“ Brand: Sainsbury's „
Perhaps this is a bit unfair of me to review this product, being of German origin, but it really annoys me what supermarkets pass off as lebkuchen.
-What are Lebkuchen?-
A spicy, nutty, chewy biscuit popular in Germanic countries around Christmas time. They keep forever, so can be made well in advance, usually in November. Swiss lebkuchen tend to be slightly drier than the German version.
The main spices are ginger and cloves, and the main nuts used are almond and hazelnut. The biscuits are very lightly iced, and occasionally alcohol (usually Kirsch) is added to the mix for a bit of a kick.
They are often confused with gingerbread, but the spice mix and texture differs greatly.
-How do Sainsbury's Lebkuchen taste?-
Not great. If you've never had proper lebkuchen before, these probably seem like a sweet, slightly artifical tasting, gingerbread. If you have tasted lebkuchen before, you'll probably realise these are nothing of the sort. I was massively disappointed (even though I wasn't expecting much!), and will stick to making my own. I'll be posting up the recipe on Dooyoo shortly.
If you fancy a sweet, supermarket gingerbread, you'll probably find these quite nice. If you're after lebkuchen, stick to Christmas markets or making your own.
Germans always get it right when it comes to food. When most are snacking on Galaxy and Pringles galore (especially at Christmas time) i'm here with my little pieces of gingerbread heaven..and here's why.
While Sainsburys aren't the best i've ever tasted (you'll have to delve into your nearest Lidl/Aldi for the proper stuff, and even those pale in comparison to homemade/christmas market delights) they are certainly very good. They're not as spicy as general Lebkuchen but enough to get the senses tingling. The icing is just enough to balance it out and while the bags aren't as big as i'd like, it's probably for the best to protect your stomach from these dreadfully moreish and addictive treats!
Traditionally made and eaten with afternoon coffee/kaffekuchen, these do go very nicely with a cuppa and are always a pleasant suprise when raiding the cupboard. So stock up, enjoy, und auf wiedersehen!
I love food at Christmas time and the seasonal delights that are put out on supermarket shelves make me nearly as excited as Santa Claus visiting on Christmas Eve. This year is no exception; my mum has now succeeded in dragging me around all of the high street supermarkets in order to purchase Christmassy looking food items to keep the younger ones entertained at our family get together on Christmas Day. Last weekend I happened to go to the German Market in London's Hyde Park and there was a stall selling traditional Lebkuchen products which ranged in shape and size. Everything being sold was sweet and spicy, cake and biscuit based and the lovely man on the stall was telling people that the recipe he was using dated right back to the late 1290's. Each and every Lebkuchen cake or biscuit was decorated with icing, or alternatively sold in decorative tins that were very festive. After trying his own style Lebkuchen and absolutely loving it, I had to find buy more. The only supermarket where I could find it was Sainsburys and I have to admit, had I not been looking for them I would probably have walked straight past them on the shelves. Whilst the packaging is very pretty they don't exactly jump off the shelf shouting "buy me and try me". I couldn't wait to try them when I got home to see if they were as delicious as the ones I had tried in Hyde Park.
Sainsbury's Iced Lebkuchen Stars are currently on offer in my local store, two packets are available for £1.50, a saving of 48p as they normally retail for 99p per 250g. Each packet contains two different shaped stars.
Inside the very festive looking cellophane these iced stars don't look like anything special if I am honest, having just been witness to a lot of different designs and shapes of Lebkuchen I wasn't too sure what to expect. Upon opening the bag I have to admit there wasn't much of an aroma to give me an insight as to what they would taste like. The only notable smell was that of cocoa, quite a strong fragrance in any case. What I was really expecting was the sweet smell of spicy gingerbread which had previously left me reaching for tissues my mouth was watering so much. Looks wise there is a dark chocolate base which covers a softly spiced gingerbread biscuit cake bottom and then on top of that each star is coated with a thick white icing glaze to finish them off. They remind me of the Asda Extra Special Belgian Chocolate gingerbread biscuits that I recently became rather partial too with the way they are put together.
Traditionally Lebkuchen cakes usually include honey, spices such as ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla as well as nuts, almonds and candied fruit. An array of flavours to get your juices flowing but equally enough ingredients to get anyone with certain allergies hospitalised so be warned.
Instead of putting my shopping away, the first thing I did as I got home was grab one of my iced Lebkuchen stars I was that eager to try them. Each packet contains two differently topped stars, the first has a thick vanilla icing which generously coats the biscuit while the bottom is a dark chocolate which I have to admit on first taste seems overly bitter. As the sweet sugary icing blends though the bitterness melts away and there is a rich explosion of flavours in your mouth. Biting into the biscuit itself although you don't hear the icing crack it definitely crumbles as your teeth sink into the biscuit and almost immediately the sweetly spiced ginger centre which is like a very light biscuit dough comes alive and all three tastes mix together wonderfully. The first bite unleashes the flavours while further bites seem to push the more dominant flavours to the fore.
The second of the two stars is coated in more of a glaze, which is in my opinion very thin, so much so it is almost translucent; it just glimmers under the kitchen lights but when biting into it the first thing you will notice is how much softer it is than the star with the vanilla icing. There is still the dark chocolate coating on the bottom which in itself is as bitter as the first. Although this glazed star is much softer the taste is just as strong and effervescent as the three flavours again come together as one in your mouth. I definitely prefer the star with the vanilla icing because I've got a bit of a sweet tooth, and they are incredibly sweet but I've also become a big fan too of the glazed stars. As I mentioned earlier, they remind me of the Asda own Extra special Belgian chocolate biscuits which host a dark chocolate base with a sweet tasting soft ginger biscuit, the only thing missing is the icing.
I think these Sainsburys Lebkuchen iced stars are fabulous and are definitely a perfect biscuits for Christmas, although I would happily eat them all year round if there wasn't a danger of me struggling to fit into my clothes! A lot of the foods my mother conjures up for Christmas time are based around slightly sweet and spicy eateries such as mince pies and Christmas cake so these biscuits are a perfect fit for that very thing and I have no doubts in my mind that both young and old with embrace these biscuits and fall in love with them in the same way I have.
These biscuits themselves I feel are the type you could just sit down and eat alongside a nice cup of tea or coffee as you would do a muffin or a slice of cake. They are very versatile but are so sweet eating more than one or two at a time will leave you feeling like you've eaten a pound of sugar. On the whole I am a big fan and will definitely be buying them again as and when I can find them on sale. In the meantime I'll just have to find the recipe and make my own. Sainsbury's Iced Lebkuchen Stars get 5 stars out of 5 from me.
Christmas shopping for food over the festive period is always something I would rather not partake in, the supermarkets are overcrowded with mad women buying excess bread and milk because the shops will be shut for a few days whilst we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and if I could give the whole food shopping thing a miss, without a doubt I would. Hoping that when I come home from my final day at work the food fairy might have just looked at me with pity and filled my fridge with some wonderful delights.
Well she almost did, except she is a he and my better half decided that he would do the food shopping as a surprise, arriving home at the same time he did from the supermarket and me from work I was shocked to find the car full of Sainsbury's bags and boxes. John delightfully informed me that "it wasn't as bad as a I made it out to be" and that "he actually enjoyed it". Least that task can now be passed on every year after making a note of those comments!
Like most families we always buy food we don't usually eat all year round at Christmas such as nuts of all varieties, spicy cakes and mince pies, some of the products are only available at Christmas and some of the products are dually ignored until it is Christmas when I feel compelled to buy them and this year it is no exception. Being from a German descent Christmas would be Christmas without my Lebkuchen cakes, usually made by my grandma from a recipe that she has used which has been passed through generations of our family. She sadly died during the summer period and neither my mum nor I could bring ourselves to make a cake from her recipe because it didn't somehow seem right. John however in his wisdom found some Iced Lebkuchen stars in Sainsbury's, which I am sure my Grandma would at least find humorous knowing we had bought them instead of making them.
For many generations Lebkuchen cakes have existed and to describe them in a few words is soft gingerbread, not quite like the gingerbread men you buy from your local bakery but more of a soft doughy gingerbread that can be made as a spicy or sweet treat. Usually the ingredients would include honey, spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon and ground ginger which work together to make it taste sweet and spicy at the same time, then you would find nuts such as almonds present and sometimes candied fruit such as apricot, cherries and possibly lemon, orange or grapefruit peel to add to the texture. All of these ingredients would be found in a Lebkuchen cake made by my Grandma, so I was eager to try the Sainsbury's version.
Within the Sainsbury's packaging which is rather Christmassy excluding the cellophane wrapping which helps to protect the cakes from damage and keep in the moisture and inside this packaging there are two differently decorated Stars, one has a thick vanilla icing covering the top whilst the bottom of the star is a rich smelling dark chocolate, the second of the stars is covered in a light glaze which makes the cake look shiney. Already I have noticed one big difference and that is the smell, the Sainsbury's stars are without the rich spicy ginger aroma which would be produced by a home made Lebkuchen cake which reaches your nose as soon as you open the tin. It is worth noting that the traditional recipe within my family comes with a decorative tin which has come through the generations and although it looks battered and bruised, it wouldn't seem right putting this particular cake in anything else.
So without the spicy smell I am hoping the taste will live up to expectations and the white chunky vanilla icing one is quite hard to bite into to begin with but once you crack through the icing there is a slight taste of ginger and spice and mixed with the dark chocolate the taste is actually quite pleasant and very sweet, so if you are a sweet toothed person and are a lover of chocolate you wouldn't go far wrong with this cake. The cake mixture itself isn't quite a doughy as I would like it to be but the taste is still nice, just not perfect. The second star which is host to the glaze is not as tough to bite into as the first star and it is definitely not as sweet tasting and the inner cake is much gingerier with a bigger hint of some of the spices mentioned within the ingredients and the darker chocolate I feel worked much better and wasn't over powered by the thick vanilla icing. As someone with the sweet tooth the first star was still a bit too much for me, you definitely couldn't eat more than one at any given time without feeling slightly nauseous and the second cake was much easier to eat with a much more defined flavour which wasn't over-powered by icing.
Although this wasn't my Grandma's cake and it didn't taste anywhere near the same as she would have made it taste, I have to admit that I did like these stars and would happily buy them again but not as a replacement for the real thing, admittedly Sainsbury's have done a good job with their replica but next year I am definitely going to try the traditional recipe but I would also buy these as a back-up because they do look Christmassy given their shape and they wouldn't look out of place on the dinner table to serve with some coffee.
These Iced Lebkuchen stars from Sainsbury's are priced at 99p per packet but are currently on an offer where you can buy two lots for £1.50 which is a bit of a bargain and if you are looking for something slightly different for Christmas then you wouldn't go too far wrong by buying these.
*** REACH FOR THE STARS***
<> Lebkuchen Stars by Sainsburys are an item from their delicious seasonal range. Along with their Lebkuchen hearts, Sainsburys bring this traditional German recipe to England for us to savour, and enjoy at Christmas time <>
<> Lebkuchen Stars <>
The Iced stars are a delicious treat to serve up at Christmas. They look in keeping with the time of year with their star shape, and white glossy appearance. Sat on a plate, with sprig of Holly, and a red and gold napkin, they look very seasonal indeed. They are also very useful to decorate, and garnish Christmas food with. Because of their star shape, and small size, they look very attractive on almost any plate of food. Place one on the top of the Christmas pudding, and put one in the bowl of each serving with some Amaretto butter. ( M&S do it; it's gorgeous.) These stars are not only delicious, but also very versatile as a food decoration, and the spicy festive ingredients enhance, and compliment Christmas food very well.
I also like the fact that these stars are not perfectly formed, but are of a rough, natural appearance. More 'Shabby chic' than factory perfect, and they are an ideal addition to any Christmas table. Sainsburys have it spot on when keeping this range for Christmas time only. They also manage to bring it to us at a very reasonable price. The quality of the Lebkuchen is excellent, and it is something I very much look forward to purchasing at this time of year.~
<<>> Sainsburys Lebkuchen Stars <<>>
These little stars are a nice tasty treat. They comprise of a chocolate base of dark chocolate, with a high cocoa content, encasing a centre of soft spiced gingerbread. To finish it off, the stars are coated with a translucent sugar glaze, or a thick white icing to the top, reminiscent of snow-capped peaks. You have two different kinds of star in each pack. At the moment you can buy one 250g pack for £0.99, or two packs for £1.50. I think the value is excellent for such a good product, especially when compared to most other treats on offer at this time of year. The Lebkuchen Stars are attractive, and in keeping on the Christmas table. Though in a manufactured way, Sainsburys also seem to have made the recipe pretty close to the original, judging by the taste of the Lebkuchen Stars. The colour of the packaging is bright and eye catching, and the stars are nicely packaged in a way that you would associate with the quality of Sainsburys. ~
<<>> The Aroma <<>>
Once opened the aroma from the stars is faint, but pleasant. I can smell the chocolate, a rich deep smell, though not overpowering. The smell from the icing is sweet and sugary. However I cannot detect the spicy gingerbread encased within the stars, so in describing the aroma I would say, the smell is faint, but pleasant. Nothing really about the smell that gives away the flavours that I am about to be tasting. ~
*The Iced star*
There are two different kinds of stars in the packet, and I have chosen to try the iced star first. As I bite into the star, I find the thick white icing on the top of the star, strong and sweet, and as I bite into it, it fills my mouth with a strong sugary fondant, at the same time, the dark , slightly bitter taste of the base chocolate blends together, bringing a powerful taste to my palate. The ginger, spiced centre is evident as a milder taste coming through, when broken down in the mouth, and the mixture, and the texture of the three tastes works well to bring a very pleasant taste sensation. The spiciness of the ginger is subdued somewhat by the strong outer, and base ingredients, and I enjoyed this combination of taste, and the velvety feel of the mxture in my mouth. ~
*The Glazed star*
On biting through the glazed Lebkuchen star, I notice it is softer to the bite, giving the spicy gingerbread and glazed fondant a chance to melt well in the mouth together, along with the chocolate slab from the underside of the star filling my mouth with a rich cocoa taste. This glazed star, being softer, and milder in flavour, allows the gingerbread taste to come to the fore a little more, as it is not so overpowered by the bitterness of the chocolate. The chocolate is the last flavour left in the mouth as the thick bitter creaminess clings to the palate for quite a while. The textures of the three are very interesting, and work well together within this star. These really are lovely little treats, and the flavours combined together, and ingredients used, are very nice indeed.~
<<>> Lebkuchen <<>>
Lebkuchen is a German recipe, and dates back as far as the Roman times. There are quite a few different spices, and toppings, used in the making of the Lebkuchen, and they can vary from recipe to recipe. But basically Lebkuchen it is a gingerbread festive biscuit, though the coatings, and spices used may vary. Sometimes called 'Honey cake' Lebkuchen is considered in Germany to be a cure for Winter blues, and depresssion, and is produced in abundance during the winter months. ~
Like the Lebkuchen stars, Sainsburys also make Lebkuchen hearts. They are very similar in their make-up, to the stars, except inside the Lebkuchen is a jelly like filling of sweet apricot, much like a jam. With the apricot, and the Lebkuchen, the taste is strong, and subdues the chocolate bitterness more so than in the stars. They are a a little like small Jaffa cakes, but spicier, and with much more flavour. So with the choice of the delicious hearts, and stars, your Christmas table can look very pretty, and festive indeed. I think it's the detail that sets off the occasion, and I love all the little things to look right, as it's these small things that help to make up the main event.~
Christmas is a time of celebration, and food and drink are very much a part of of the festive atmosphere. Chocolate yule logs, Christmas cake, pudding, gingerbread men, sweets and chocolates. All these foods, and more, are part and parcel of the whole Christmas experience. For me the thing I look forward to the most on Christmas day, is the Christmas dinner. It is the main event of the day when the whole family come together, and for those few moments we forget all our troubles, and disagreements, and join together in this festive ritual. The Sainsburys stars look perfect on the Christmas table alongside the mince pies, and they are lovely with a glass of port, sherry, or wine, as an after dinner treat. ~
<<>> My Opinion <<>>
I think these Sainsburys Lebkuchen stars are perfect festive biscuits for Christmas. They are spicy with a seasonal taste, and perfect served with a glass of mulled wine. The size is just right, and one, or two at a time is plenty as they have a strong fondant, and cocoa taste. With so many things that we are eating over Christmas, such as mince pies, sausage rolls, cakes, and cheeses, the Lebkuchen star is a small treat with a lot of flavour which will not fill us up too much, yet will satisfy our taste buds between meals. I love gingerbread, and it is something that I don't really buy at any other time of the year, so it seems a special item to include into the Christmas food list. They also make pretty decorations for the Christmas tree. Just thread some cotton through the star, and dangle from a branch of the Christmas tree. But don't place it near a tree light, as it might melt the chocolate. They also make nice stocking fillers. I think the taste of these are very good, and Sainsburys seem to have the right mix, and balance of ingredients that is needed to create the Lebkutchen. German food chains, Lidl, and Aldi do a very good version of this festive biscuit also. Though I, myself do prefer the Sainsburys Lebkuchen.
I think the Sainsburys stars are excellent value, so you can afford to really stock up on these at Christmas time. But don't leave it too late, as they do tend to sell out rather quickly. - Anyone with dietary allergies, should be aware, that the Sainsburys Lebkuchen stars may contain nuts, egg, milk and wheat products and with the high sugar content, they may not be suitable for diabetics. Sainsburys has a good solid reputation for their produce, and these festive biscuits speak for themselves. I wouldn't have any hesitation recommending them 100%. - Enjoy! and have a ** Very Happy Christmas ** ~
Lebkuchen Stars Availability
Sainsburys Supermarkets or Website:
Price 250g pack for £0.99 or two packs for £1.50
Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd
Thank you for reading.
I remember the first time I was introduced to lebkuchen. It was whilst visiting family in Switzerland in late 1990. I don't know exactly why the memory should be so imprinted on my memory; possibly because lebkuchen isn't generally easy to find in the UK, with the exception of around Christmas. As part of their seasonal range around this time every year, Sainsbury's offer own brand Iced lebkuchen Stars. Every year, I fail to resist the offer, but the British weather fails to help remind me of that trip to Switzerland, as it steadfastly refuses to snow year after year.
Lebkuchen has been around for a long time, having been recorded in Germany as far back as 1296, nearly 700 years before I happened across it and it is believed that the origins go back even further, to Roman times. As with many recipes, there are a number of variants with variations in the spices used, as well as the shape and what is used to decorate them. However, the first lebkuchen I had was of a variety that Sainsbury's have come close to matching, to the best of my recollection.
Opening the bag doesn't really give much of a clue of the delights to come, as there's not a really strong aroma. You get a slight whiff of the chocolate used to coat the underside of the stars and the sugary smell if the icing on the top, but nothing more. However, the presentation once you're inside the bag is more encouraging.
There are two slight variations on the theme, with the lebkuchen stars all having a chocolate base, but having either a full thick white icing top or a translucent sugar glaze. Those with the glaze feel softer to bite into, as you don't have to bite through a layer of icing to get to the soft inside. It also means that you get a better balance of flavours, as the sugar taste of the glaze is swiftly replaced on the tongue by the slightly ginger taste of the lebkuchen itself, before this in turn gives way to the bitter taste of the chocolate, which tends to linger a little longer than the other tastes.
This is assuming you're eating the stars icing side up, as I
normally do. Eating them the other way around does give a slightly different and, to me, slightly preferable taste sensation due, I suspect, to where in your mouth certain taste receptors are located. When this happens, the bitter chocolate taste is lessened and the sugar taste slightly stronger, but you do get more of a hint of the lebkuchen.
Personally, as someone who isn't a huge fan of chocolate, especially the more bitter type of chocolate with the higher cocoa content, I would have preferred the lebkuchen without it. Whilst I'm less an opponent of the sugar glaze, I do like the spiced ginger taste of the lebkuchen itself over either of the other tastes and these always leave me feeling like I've been cheated out of what I most wanted somehow.
Unfortunately, the stars with the full icing leave me feeling even more cheated. They are slightly harder as you have to bite through a far thicker layer of icing and all you can taste is the sugar content of the icing and nothing else. There is a vague hint of chocolate in the aftertaste, but even this is virtually so deeply buried as to be almost unrecognisable. The lebkuchen itself barely exists as a taste and experienced on the tongue more as a texture than as any kind of taste. Sadly, turning the star over and eating it chocolate side up doesn't work this time as the icing taste still overpowers everything else, even in the aftertaste. These ones get quite sickly after you've eaten too many of them, which is not necessarily a bad thing if you're trying to watch your diet.
I suppose that if nothing else, Sainsbury's lebkuchen stars prove that very little from your childhood was actually as good as you remember it being. I was expecting to get far more of a ginger cake or biscuit kind of flavour, more of a savoury snack than a sweet one. That's not to say that these aren't tasty for someone with a sweet tooth, but they weren't as suited to my personal taste as I thought they would be, based on a memory from half a lifetime ago.
That's not to say that those who love icing or have a really sweet tooth wouldn't enjoy these and at 99 pence for a 250 gram packet, or £1.50 for two packets, they're pretty decent value compared to a lot of sweets around. If you're more of a chocolate lover than a fan of sugary things, however, you may find that the icing is a little too powerful for your tastes.
Those with dietary allergies of almost any kind would be advised against trying these, as they could contain nuts, egg, milk and wheat products and the high sugar content would suggest that diabetics may need to exercise caution before trying them.
I suspect that when next Christmas comes around, I shall shelve my discontent for a while and try another packet. Sadly, the memories I get from seeing them on the shelves around this time every year are more palatable than the taste of the product itself, but for a couple of pounds a year, it's fun to revisit them every now and again.