Lebkuchengewürze, German Gingerbread Spice, is one of those versatile store cupboard staples that can be used for many things throughout the year, not only during the various holiday seasons.
Yogurt flavored with apple and a little of the spice mix is delicious at any time of the day or year; chocolate truffles with "Lebkuchengewürze" a sinful treat; in fruit pies, including pumpkin pie, or compotes, jellies.
Anywhere a spoon of cinnamon is usually used your Gingerbread Spices will find a happy home.
In Germany the spice mix is often added to tea, coffee, especially to ground coffee before it is brewed, to hot chocolate during the autumn and winter months, holiday season baked goods, and is used as a substitute for "Gluhwein Gewurze". Mulled Wine Spices.
Using Germany's gingerbread spice is a case of "where your imagination takes you".
I know a hobby candle maker who mixes it in with wax when making candles, because the aroma is worth having around no matter what the source, and a cook who adds a good spoonful to butter, combines it thoroughly and keeps it in the fridge. Then it is used for everything from spreading on toasted bread to basting ham.
This recipe is the "standard" one which is most used so the list is only a guide, and having made the mix once it will be easier to judge what proportions of the spices are to your own taste.
The cinnamon, ginger, cloves and mace or nutmeg are "Must Haves", but other than these you can omit anything you wish.
When you have finished putting your mix together and want to try it to see if the mixture suits your taste, or perhaps needs something more or less of one or the other of the various spices, then test it in a simple blancmange or mixed in tea together with honey.
Both are quick and easy ways of seeing whether your gingerbread spice is just the way you like it, or needs either "tweeking" or a radical "re-think".
GERMAN GINGERBREAD SPICE MIX, Lebkuchengewürze:
5 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground aniseed or star anise
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg or
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 finely grated dried orange peel
pinch of paprika
It is perhaps easiest to buy preground spices when putting your mix together, but in case you would like to prepare your own: Star anise, nutmeg and cardamom can be grated into a fine dust, a pestle and mortar will easily grind cardamom, and these can then be passed through a fine sieve.
However cinnamon, coriander seeds or cloves are much tougher making it is difficult to have a successful result, so it is better to buy a packet or jar of these spices already preground.
Put the spices into a bowl and mix well.
Pass through a fine sieve to make sure the spices are combined, and that there are no lumps.
Store in a dark place and in an airtight container until needed, and it is a good idea to shake the container before opening each time you use it.
Gingerbread spices will gradually begin to lose their flavor after about two months, but especially during the autumn and winter they have usually been used, and a fresh batch made, long before that.
Have fun experimenting with your Gingerbread Spices
Photo of spices by SKopp via Wikimedia