It’s Christmas time and Recipe Rewind is back!
Gingerbread men have been a festive tradition for over five hundred years, and at times such a closely guarded one, that in Renaissance Germany, Christmas was the only time that gingerbread could legally be made by those not registered as a specialised gingerbread baker.
But now, we’re all free to make and eat these yummy treats, which have a surprisingly regal history.
Ginger was bought back from Asia by crusaders in the 11th century and gingerbread quickly became a popular medieval treat, mostly at fairs and festivals. These were originally shaped like flowers, birds and even the armour of knights.
But it was here, in the late 1500s, where the man, the gingerbread man, was born. Well, sort of.
A hundred years earlier, Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick the Third, ran a political campaign of sorts to give gingerbread stamped in his image to all his subjects. So it was more of a gingerbread Frederick.
Queen Elizabeth the first regularly courted distinguished guests, and on this occasion, one of the chefs in her court decided to make gingerbread shaped like men to mimic the guests with. Isn’t that lovely?
Gingerbread actually become so popular because of it, Shakespeare referenced it in Love Labour’s Lost, writing ‘An I had but one penny in the world, thou shouldst have it to buy gingerbread.’
FURTHER READING –
More on the Gingerbread Man History
- Just over half a cup of pomegranate molasses
- 3/4 a cup of butter
- 3/4 a cup of dark brown sugar
- 4 and a half cups of white flour (tad more for rolling later)
- tsp of baking powder
- tsp of table salt
- tsp of baking soda
- 4 tsps of ginger
- 2 tsps of cinnamon
- One whole egg
- Dusting sugar (optional)
Pour just over half a cup of molasses into a pan, and let simmer.
Once hot, turn it off and let it cool, whilst you add and mix in 3/4 a cup of butter and 3/4 a cup of dark brown sugar. It should be a nice uniform gloop.
In a bowl, put four and a half cups of white flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, a teaspoon of table salt and a teaspoon of baking soda.
Don’t forget your four teaspoons of ginger, two teaspoons of cinnamon and then pour the molasses mix on top. Crack a whole egg to finish and beat and kneed until it’s a good dough.
Wrap in parchment paper and leave it in the fridge for an hour. Roll and cut out your desired shapes, placing them on a pan into a preheated oven at 180 degrees.
They should come out in 15 minutes nice and crunchy and sprinkle some sugar on top for the final touch.