December’s arrived and with it comes an extra crispness in the air, evenings in front of the log-burner and a festive feeling that’s fast sneaking up on me. Thoughts are turning to Christmas and, if I could, I’d be heading to Europe to soak up some authentic yuletide atmosphere in a traditional Christmas market.
The medieval towns do it best; Christmas time in Bruges is magical and Vienna’s on my wish list but Munich is home to my favourite Christmas market. Or, as the Germans would say, ‘Weihnachtsmarkt’.
12 Days of Blogmas
I’m taking part in Titan Travel’s ’12 Days of Blogmas’ where I’ve been challenged to create a post which focuses on a dish inspired by a trip to a Christmas market. I’m going to share one of my Christmas favourites. I first tasted German Lebkuchen biscuits at Munich Christmas market.
These irresistible spiced bites are like a cross between ginger cake and a biscuit and totally capture the taste of a German Christmas. But first let me tell you a little about Munich’s Christkindlmarkt.
Munich Christmas Market
Munich Christmas market is one of the oldest in the world and dates back over 700 years to the fourteenth century. The main Christkindlmarkt is in the Marienplatz pedestrian square. The Town Hall (Rathaus) makes an impressive backdrop to the towering Christmas tree twinkling with over 3,000 lights.
The sound of choirs and carols float on the night air mingling with the aroma of Glühwein, roasting chestnuts and warming winter spices. Munich in December is like stepping into a Christmas card – guaranteed to put a sparkle into the eye of the most stalwart of bah humbugs.
Read about the best Christmas markets in Germany
Christmas Market Crafts
A maze of wooden chalet-style stalls decorated with winter foliage and fairy lights fill the Marienplatz Christmas market. When I visited with my daughter Amy, we wrapped up warmly against the crisp night air and explored the stalls. We discovered some kitsch Christmas decorations and the green glass gherkin Amy bought has become a quirky family favourite.
Bavarian craftsmen sell wooden carvings, blown glass ornaments and hand-made gifts. German Christmas markets are big on nativity scenes and at the nearby Kripperlmarkt, or crib market, you’ll find a range of traditional nativity scenes, cribs and wooden figures.
Food at German Christmas Markets
The food at Munich market is ridiculously good and was one of the highlights of our trip. Mugs of steaming Glühwein, red wine heated up with an infusion of spices, kept the cold at bay. The smell of hot roasted chestnuts wafted around us while bratwurst sizzled temptingly and baked apples loaded with sugar slowly caramelised. Stalls were stacked with trays of fruit-laden Christollen, Strudel and Striezel.
We bought a bag of soft, lightly spiced, gingery biscuits coated with a light layer of icing – Lebkuchen. The spicy festive flavour of these little German biscuits will forever transport me back to Munich market and the taste of Christmas. The spicy delights are quick and easy to prepare. Here’s how to make Lebkuchen…
Traditional Lebkuchen Recipe
A recipe for Lebkuchen - lightly spiced German Christmas cookies
- 250g plain flour
- 85g ground almonds
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 200ml clear honey
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 85g butter
- 1 pinch each of:
- ground cloves, grated nutmeg, black pepper
- 1 tsp baking powder
- For the icing:
- 150g icing sugar
- 1 egg white – beaten
- Put all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. In a saucepan heat the butter and honey over a low heat until the butter melts. Add this and the lemon zest to the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly until you have a fairly stiff dough. Cover and leave to cool. At this point the dough can be frozen for up to one month.
- Heat over to 180c/fan, 160c/, gas mark 4. Put the dough on a board and cut it into quarters. Cut each quarter into 8 and roll the pieces into small, even balls with your hands. Line 2 large baking trays with baking parchment and place the balls of dough on them, leaving room for them to expand. Flatten the balls with your fingertips so they are about 5mm high or you could use cutters to make Lebkuchen stars or hearts like I did.
- Pop in the oven. After ten minutes check the Lebkuchen biscuits and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.
- To ice, mix together the icing sugar, egg white and a little water to form a smooth and runny icing. Dip the top of each biscuit into the icing and leave to dry on a wire rack. (I re-use the baking parchment underneath the rack to save on clearing up). Store in an airtight container for up to five days – as if…!
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