Gingerbread brings to mind cold, snowy days spent in the kitchen. The spicy sweet aroma filling the house while little fingers made their way to the still-warm disks of happiness. Snuggling under a blanket with a cup of tea and a few of the gingery cookies and a good book. While this might be what you call to mind, today's gingerbread is not what it used to be.
In the eleventh century, it was introduced to Europe and the English made candy with the ginger. Centuries later, breadcrumbs were added (yes, breadcrumbs) and gingerbread was created. While the term “gingerbread” simply meant “preserved ginger” in Medieval England, in the fifteenth century the term transformed into meaning a treat made with molasses and flavored with ginger. The latter is what the vast majority of us are familiar with when referring to gingerbread.
Medieval gingerbread is more like a “candy” if it were to have another label. It is soft and chewy and does not resemble a “cookie” in any way that is familiar to me. Although it is much sweeter and more spicy than its current day cousin. I've made both the modern day gingerbread and medieval and I think they are both wonderful. I will admit though, that the medieval gingerbread is far easier to make. Also, you might notice that in the medieval recipes ginger was sometimes optional or even left out. While it may be odd to serve gingerbread without the ginger, it really is quite good.
This is the recipe I use for my medieval gingerbread and it has received rave reviews. One word of caution with this recipe: it calls for up to 1 Tbsp of ginger. I used this the first time I made it and it was spicy to be sure! If you aren't certain you're up to a super spicy treat, please start with less. Perhaps half the amount may be enough for less hearty palates. You may also note that saffron, sandalwood, or red food coloring is included as an option in the recipe. This was to color the gingerbread and not really meant to impart flavor. Please feel free to omit them.
If you would rather stick with the more current version of gingerbread (as a cookie), here's a recipe that is close to the one I use.
For more information on ginger or for other interesting medieval treats take a peek here.
Posted by Biscotti Girl at 3:20 PM