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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Recipe for Lembas - Elvish Waybread

Here's a recipe I put together for Lembas bread. Didn't know I could bake, did you? Well, I can, and I'm pretty durned good at it when I want to be.

Here's how it came about: we were doing a Lord of the Rings marathon at my buddy Mike's house when the RotK extended edition came out. Mike has a 42" widescreen and a really kick ass surround sound system, so we got together at 9:00 AM on Saturday and watched all twelve-plus hours of the epic trilogy back to back. It was awesome.

Anyway, I wanted to contribute something so I started searching for recipes for Lembas bread. My efforts that year were futile, but flash forward to last Christmas. I got the hankering to try again, so I looked up some recipes online. This time I was successful in finding a bunch, but was wildly unhappy with the vast majority of them. It seemed stupid to me that everyone puts orange peel or citrus fruit into Lembas, when elves lived in a temperate climate in England.

So I set about to make my own, based on what we know of Lembas bread. Here's what Tolkien says about Lembas:

  • They contain honey
  • they are cream-colored on the inside with a light brown outer crust
  • they are thin and regular-shaped (mine are rectangular).
  • they are hearty and healthy. One cake is supposedly enough to sustain a man for a full day's march.
Some other things we can guess, just based on what Lembas is: It is likely it contains fruit and flower-water or juice of some sort. Since elves live in a temperate climate, apples or berries, perhaps of the Mallorn fruit or blueberries, are a good bet. The type of fruit used will change the flavor of the bread. I am going with apples due to the fact that Tolkien says Lembas is golden on the outside and cream-colored inside; berries would color the bread dark inside, while apples will not have this effect. In addition, Lembas probably contains some kind of finely ground light-colored nut for protein. I use walnuts, but peanuts or pistachios would work well, too. It's likely that nourishing flour, such as whole grain, would be used. I use half wheat flower and half white. My original attempt used all wheat flour but resulted in a very heavy, very dry cake.

So without further ado, here it is: my recipe for Lembas. I am constantly tweaking this recipe; this is the most recent version and I am transcribing it here having just pulled a batch out of the oven not ten minutes ago. The final consistency of these is somewhere between a bread and a cookie, not unlike a shortbread.

1 3/4 cups of whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups of white flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 Tablespoons cold butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/2 – 3/4 cup milk*
1/4 cup apple juice or 1/2 fresh, peeled, finely-chopped apple
1/4 cup nuts (walnuts, pistachios, peanuts) (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

3. Chop butter into mixture with a pastry cutter or knead in with your fingers until you get a crumbly mixture.

4. Add sugar, honey, apple, and nuts, and mix. Note: if using apple juice, add in the next step with the milk.

5. Add milk and apple juice (if using juice). Stir with a fork or knead with hands until dough forms.

6. Roll the dough out about 1/2 inch thick.

7. Cut out 2-3 inch squares and transfer to a cookie sheet. Criss-cross each square from corner to corner with a knife.

8. Bake for about 12 minutes or until set and lightly golden. Makes 20 to 25 cakes.

*If using apple juice, 1/2 cup milk. If using fresh apple, 3/4 cup milk.

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