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I've been taking a crack at a few variations of the Elven Lembas bread recipe from Lord of the Rings, because I'm a nerd and like to make random things. A common recipe I see linked in various blogs is this: http://www.geekychef.com/2008/12/elven-lembas-bread.html

I've modified the recipe a little bit (ie: swapped out macadamia nuts for almonds, and I ground up about 50 raisins and added them in too. Also, I used coconut oil in place of melted butter, and added a banana instead of the kumquats). So, the final recipe would be:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. honey
  • 1 banana
  • 3 oz. chopped almonds
  • ¼ c. melted coconut oil
  • 2 ¼ c. whole wheat flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ c. chopped raisins

I don't have access to a pizelle iron or a krumcake iron, so I tried baking these in the over. I ended up having to use more like 3½ cups of flour instead of the 2¼ the recipe calls for, just so it didn't have the consistency of runny semi-cooked eggs. The taste is good, but even after baking at 350 degrees (F) for 20 minutes, it comes out as a semi-soft, heavy lump and tasty doughy/undercooked inside. It also gives me some cramps, so I'm attributing that (hopefully correctly) to it being undercooked.

In the movie, these treats looked very solid in shape, kind of like a lemon bar (very flat top and bottom and clear-cut edges), and they looked flaky and crispy when eaten, kind of like a really thick cracker.

Are there any suggestions on preparation or the recipe in general that would allow me to have these more thoroughly cooked AND have a crispy texture rather than a heavy doughy one? I'm currently making them 4"x4"½x" in size each.

EDIT


I've since revisited the recipe, and now have something closer to what I wanted. It's not dry like a cracker or thick cookie, but it tastes good, texture is palatable, and after calculating the nutrition profile by hand (fat, vitamin, fibre, protein, etc), I'm quite please with the result. The modified ingredient list is now:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 banana
  • 1 puréed mandarin orange (thoroughly washed, seedless, entire orange plus skin and pith included)
  • 1 cup chopped almonds (ground to small pieces, almost a flour)
  • ¼ c. melted coconut oil
  • 1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups corn meal
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ c. chopped raisins
  • 2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast in ½ cup of warm water, let to dissolve for five minutes

The whole thing basically gets a trip in the food processor, except the flour, which is added after in a separate bowl. I bought some small 3" x 6" individual cake pans. I scoop a ½" thick layer into a pre-buttered/greased pan, and let it cook for about 20-25 minutes at 350 deg. F. The texture is roughly like that of a very heavy banana bread, and tastes good, just off sweet. The only thing I might modify is the amount of coconut oil.

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Hello Dogbert, making food "healthy" is offtopic on our site, mostly because it ends up in flamewars between people with different understanding of "healthy". So I removed this part of the question. We have had some discussion on the existence of the nutrition tag, because it is confusing to new users, so if you want to give us the point of view of one who has experienced the negative side of it, you can do so here: meta.cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/1854/…. –  rumtscho Jan 21 at 20:31
    
@rumtscho Thank you. TIL something. –  Dogbert Jan 21 at 20:48
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Just to add, by getting rid of kumquats you're changing pH a lot. I'd also suggest using oat flour instead of pure whole wheat, unless you want it to be a brick. And to be more realistic towards the setting, I'd use lard over coconut oil (relax, it's not as bad for you as people think, and is significantly healthier than butter). It also tastes a hell of a lot better. –  Matthew Jan 30 at 4:03

2 Answers 2

I don't remember what the Lembas are supposed to be like in the original text, but whatever Tolkien intended them to be, the recipe is not for a bread-like item in the sense modern US Americans understand it. It is more comparable to waffles.

This is why it got wrong when you tried to treat it like bread. It is a batter, not a dough. The slow indirect heat of an oven is wrong for it, and it is not supposed to be able to hold its shape as a loaf. If you don't have a pizzelle iron, use a waffle iron for making them. If you don't have a waffle iron either, use a griddle or a hot pan and form and bake the lembas like pancakes, turning them during the process to get both sides baked.

Although I am saying "pancake" here, it refers to the cooking process, not to the final texture. If the chef who made the recipe knew what he was doing, the result can be crispy and flaky, similar to a dried tortilla. It will indeed be calorie-dense and durable, just like the fictional lemba.

As I don't think Tolkien gives anything closely usable as a culinary recipe, I guess that the chef just baked anything with these two qualities and called it "lemba". You can probably take any other kind of durable bread and use it as your recipe if you don't like this one. Knaeckebrod is probably a good starting point, considering that it has similar properties, and it is probably appropriate, seeing how much Tolkien was influenced by Nordic mythology.

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Oh I agree that no useable recipe was provided. We just have hints (ie: contained honey), and in the movie, we see it is crunchy like a cookie/cracker, but thicker. I also thought that waybread, in general, in fantasy novels and movies generally keeps someone full a long time. So, this motivated the inclusion of extra protein, fat, sugar, and fiber. –  Dogbert Jan 21 at 23:41
    
Using this batter on a waffle iron may do very well, but I suspect (but don't know for certain...) that preparing them like English Muffins maybe better. There is a geometry to waffles that may not suit this batter well, the surface area to volume ratio may leave this batter too dry. –  Cos Callis Jan 22 at 14:21

Tolkien, among a very many other things, was a student of Native American culture. Here in Rhode Island, the Narragansetts would make a variety of cornmeal that they could pack with them on their trip from the coastal camps in summer to those further up the bay come autumn, and make cakes from it on a hot stone at a campfire. These were called journey cakes, a name which should be identifiable to any Tolkien fan. (Tho Tolkien missed that it was the cornmeal, and not the cakes themselves, that traveled so well.)

Here in Rhode Island, they're still on the menu as Johnny Cakes - think about the New England accent a moment - and they come in thick and soft and thin and crispy varieties (the thin and crispy kind are Newport Style johnny cakes, which is a good point of departure for future research.)

Here is a page on Johnny Cakes by a manufacturer of cornmeal that describes them, a bit of their history, and offers some example recipes of the various styles popular with its customers.

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Do you have a source for the Native American assertion? I've never heard of such a thing... –  ElendilTheTall Jan 30 at 20:47
    
@ElendilTheTall - In his own words, (well, mostly, he used a rather unflattering term which I have replaced with the modern substitute) "...[Native Americans] were better: there were bows and arrows (I had and have a wholly unsatisfied desire to shoot well with a bow), and strange languages, and glimpses of an archaic mode of life, and, above all, forests in such stories..." - goodreads.com/quotes/… –  RI Swamp Yankee Jan 30 at 21:30
    
That sounds more like a reminiscence of childhood games of cowboys and Indians than being a 'student'. I would have thought his Catholicism would be a far greater influence: the life giving wafer and all that. Another name for the Eucharistic wafer is_viaticum_ meaning 'for the way'. Lembas is also referred to as way bread. Etc etc. –  ElendilTheTall Jan 30 at 21:37

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