Note: Okay, this isn't exactly directly related to OD&D, but we all know that there is a relationship between OD&D and Middle Earth, and this makes for a good holiday treat, or a nice, filling and fairly healthy snack at the gaming table.
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 (or at least they "remain sweet for many days" and are reminiscent of, and better than, "the honey-cakes baked by the beornings.")
- 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.
- They contain the "fruit of the Mallorn Tree" - a fictional plant from Middle Earth, but the "fruit" is described as a nut with a silver shale.
In addition, Lembas should contain some kind of finely ground light-colored nut for protein (recall that the "fruit of the Mallorn tree" is actually a nut with a silver shale). I use walnuts, but peanuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, or even chestnuts would work well, too. Some have described the Mallorn fruit as being similar to acorns, though due to the dangers of consuming improperly prepared acorns, this isn't recommended for us mortals.
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. Using pastry flour for the wheat portion also makes for a lighter cake.
A final note: the addition of vanilla and cinnamon to my recipe was originally done to help offset the somewhat floury flavor of the final cake, and it worked out brilliantly. However, as an added bonus, there are in fact health benefits to both vanilla and cinnamon, so they fit in well with the overall recipe! It is, however, unfortunate that cinnamon and vanilla are both tropical plants, so their inclusion does remove the recipe somewhat from the realm of probable accuracy. I'd be interested in hearing any suggestions for replacing these two spices with some that are indigenous to Europe in the U.K. region, which would work well with a sweeter bread such as this.
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.
UPDATE 3/17/2016: I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in September. It's been a hard road but I'm learning to manage it, and that includes discovering substitutes for higher carb foods. In this recipe, I have added substitutions into the ingredients below to make the cakes more diabetic-friendly.
About the New Ingredients: Replacing the whole wheat and white flour with almond meal/flour not only greatly reduces the carbs in the bar, but should have the added effect of making the cinnamon and vanilla entirely unnecessary as the cakes will have a "nut" flavor rather than a floury one.
Replacing the brown sugar with Splenda or Stevia is a must, in this case, as is replacing the honey with sugar-free honey-flavored syrup (which is essentially a flavored maltitol syrup. This means that some diabetics who are sensitive to sugar alcohols may still have issues with it). Finally, if using almond flour, it might behoove the baker to also omit the 1/4 cup of nuts, as they might be redundant and create an overpowering flavor. In the end, I'm back to experimentation.
- 1 3/4 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 3/4 cups of white flour
- (alternate for Diabetes-friendly: 2.5 cups almond meal/flour in place of wheat and white flour)
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 Tablespoons cold butter
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- (alternate for Diabetes-Friendly: 1/3 cup Splenda or Stevia + 1 tbsp molasses)
- 2 Tablespoons cinnamon (optional)*
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla (optional)*
- 1/3 cup honey
- (alternate for Diabetes-Friendly: 1/3 cup sugar-free honey-flavored syrup)
- 3/4 cup milk
- 1/2 fresh, peeled, finely-chopped apple
- 1/4 cup nuts (walnuts, pistachios, peanuts)
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, cinnamon, vanilla (optional), honey, apple, and nuts, and mix.
5. Add milk. 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 an ungreased cookie sheet (optionally lined with parchment). Criss-cross each square from corner to corner with a knife.
8. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until set and lightly golden. Makes 20 to 25 cakes.
* Foregoing cinnamon and vanilla may result in a floury taste to the final cake. If using almond flour instead of white/wheat, cinnamon and vanilla are entirely unnecessary.