Gingerbread Heasts Lebkuchenherzen

Gingerbread Hearts ‘Lebkuchenherzen’

The Oktoberfest recipes continue today with a real symbol of folk festivals here in Germany: Gingerbread Hearts or Lebkuchenherzen. Anyone who has ever visited the Oktoberfest has seen the many stalls selling these sweet treats. Ranging in size from tiny to absolutely enormous, these brightly decorated hearts are meant to be hung around the neck of your sweetheart – the bigger the heart, the bigger the love, or so the story goes.

Gingerbread Hearts, much like old fashioned sweetheart candies, have writing on them, usually a sweet or humorous term of endearment, a greeting or good wishes. The possibilities are limitless, but some of the most common are:

  • ‘I mog di!’ – I love you!
  • ‘Bussi’ – Kiss
  • ‘Schatz/Schatzi’ -Treasure
  • ‘Mausi’ – Sweetheart (literally ‘Mouse’, usually feminine)
  • ‘Spatzl’ – Sweetheart (literally ’Sparrow’)
  • ‘Bärli’ – Little Bear (for men)
  • ‘Prinz/Prinzessin’ – Prince/Princess
    and of course:
  • ‘Gruß vom Oktoberfest!’ – Greetings from the Oktoberfest!

Lebkuchenherzen also make excellent and creative table place cards/party favours for weddings or big parties, with names written on the front.

Because Gingerbread Hearts are meant to be worn or used as decoration, at least for a little while, they are sturdier than normal gingerbread, though if you’d like them softer you can bake them for 5 minutes less, either way, they are perfectly edible. The spices used in lebkuchen vary from region to region, outside of Germany using mixed spice (UK/Aus/NZ) or Pumpkin Spice (US) will give you a similar flavour. You can mix up your own spice mix, and I’ve given an example in the FAQ’s below.

Have you been lucky enough to receive a Gingerbread Heart from your sweetheart? I collect all of mine and they hang on my kitchen wall in Munich as decorations and reminders of happy times. I hope you are enjoying this series of Oktoberfest recipes, let me know what you think in the comments below. xJ

Gingerbread Hearts Lebkuchenherzen

Let me know if you try this recipe in the comments below, or using the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram. Happy cooking!


Gingerbread Heasts Lebkuchenherzen

Gingerbread Hearts 'Lebkuchenherzen'

Yield: Approx. 8 Hearts
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Decorating Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Anyone who has ever visited the Oktoberfest has seen the many stalls selling Lebkuchenherzen or Gingerbread Hearts. Ranging in size from tiny to absolutely enormous, these brightly decorated hearts are meant to be hung around the neck of your sweetheart - the bigger the heart, the bigger the love, or so the story goes.

Ingredients

for the dough:

  • 400g plain flour
  • 200g sugar
  • 2 Tbsp runny honey
  • 1 ½ Tbsp mixed spice (see note)
  • 1 ½ Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 50ml milk
  • 25g melted butter

for the royal icing decoration:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 500g powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice
  • food colouring, as desired

Instructions

    1. Put all ingredients for the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook fitted. Run the mixer for 5 minutes until the mixture forms a smooth, rather stiff dough. If the dough is dry and crumbly, add a splash more milk. Turn the dough out onto the benchtop, knead briefly, then shape into a round and wrap in cling film. Set aside for 30 minutes.
    2. Heat the oven to 180°C / 350° F / Gas 4 and line a tray with baking paper. Dust the baking paper lightly with flour and set aside. When the dough has rested, roll it out between two sheets of cling film to 1cm thick. Cut out as many hearts as you are able, re-rolling the dough as necessary. You can use wither a large heart-shaped cutter or a stencil and a sharp knife.
    3. Place the hearts on the baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and use a skewer to make holes for ribbons (if using), then allow to cool on the tray for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
    4. Meanwhile, make the royal icing. Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment fitted beat the egg whites to firm peaks. With the mixer running, add the powdered sugar a tablespoon at a time until it is completely used up. Add the lemon juice to loosen the mixture a little, then divide the icing between 2-3 bowls for colouring. Colour each with a few drops of food colouring until the desired colour is reached and then transfer to piping bags.
    5. When the Gingerbread Hearts are completely cool, carefully pipe messages or decorations onto them. Allow to set completely (up to 24 hours) before threading with ribbon and giving them to your guests, or your sweetheart!

Notes

Mixed spice is a common baking mixture of aromatic spices. In Germany, it is often sold as Lebkuchengewürz, while American Pumpkin Spice mix has a similar flavour profile. You can make your own by mixing 2 Tbsp nutmeg, 2 Tbsp allspice, 1 Tbsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ground cloves, 1 tsp ground cardamom, 1 tsp ground ginger and 1 tsp ground coriander. Combine in a small jar and shake well.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 Heart
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 591Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 54mgSodium: 136mgCarbohydrates: 131gFiber: 2gSugar: 91gProtein: 8g

Nutrition information is calculated automatically and isn’t always accurate.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

I don’t have any piping bags! What can I do?

Freezer bags with the tip cut off work in a pinch, though you’ll only be able to decorate roughly. Kits with a small selection of piping nozzles and disposable bags are often very affordable in the baking section of the supermarket.


How long will the Gingerbread Hearts keep?

It depends on the humidity where you live. In drier climates they can be used as decoration as they will simply dry out, In more humid climates they will last several days, or stored in a dry place for a little longer. At the Oktoberfest, they are sold shrink-wrapped in plastic to protect them and make them last longer.


What is ‘mixed spice’?

Mixed spice is a common baking mixture of aromatic spices. In Germany, it is often sold as Lebkuchengewürz, while American Pumpkin Spice mix has a similar flavour profile. You can make your own by mixing 2 Tbsp nutmeg, 2 Tbsp allspice, 1 Tbsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ground cloves, 1 tsp ground cardamom, 1 tsp ground ginger and 1 tsp ground coriander. Combine in a small jar and shake well.


It’s important to let the dough rest and soften before rolling it out. That way it is much easier to handle and cut.

Gingerbread Hearts Lebkuchenherzen
Gingerbread Hearts Lebkuchenherzen
Gingerbread Hearts Lebkuchenherzen

GINGERBREAD HEARTS ‘LEBKUCHENHERZEN’


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