Let’s set aside for a moment that, for the overwhelming majority of the time, I eat a balanced, healthy diet. Some might say, extremely so. So, at Christmas time (along with a few other fleeting occasions throughout the year), I allow myself the luxury to go crazy, Broadway style …
Being of Italian heritage, I go totally nuts over nougat, panforte, pandoro and panettone. But, to my family’s ongoing amusement, I also go totally insane over Lebkuchen, Zimtsterne, and Stöllen mit Marzipan. Hang on, what’s with the fixation on German traditions? I have no idea, but I’ve had it since childhood. The same mystery might explain my heartfelt singing of the German national anthem as I support the German national football team during the World Cup (mostly in tears during the finals over recent years), my dedication to the Bayern München football team, my admiration for Michael Schumacher … I could go on, and not just about sport, frankly.
Growing up I knew potatoes as Kartoffel … my father’s town sits right on the Austrian border in the Julian Alps. Gorgeous part of the world. The hills are alive, well and truly. There were lots of German words interspersed with the usual mixture of our own Italian dialects and English, all of which we spoke at home. I didn’t really learn any German until university where I had to translate an entire astrophysics PhD thesis from German to English. Not really everyday German, to be sure. Several stays in Germany during my postgraduate study years sealed the love affair and I never looked back. It has a special place in my heart and always will.
The same is true of Lebkuchen and Stöllen mit Marzipan at Christmas. This year, I had decided I’d just stay well away from them. But of course I failed. I bought Lebkuchen spice and marzipan with the intention of making both. In the end, I just bought some Lebkuchen and these really funky little Stöllen mit Marzipan balls instead.
Lebkuchen spice is available at specialty spice shops or you can make your own (a number of recipes abound if you Google it). I got mine at Gewürzhaus in Melbourne. It’s wonderfully aromatic and distinctive … and it smells like Christmas You could substitute your favourite gingerbread spice cake blend if you prefer.
So, what do I do with all that Lebkuchen spice and marzipan? Aaaahhhhh … a number of things, of course
I made some chocolate chip protein bombs to which I added some Lebkuchen spice (and omitted the oats). Brilliant Christmas protein snack! I’ll also be making some marzipan protein pancakes later this week. But, for now … drumrollllll … I give you some Lebkuchen Brownie Bites with marzipan!
Make sure to bake these at least 24 hours before serving. This makes a world of difference as the spicy flavour and texture develops beautifully. It also makes them a perfect make ahead treat. You just store them in an airtight container at room temperature. The chocolate adds a lovely bitterness but they are not overtly chocolatey as the spicy flavour really makes you think of Lebkuchen cookies. The coarsely grated marzipan adds some lovely texture and delicious almond marzipan pieces … better than just adding chopped nuts, hands down. Topped with a little white chocolate drizzle or snow, they make a lovely twist on the traditional Christmas treats but still very much in the German tradition. There’s a lot of chocolate in that German tradition
I’ve called them brownie bites because they’re not quite cake, not quite a cookie, and not quite a brownie but it’s close enough. They are a little cakey, a little fudgy, and very moist. They are gluten-free, as almond meal is used instead of flour. Even non-chocoholics love these. They are delicious, served as a treat with coffee, and they’d even make for a fabulous and easy dessert, served with a little whipped cream, maybe spiked with a little rhum or brandy.
I’d like to thank you all for your support for this blog, your lovely comments throughout the year, and a special HURRAY for the awesomeness of those of you who’ve made the recipes and posted them on your own blogs or on the CCM Facebook page. I’d like to hire a few of you to do my photography as they look so much better than when I post them!
Wishing you all a very safe and happy Christmas. Spend it with those you love and cherish and may 2012 bring you all success and joy.
I hope you love these half as much as we do. A fröhliche Weihnachten to you all and enjoy!
Makes between 16 – 32, according to preference (I prefer bite-sized portions as they are rich)
225 grams dark couverture (min. 85% cacao solids)
160 grams organic unsalted butter
a generous pinch of sea salt
100 grams rapadura or dark brown sugar
55 grams granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Lebkuchen spice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla bean paste
185 grams almond meal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
135 grams marzipan, chilled
about 60 grams white couverture, for decoration
Preheat the oven to 165℃. Grease and line a 20cm – 22cm square cake or brownie tin. I used a 20cm tin so the brownie bites would be a little higher. It’s a matter of preference.
Combine the chopped couverture, butter cut into cubes, and the sea salt in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. Allow the chocolate and butter to melt. Stir occasionally. When melted, stir until smooth and remove from the heat. Set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, place the eggs, rapadura (or brown), and granulated sugars. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is light. Add the Lebkuchen spice and vanilla, and whisk until combined. Add the almond meal and baking powder, and beat until smooth.
Coarsely grate the marzipan using the coarsest grating attachment (i.e. the same as you use to grate carrots). Add to the batter and fold through.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top flat. Bake for about 40 – 45 mins until risen slightly and cooked through but not dry. Remove and let cool in the tin completely before cutting into bite-sized portions.
Melt the white couverture in a microwave or in a heatproof bowl over hot water. Pipe or drizzle the chocolate over the brownie bites. Let the chocolate set at room temperature.
Store them in an airtight container at room temperature. They will keep for several days at least. They are best made at least 24 hours before serving.