The word Gingerbread is derived from Latin word “zingiber via “and French term “gingebras”. It literally translates to preserved ginger. This refers to the confection that is prepared using spices and honey. Gingerbread is generally used to translate the French term pain d'épices (literally "spice bread") or the German term Lebkuchen (whose literal meaning is unclear). Gingerbread refers to variety of desserts which are prepared using the ginger flavor and is sweetened by honey or treacle in place of the sugar. Gingerbread- not always refers to the soft cake but it can even be a cookie or gingerbread house. Nowadays many gingerbread recipes are prepared and enjoyed throughout the world.
History of Gingerbread Recipes
It is believed that the first gingerbread was introduced by the Catholic monks to observe special holidays and festivals. Some texts say that the gingerbread was introduced in Europe by the Armenian monk Gregory Makar in 992. He went to live in France and taught the art of gingerbread cooking to the French priests.
The gingerbread was introduced to Sweden by German immigrants in 13th century. Some references indicate that Swedish nuns at Vadstena monastery baked gingerbread in 1444 to ease indigestion. Until 15th century “gingerbread” only meant preserved ginger. And in 15th century the ginger was widely used in the preparation of cookies and cakes. Crusaders who came from Europe introduced the ginger preparations to Middle East. Various recipes or to say gingerbread was used as a preservative for meat. Gingerbread has not become a popular dish till 15th century rather it was prepared at the government –recognized guilds. Nuremberg was the location for the famous guild and there the lebkuchen with golden paint and icing was produced. Various gingerbread recipes were enjoyed throughout Germany and they were specially served during the state fairs. Hearts, human and animal figures were the popular shapes of the gingerbreads enjoyed in Germany. The first documented trade of gingerbread biscuits dates back to 16th century till then it was prepared in monasteries, government guilds and pharmacies. A century later gingerbread was popularly sold in the market Drayton in Shropshire UK. Gingerbread was first baked in the Shropshire in 1793. Gingerbread and gingerbread recipes became popular in 18th century. Gingerbread was first introduced in US by Swiss Catholic monks who established St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana in 1854. Since then baking gingerbread cookies and gingerbread houses became a popular Christmas tradition in US.
Common Ingredients Used in Ginger Bread Recipes
Ginger is the main ingredient in the bread but the sweetening agents vary from place to place. In America the bakers use molasses to sweeten the gingerbreads, in Germany the bakers use honey to sweeten their lebkuchens and in Britain bakers use syrup and brown sugar to sweeten them. In. Honey was traditionally used to sweeten the lebkuchens prepared in the guild area of Nuremberg. Other than ginger cinnamon, cloves, anise, nutmeg, and cardamom are the mostly commonly found spices in the gingerbread.
Varieties of Gingerbread Recipes and their Preparations
In US the gingerbread is bit harder than its British counterpart so it’s called gingerbread cake. In France the drier variation of gingerbread called pain d'épices is enjoyed. In Germany softer and harder gingerbreads are prepared and enjoyed during all special occasions. Germans love to cut their gingerbreads into human shapes and eat after dunking them in port wine. In England gingerbread is usually prepared as a cake. Various spices are added to the cake batter while preparing the cake. It is mostly baked in square or loaf shape. If it’s prepared as a dessert then it is enjoyed with lemon sauce. In North of England gingerbread is prepared from oatmeal and is called parkin. And in UK the gingerbread is served during the Christmas. In Scandinavia the ginger biscuits are enjoyed. These biscuits are variously known as pepparkakor in Swedish, brunkager in Danish and pepperkaker in Norwegian. Gingerbreads are also enjoyed in Russia and Poland. In Croatia heart shaped gingerbreads are prepared and served as the ornamental gifts.
- Boscobel Beach Ginger Cake: This is a traditional Jamaican gingerbread recipe which makes use of fresh ginger. This is normally served during the prayer breakfasts.
- Gingerbread Men: The gingerbread is cut into the shapes of human beings and decorated with icings.
- Gingerbread House: Gingerbread house is the most popular amongst all gingerbread recipes. The gingerbread cakes are modeled on houses and mostly candies and icing are used to decorate the house.
- Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies: These cookies are normally served as snacks and are prepared using the chocolates, molasses and chocolate.
- Pumpkin Gingerbread: This is fragrant bread which is prepared using the pumpkin puree and ginger. This special bread is served during all special occasions.
Health and Nutrition Factor related to Gingerbread Recipes
Gingerbread is rich in proteins, and also supplies vitamin A in fugal amounts. It is rich source of iron and calcium too. The gingerbread is also rich in cholesterol, sodium, fats and carbs. So it is recommended that gingerbread should only be eaten in limited amounts.
- The lebkuchen produced at the Nuremberg guild served as currency and was used to pay the state taxes too.
- The German “hexenhaeusle” or witch's house was inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairy tale. "Lebkuchenhaeusle,"- the gingerbread house, was first prepared using lebkuchen and decorated with icing, candies and confections.