The Gingerbread Man

There’s more to a Lebzelter than just honey dough specialties.
by Jackie Guigui-Stolberg
Photographs Courtesy Hans Hipp

With a tired groan and a final cough that smelled ominously of burnt plastic, my faithful food-processor gave up the ghost. It surrendered, choked by a leaden lump of honey-sodden dough. That was the first and last time I tried to make gingerbread.

Great, then, was my respect when I travelled to Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm in central Bavaria and met Hans Hipp junior: a pastry chef, confectioner, family-historian, museum curator, and author who has devoted much of his life to the art of making Lebkuchen (gingerbread) and honoring the work of people who made it in the past. His grandfather and father were highly skilled Lebzelter, the name for the now defunct official profession of a gingerbread-baker.

Hans Hipp followed in the family tradition after training as a Konditor. His son Dominik has taken over Café Hipp in Pfaffenhofen and still bakes gingerbread there in the old Lebzelterhaus at Hauptplatz 6, where documents prove that successive families of gingerbread bakers have been baking gingerbread continuously since at least 1610. Hans Hipp’s grandfather, Joseph Hipp, took over the Lebzelterei in 1897.

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