Swiss Biber, or its pocket size Biberli, is a honey gingerbread filled with almond paste. Traditionally baked in hand carved wooden molds, bibers would transport precious pictures of a wedding, a village festival, a legendary figure, a crest or a local symbol.
While those delicious bibers would joyously be shared among family members in the past, a few molds have quietly survived just to be found by Claudio Leibacher at flea markets and antique stores centuries later.
Fascinated by their delicate carving techniques and historical significance, Claudio not only keeps collecting the biber molds, but also carves pear wood pieces for the organic biber bakery he runs with his brother Silvan.
How it All Started
Growing up, Claudio used to help his mother bake Zopf breads on weekends. When his passion for baking reached Biberland, his entire family was drafted to join his quest for the perfect Swiss biber! The goal: To craft a cake using only organic and local ingredients - without the use of any preservatives.
Three years of trials and tastings later (I wish I was there!), his mom finally fell in love with the brown Leibacher Biber with a "kiss of lemon".
Next, their father added that "why bake a biber with a St. Galler bear on it? We are in the canton of Zurich, after all." Claudio enjoyed using the original, aged molds. But nevertheless, he headed straight to Appenzell where bibers originated and knocked on the door of two remaining master wood carvers.
Artisan and Marketeer
Four months later, Claudio started carving in his former kid’s room. Only using the finest pear wood, he went on to create beautiful icons including the Zürich Lion, the Grossmünster church and the castle of Uster.
Thanks to his wood carving skills and passion for baking with organic ingredients, Claudio became a Swiss Biber Master par excellence.
When Claudio presented his edible art pieces in a grey cardboard box, however, Silvan started brainstorming not only on better packaging but also on cohesive branding: It was the beginning of Leibacher Biber-Manufaktur.
Start-up from a Swiss Basement
Silvan and Claudio converted their parents’ basement, where the brothers used to have a swing hanging from the ceiling, into a fully equipped bakery.
All the organic almonds, flour, spices and forest honey are properly stored in a typical Swiss nuclear shelter which had been a mandatory blueprint until recently. It is the most secure and temperature controlled vault for that perishable liquid gold!
Because it is the honey that makes a biber a biber: While each bakery has its own secret recipe, all of them require a blend of honey with spices for the dough, typically containing cinnamon, cloves, anise, nutmeg and some pepper.
New Age Biber Spin-offs
But Claudio's special biber filling with a lemony kick could not stop some vegan friends from begging for a honey free biber — a vegan biber!
Another lengthy (and yummy!) family quest later, Claudio nailed the magical proportion of organic potato starch and local grape schnaps — Wermatswiler Kleinjogg — which is produced in the same village literally around the corner of the Leibacher Biber-Manufaktur.
This local collaboration amazingly replaces the taste of forest honey and somehow brings out a stronger yet more traditional biber aroma.
Next to this new age biber, Claudio created yet another unconventional recipe: A white biber! While its filling is a rather traditional almond paste (without lemon), the shell of the white biber is like a crunchy macaroon!
A Newly Swissed Souvenir
The three varieties of bibers are only available locally, but we hope that your friends in Switzerland will someday bring you this alternative organic souvenir - wherever in the world you might be!
Then, you will be able to taste the history and refined taste of the Biber-Manufaktur's products - with a kiss of lemon!
Latest posts by Mamiko (see all)
- The sulfur springs of Lenkerhof made us younger – and hungrier! - March 28, 2017
- Uniquely Swiss Dining at Restaurant eCHo in Zürich - January 17, 2016
- Daniel Humm – How a Swiss Chef is Mesmerizing New York - July 29, 2014