Why is gingerbread so closely connected to Christmas? It could well be that the warm, spicy flavours of ginger, honey, cloves, nutmeg and molasses make it the ideal comfort food for wintertime, but it may also have something to do with the fact that gingerbread is extremely versatile and can be given away as a gift, used to create a magnificent centrepiece, or simply be stored away for holiday munch fests.
Most people associate gingerbread with gingerbread men cookies; these cookies date to the court of Elizabeth I who would have them made in the likeness of her most important guests. Contemporary gingerbread men are usually decorated with raisins and icing and make excellent Christmas gifts for children, especially when wrapped in pretty patterned cellophane and topped with a bow.
Another Christmas gingerbread tradition is that of the gingerbread house. It is not a coincidence that these houses originated in Germany; they are inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale Hansel and Gretel (also of German origin). Modern day gingerbread houses are extremely elaborate in terms of size and detail, using royal icing and various different forms of hard and soft candy as decorations, and sometimes form the piéce de résistance of a holiday dessert table.
Gingerbread is also made in the form of a soft, moist spice cake or bread. This recipe often calls for treacle (commonly known as golden syrup) instead of molasses and may sometimes contain raisins, apples and even mustard and pepper. Another soft form of gingerbread is Lebkuchen, a traditional Christmas treat from Germany, usually garnished with icing sugar and almonds.
So why not try and bake a batch of gingerbread today? Not only will it make your home warm and aromatic, but you will also have a sweet treat to enjoy at the end of your labour!
– Marylou Andrew
First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on December 25, 2011.