Here we would like to tell you something about the history of Nuremberg Gingerbread. We also explain what an "Original Nürnberger Lebkuchen" is. Take a sniff!
The History of the Nürnberger Lebkuchen
The history of gingerbread dates back to antiquity - the first written evidence of the ancestor of the sweet pastry, the honey cake, dates back to 350 BC. The burial gifts of the ancient Egyptians even suggest that even in their time, honey-sweetened cakes were extremely popular, because after all, people gave them to their loved ones for life in the hereafter.
Over the centuries, various forms of sweet and spicy gingerbread established themselves throughout Europe: From Belgium, they arrived in today's Germany in a form similar to the ones we know today, and finally in the 14th century in Nuremberg. Here they were further developed by Franconian monks and nuns in their monasteries and were especially appreciated for their good shelf life and the associated possibility of long storage. Since they were not only very tasty, but were also considered healthy and nutritious, they were consumed as fasting pastries during Advent and distributed during times of hunger.
Today, we probably associate the gingerbread known and loved as Christmas pastry mainly with its fine-spicy taste of warm aromas, which is due to a combination of different ingredients. The gingerbread spice combines, for example, cinnamon, cloves and allspice - spices that come from faraway places like the Orient and India. In Nuremberg, these were available very early on, thanks to the city's special position as a hub of European trade routes, which dates back to the High Middle Ages. This is how the particularly fine taste of gingerbread could develop here.
The Nuremberg Gingerbread
Nuremberg's gingerbread is closely connected with the history of the city, as is not only shown by the use of exotic spices due to the flourishing international trade.
Already at the end of the 14th century, the occupational title "gingerbread maker" first appeared in Nuremberg for bakers specializing in the production of honey cakes. This even developed into a guild system of its own: When it was founded in 1643, the Nuremberg gingerbread makers' guild had 14 members.
The well developed system of honey extraction in Nuremberg also contributed to the success of the tasty pastry. Thanks to special rights, so-called Zeidlers had the permission to harvest honey from the Lorenzer Reichswald commercially and thus provided an important part of the traditional recipe with honey.
The gingerbread finally got its typical shape - round and baked on wafers - when it became Elisenlebkuchen: These probably go back to a baker who had lost his beloved wife and was therefore all the more attached to his daughter Elisabeth. When the daughter fell ill and refused treatment, so that she became weaker and weaker, the desperate father put his last hope in the healing powers of spices and nut fruits such as almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts. He baked a gingerbread without flour with the best oriental and franconian ingredients for the sick person and was successful, because his daughter recovered. The story goes that the pastry developed for the gingerbread maker's daughter was named after her and thus the name Elisenlebkuchen was born.
Of course, it is by no means certain to what extent this legend corresponds to reality - what is certain, however, is that even today, Nuremberg Elisen are still characterized by a very low flour content of less than ten percent, the use of many spices and the fine taste of marzipan, lemon peel and nuts.
Original Nürnberger Elisenlebkuchen
We at Pfeffer & Frost work together with a small craft business from Nuremberg. Our baker has been producing delicious Elisenlebkuchen according to a traditional recipe for over 30 years. Most of his branches are located in the Nuremberg city area.
The bakery, however, is located in the metropolitan area of Nuremberg, but not in the direct city area of Nuremberg. Therefore we offer handmade, traditional Elisenlebkuchen from Nuremberg - but they do not carry the protected geographical indication "Original Nürnberger Lebkuchen".