The original word for gingerbread came from a Sanskrit word, singabera, meaning “root-shaped like a horn.” Ginger has been grown in India and southern China for countless centuries. The ancient Chinese used it as a medicine.
Gingerbread is an ancient treat. Egyptians were eating gingerbread when the great pyramid of Cheops was still young — but the first recipe came from Greece, where, in about 2400BC, a baker from the island of Rhodes created it. The unleavened, honey-sweetened cakes became famous.
Over the course of gingerbread’s history, its form varied from location to location. In some places, gingerbread was a soft cake, while in others, it was a crisp, flat cookie; still in other places, the treat came as warm, thick squares of “bread” sometimes served with a pitcher of lemon sauce or cream. Gingerbread was sometimes spicy. Almost always was cut into shapes — men, women, stars. or animals — and colorfully decorated or dusted with sugar.
When the Grimm brothers collected volumes of German fairy tales, they found on about Hansel and Gretel, two children who, abandoned in the woods by destitute parents, discovered a house made of gingerbread and candies. “nibble, nibble like a mouse,” cackled the witch. “Who’s that nibbling on my house?”
In medieval England, if a fair honored a town’s patron saint, the saint’s image might be stamped into the gingerbread. If the fair was on a special market day, the cakes would be decorated with icing to look like men, animals, valentine hearts or flowers. Sometimes the dough was simply cut into round “snaps.” (Gingersnaps)
One English tradition was that unmarried women had to eat gingerbread “husbands” at the fair if they wanted to meet a real husband.
In the 1700s and 1800s, autumn fairs in Germany sold gingerbread hearts, decorated with white and colored icing and tied with ribbons. In the city of Nuremberg, gingerbread was not baked in the home but was made exclusively by a guild of master bakers. Nuremberg became known as the “gingerbread capital” of the world, and many gingerbread craftsmen were attracted to the town. Sculptors, painters, woodcarvers, and goldsmiths all contributed to the most beautiful gingerbread cakes in Europe. They carved wooden molds and decorated the gingerbread with frosting or gold paint. Intricate hearts, angels, and wreaths were sold at fairs, carnivals, and markets.
Gingerbread came to North America from all parts of northern Europe with the settlers who brought with them the traditions of their families.
Americans have always celebrated Christmas with gingerbread. Gingerbread houses were particularly popular in the nineteenth century –elaborate Victorian houses, heavy with candies and sugar icicles.
1/2 cup softened butter 2 1/2 cups flour
2 Tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup molasses 1 teaspoon ginger
1 cup boiling water 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 9 X 9 inch pan. In a large bowl, mix thoroughly butter, sugar, and egg. Blend in molasses and water. In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Add to butter mixture. Blend thoroughly. Pour into pan. Bake 45 minutes. Cut into squares. Serve hot. (Top with the following glaze if desired.)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup powdered sugar
Mix lemon juice and powdered sugar. Add enough water to bring to the desired consistency.
CENTURY GINGER SNAPS
1 cup molasses 2/3 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup shortning 1 teaspoon ginger
Pinch of salt 1 to 2 cups flour
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a sauce pan over medium-hi heat, bring molasses to a boil. Add shortning, salt, baking soda and ginger. Allow to cool. Mix in enough flour to roll very thin, and bake 8 minutes.
OLD FASHIONED GINGERBREAD MEN
1 cup, brown sugar, packed 1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs 3 cups flour
1 1/4 cups molasses 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened 1 teaspoon ginger
1 tablespoon baking soda 1 teaspoon allspice
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Beat well. Stir in 3 cups of flour to make a stiff dough. Divide dough in half and wrap in plastic; refrigerate at least 3 hours (or up to a week). Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease baking sheets. Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes. Place on cookie sheet. bake for 12 minutes.
1 large orange and l large lemon with peel, cut into 8 pieces each
2 cinnamon sticks broken into small pieces
1/4 teaspoon allspice, and 1/4 teaspoon ginger
32 ounces all-natural apple juice
Place all ingredients in slow cooker. Heat on low until heated through–about l 1/2 hours. Serve warm.
EASY GINGERBREAD PANCAKES
1 Tablespoon cinnamon 1 Tablespoon ginger
4 cups buttermilk pancake mix 2 1/3 cups water mixed with 1/2 cup molasses
Stir spices into pancake mix, then add the molasses mixture just until moistened. Heat lightly oiled griddle or large nonstick skillet over med. heat. Pour pancakes on griddle and cook 4 to 5 minutes, turning once, until puffed and lightly browned. serve with chunky, cinn amon applesauce.
2 1/2 cups flour 1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 cup soft shortning
1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 3/4 cup molasses
1/4 teaspoon allspice 2/3 cup boiling water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9 X 9 inch pan. Sift together 3 times the following ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. In a separate bowl, cream together shortning and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add molasses and mix thoroughly. Add dry ingredients alternately with water. Beat about 20 strokes after each addition of flour and 30 stroke after each addition of water. Pour batter into pan. Bake 45 minutes.