Yule is approaching, so I thought that I’d share some stuff about gingerbread for you fantasy writers that include culinary stuff in your works.
Ginger originally came from Indonesia and Malaysia. It appeared in Greek recipes dating back to 2000 BCE. Gingerbread first appeared around the 11th century CE. Actually, gingerbread was the term used to describe preserved ginger in the Middle Ages. The name is derived from the Old French gingebras, which in turn came from the Latin name for ginger: Zingebar. By the 15th century, the term gingerbread was used to describe the cookies and cakes that we now describe with that term. In Germany it is known as Lebkuchen. Gingerbread was originally a sweet bread made with sugar and spices and then baked again. More modern recipes include treacle or molasses and butter.
Gingerbread has been associated to Yule for centuries. Modern gingerbread is the direct descendant of the flat, hard (and often gilded) gingerbread usually made for fairs and festivals in ancient times. Nowadays it often takes the form of Gingerbread Men (or Gingerbread Husbands, as they are called in some places). Within Britain there were regional variations, such as Lincoln ginger biscuits, Cornish Fairings and Devonshire Widecombe Fair Gingerbread. For the Lughnasad Sabbat I often make gingerbread men, decorated as the Green Man to represent John Barleycorn, the life of the fields. Our recipe for ginger snaps is derived from old Cornish Fairings recipes. Cornish fairings are an old variety of gingerbread which was sold at fairs and markets. The recipe for this gingerbread is as follows:
2 cups (8 oz) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoons allspice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cardamom
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (4 oz) butter or shortening
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup (8 tablespoons) golden syrup or treacle
1 large egg
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a bowl. Rub butter into the flour mixture. Stir in the sugar. Warm the treacle/golden syrup and pour the liquid syrup into the flour mixture. Work this in to the mixture well to form a soft dough. Dust your hands with flour and roll the dough out on a floured surface to ¼ inch thickness and cut into shapes. Place on a greased baking tin or a baking tin lined with parchment paper. Alternatively: Shape dough into balls about the size of a walnut, place on a greased baking tin or a baking tin lined with parchment paper. Press the balls flat with your hand or a fork. Bake until it appears firm and dry, about 9 minutes.
NOTE: If you want to make ginger snaps rather than gingerbread, add more sugar (1 ¾ cups (11 oz)) and omit the egg. This makes about 36 – 48 snaps, depending on which size you make them.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.