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Swiss Kiss #10 – Läbchueche (Ginger Bread)

Gingerbread, traditional Christmas pastryKids usually don’t have a developed sense for time. And because they live in the moment, they are not very interested in time either (except when it’s “time” to go to bed – then they become extremely uninterested). There’s phases though throughout the year, when even kids become alert of specific days. Birthdays, for instance, seem to tickle an instinct slumbering within them. Suddenly they are bright awake and can tell exactly how many days or how many night sleeps their big day is away. Christmas tends to have the same effect.

And for me, as a child, Chlouser (Santa Day) did, too. It was the day when we went to the little fair in town, straight from school, when my mother baked Grittibänze (bread people) for supper and we even were allowed to have chocolate with it. – And there was Läbchueche! Even though the bakeries started to offer them earlier every year, in my family we never touched them before Chlouser. They rang in the Holiday season, and – as every thing restricted or limited – tasted already good just because we had had to wait for them.

verzierter lebkuchen mit zuckerguss

Each region of Switzerland prepares its own version of Läbchueche, and they even go by different names. While I grew up with the very light, yet sticky Bäremutz of the Bern area (the bear in the name and in form of a sugary decoration referring to the name of the Swiss capital, Bern), others were used to slabs – or more elaborate shapes as hearts, flowers or animals – containing nuts, honey, almonds, chocolate and more.

It took me half a century, and a move across the big pond, until I learned about what I now call Barbara’s Läbchueche. I met this wonderful Swiss lady and market goer through cheese – who would have guessed – and immediately was impressed by her energy, wit and, especially, her baking skills. The first time we met she brought me the Läbchueche from Obwalden, a region deep in central Switzerland, where once her home had been. The squares were undecorated and unpretentious, and their texture and flavors down right addicting. Moist, fluffy, springy, chocolatey and spicy all at once, long lasting on the palate yet not too heavy in the belly. Barbara’s Läbchueche are easy and quick to prepare and become even tastier after a few days. What else would one wish for during the busy Holiday season?

gingerbread, wrapped as gift

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