The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hobbit Alert! Need Lembas Bread ideas

Windischgirl's picture

Hobbit Alert! Need Lembas Bread ideas

My 15 yo daughter has been very taken with the recent "The Hobbit" movie.  She's also always on the run with afterschool activities, always looking for "grab and go" foods while trying to maintain a vegetarian diet.  So last night she turns to me and says,

"I know what I need: Lembas Bread.  'One small bite is enough to fill a grown man.'"

So she gives me the backstory--it's a creation of Tolkien's, and he outlines critera for this bread, made by the Elves:

  • They contain honey
  • they are cream-colored on the inside with a light brown outer crust
  • they are thin and regular-shaped (most images show a 2 to 3 in. square scored with an X).
  • 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.
  • they have good keeping qualities, as they are intended to use on journeys.  A palatable version of hardtack!

I know my kid is not the only Tolkien geek out there, but nearly all of the recipes out there use white flour...and as all you Artisan Bakers know, if you want a hearty and healthy bread with "stick to the ribs" quality, it should have whole grains.

I'm imagining a cracker-type biscuit--looking like a square water cracker.  I'd like to include ground almonds (there's your Mallorn fruit!) and possibly barley flour (barley being a staple in Middle Earth) in addition to white flours.  Honey as the sweetener.  And the ability to roll-and-cut the dough (some folks bake theirs in a pizzelle maker, which I have...they are just too fragile and will crumble).

So before you go out there and surf the web for me (did that)...I'd really like a hearty cracker recipe with some of the above-mentioned ingredients in it. 

Thoughts?  Suggestions?  And thanks in advance.


jannrn's picture

What a GREAT idea! I would also include some Quinoa (keen wa) as it is VERY high in protien and is the only grain that has all the amino acids our bodies need. It also will give it a nutty flavor. Amaranth is also a good one for the protien and nutty flavor. Please let us know how it goes! You may end up with an incredible original recipe! Oh, and maybe some sesame seeds!! What a awesome Mom!!

Janet's picture

I love it! I am hoping you will share the recipe with us when you have come up with the final version :o) I would love to share the crackers with some Hobbit loving kids I know.

Thanks for sharing the idea!

Windischgirl's picture

to include Quinoa and/or Amaranth; I just happen to have both at home and my daughter really likes quinoa.  We haven't tried the amaranth yet; what sort of flavor does it have?  I think either would also add to the crunch.

Daughter was wondering about flax seed (soaked, of course...or I could use ground).  A good food but will affect the color of the final dough.  Altho Tolkein would never know...

jannrn's picture

Amaranth also adds a really nutty would be PERFECT for Crackers! As for the flax, I toast them in a cast iron skillet with my sesame and quinoa well as pumpkin, chia and sunflower...but I put that mixture in a loaf of bread. Still the flavors are amazing!! It is certainly worth a try!

mini_maggie's picture

Sounds kind of like a lavosh - Armenian crisp bread.

My recipe is modified from 30o Best Canadian Bread Machine Recipes by Donna Washburn & Heather Butt:

1 1/4 cup water + 1/4 cup skim milk powder - can sub all milk or almond milk

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp honey

2 tbsp olive oil

~3.5 cups flour - I have used combos of white, whole wheat, spelt and even quinoa and almond flour when making this for a gluten intolerant friend

1 1/4 tsp instant yeast - less for fewer bubbles and more dense lavosh

1 cup sesame seeds - or chia, even quinoa, or whatever seeds you want

I use the dough cycle on my bread machine, with everything but the sesame seeds in there.   When it's finished, remove to floured surface and let rest 10 min or until dough is relaxed enough to roll.  Depending on how even you want the lavosh, you can either divide into 4 portions and then break them up after they're cooked, or divide into smaller portions to make individual lavosh. Spread an appropriate amount of the sesame seeds on your rolling surface depending on how many portions you've used, and roll the dough out as thinly as possible, working the seeds into the dough as you go.  Repeat for remaining portions.

Bake on preheated stone at 375F/190C for ~ 15 mins, more or less depending on your oven, until golden.  Cool before breaking into pieces if you've made larger portions. 

I have made this with many variations - added a tbsp of tahini paste, almond butter (not at the same time, lol), used washed quinoa instead of sesame seeds (ends up like puffed quinoa), brushed with peanut milk before baking (this is available in the imported foods section of our grocery store and is a tetrapak with milk, peanut butter and honey mixture in drinkable form - super yummy!).   I've found it to be very forgiving as long as you use common sense and adjust dough consistency accordingly.  You can make them thinner or thicker depending on how crisp or hearty you want them.  Great for grab and go if you make them substantial enough!

I have seen savory versions with herbs and parmesan instead, but not tried those... like here  Not as Middle Earth, maybe ; -)

tsjohnson85's picture

When reading your question I suddenly had a flashback to High School and another internet forum I used to *ahem* frequent.  

This recipe is from the Tolkien fan site, Barrow Downs: 

3 eggs 
1 cup honey (preferably wild honey) 
1 tablespoon grated orange peel or three kumquats or one large finger of a hand of Buddha. 
2 teaspoons orange flower water (optional) 
3 oz blanched almonds 
1/4 cup melted butter 
2-1/4 cups semolina flour 
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place eggs, honey, orange peel or other fruit, orange flower water, and almonds in blender. Blend on high for 3 minutes. Add 1 cup of the flour. Blend for 1 minute. Scrape into a bowl and add remaining flour and salt. Whisk or stir until well blended. Bake lembas on a pizzelle or krumkake iron 15 seconds each or until lightly brown. You may substitute a waffle iron but add a teaspoon of baking powder. (The texture will not be quite accurate in a waffle iron.) 

The author of this recipe (who goes by the handle "The Evenstar") suggests combining the ingredients in a blender, though I think a food processor could work, too.  Semolina would certainly give a more golden color to the llembas, but I would be more prone to use something like barley flour, as you suggested.   

Windischgirl's picture

Mini Maggie and TS, these both sound great.

Lavosh--I had never thought of that, but it makes sense--it too is a bread baked by nomads who need a portable food.  Good to learn that you have tried all kinds of substitutions and the bread works.  I like having a template recipe which gives proportions and then I go ahead and play with the ingredients.

I did see the recipe with Semolina, which sounded good, although I'm not sure I'd be able to find a "Hand of Buddha" in my neighborhood.  I can hardly find kumquats!  I've also become a little greedy with my semolina right now, saving it for semolina bread as I haven't been over to the Italian market in my area in a few months (I go when I'm totally out of pasta and have a craving for fresh ricotta and olives :-).  But maybe I should just buck up and give it a try.

There is another recipe on a D&D RPG site, posted by a fellow called The Grey Elf, which has WW pastry flour, minced apple, and sweet spices among its ingredients.  So now I have 3 options to try.

Meanwhile, daughter is working on her Hobbit Cape...

Windischgirl's picture

a few thoughts that came to me this morning.

I was wondering about a "wholemeal biscuit" type of cracker--I've had them in the UK and they are lovely as they are and amazing dipped in chocolate (sigh).

I was also thinking about a variety of Lebkuchen, the traditional German honey biscuit.  They are intended to keep forever, and I'm not sure about the origin of the name, but I've thought about it as "leben kuchen": "cake of life" suggesting one could survive on them.  Some of those recipes have ground almonds, and of course they all have honey.  Wonder if I could pump up the nutrition of lebkuchen with WW or other flours and some seeds.  Hmmm.

tsjohnson85's picture

Your comment about leben kuchen struck another chord.  One, it sounds pretty close to lembas.  Two, knowing that Tolkien often wanted a through the looking glass type similarity between his words and concepts and actual Indo-European ones, it got me thinking that maybe leben kuchen was what he was thinking of when he coined the term.  Three, according to The Peoples of Middle Earth (ed. Christopher and JRR Tolkien), in Sindarin lembas means journey bread (lenn-mbass),  BUT in Quenya, the word for the bread is coimas, which literally means life bread!  Whether intentional or not, it's a pretty cool coincidence.

Windischgirl's picture

Hunting around on the internet this morning, with the thought of "barley flour" stuck in my head, I ended up on a recipe aggregator site.  Up popped a recipe for Estonian Barley Skillet Bread...not quite the cracker I had in mind, but worth a try since it was a batter bread that could be mixed rather quickly.  Some tweaks (after a batch in which I completely forgot to add the egg and realized the leavening was insufficient for the amount of flour) and we have a candidate.

In order to meet the "Mallorn fruit" requirement, I added almonds, nutmeg, and olive oil--all have nuts and some silvery gloss to them!

Lembas Bread, Take #1

1 1/4 c. barley flour

1/4 c. almond meal

1/2 c. AP flour

1/3 c. WW flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

pinch salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

1 c. buttermilk (I used 1 tsp lemon juice in 1 c. milk)

2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

3 Tbs. light-colored honey

1 egg

1) Butter a 1/4 sheet pan (10 x 15).  Preheat oven to 350F.

2) In a bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flours, leavening, salt and spices).  In a measuring cup, combine the milk, oil, and honey.  Microwave 30-45 sec. to warm the ingredients and melt the honey.  Whisk together until blended.  Whisk in the egg.

3)Working quickly, pour the liquids into the dry ingredients and blend until just moistened.  It will be lumpy.  Pour into the prepared pan and spread into a relatively even layer.  Bake 15-20 min until lightly browned and set (you can test it with a toothpick for doneness).  Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 15-20 min.  Cut into squares and serve with butter and additional honey.

My Hobbit child smiled when she had a taste.  "I don't know if one bite would feed a man for a day.  But it is filling!"

Stay tuned: next week, Take #2--a different recipe.

rff000's picture

I recently made pizzelle to take to a party. I used one of the standard Italian recipes (white flour, butter/olive oil, sugar, eggs). Since one of my hobbies is Russian bread and cuisine, I just got the idea of substituting a  few ingredients to make Russian pizzelle. E.g. dark, buckwheat honey instead of sugar; rye or rye/wheat flour combination instead of plain white flour, and unrefined sunflower seed oil instead of olive oil or butter.

I haven't tried this yet but it may be interesting. You'd have to figure out how much honey to use as a sugar substitute, but those ratios are all around. The main ingredient that wouldn't change at all would be eggs.