger
Those at Cinnamon Tree Bakery are somewhat less gaudy, though they are iced: half of them with dark chocolate, half with white icing and a stub of crystallised ginger. “They are very spicy. Cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger.” Maximo thinks for a moment. “Oh, and dried fruit, nuts and honey.

“You either love them, or you hate them,” he adds, “but for myself I think they’re delicious, with tea, coffee—even port or sherry.” It is Christmas after all, we conclude, and there is a dark, almost savoury sturdiness to this fat, treacle-y squidge of a biscuit which would marry well with a hard drink. Whether or not that improves your pronunciation of its name, of course, remains to be seen.