Here it is: the most authentic and delicious recipe I could come up with for the fabled waybread of the Elves in The Lord of the Rings.
I was clued in to this recipe by a curious anomaly in the
Etymologies of The Lost Road: ferna, the Quenya word
beechnuts. This struck me as a pretty low-probability
word for Tolkien to have created, so I naturally began to
speculate as to the possible significance of the beechnut in
In LotR, lembas is described as being crisp, wafer-like, and unexpectedly delicious. I imagine something akin to macarons, which are made from almond flour. I wondered—could the Etymologies' reference to beechnuts point to a lembas recipe that included tree nuts? Beechnuts might well be a staple of a forest-dwelling people, and lembas could plausibly be made of beechnuts, eggs, honey, and little else.
However, given the rarity of beechnuts in American grocery stores, I've had to stick to almonds for this recipe. The result is a delicious cookie-like confection, crispy on the outside and light and crumbly on the inside.
I ground my own grains and nuts for this recipe. While you may be able to find almond flour in the store, the texture you get by grinding your own is somewhat coarser, with a wider range of grain sizes. This coarseness results in a crumblier, crispier lembas. Also, almond flour tends to be damned expensive, at least where I live.
- a food processor (I use a Cuisinart).
- a coffee grinder with a blade, or a flour mill (for grinding the oats).
- an electric mixer or egg beater
- parchment paper
- 1 cup raw almonds (145 g)
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Blanch the almonds by dropping them into boiling water for 60 seconds. When time's up, drain them immediately and run cold water over them. If the almonds boil too long they'll start to soften. Squeeze the skins off and let the almonds dry completely before proceeding. You can speed up the drying by putting them in the oven at 120°F.
- Grind the oats into flour. I use a coffee grinder for this.
- Grind the almonds into coarse meal in a food processor. Blend in the oat flour.
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a mixer on high for 5 minutes or more, until enough air is incorporated that they form a thick foam. This is what makes the lembas light and crumbly.
- Beat the sugar into the eggs.
- Using a spoon or spatula, fold the flour mixture into the eggs, about half a cup at a time, taking care not to let out too much air.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Bake big spoonfuls of the batter, a quarter cup or so each, on parchment paper for 15 minutes or until browned around the edges. Leave a couple inches between them since they'll flatten out and expand as they bake.
Yields 10 lembas cakes.
The idea for the egg leavening came from this video:
This should give you an idea of what the batter should look like.