We love ginger. It adds a flavourful, slightly spicy kick to any dish. It can be used in both savoury dishes and sweet dishes, such as dark chocolate and ginger eclairs (perfect Christmas finger food, anyone?). If that wasn’t enough, it’s also got a string of health benefits, including anti-inflammatory effects, aiding digestion and boosting the immune system which sounds pretty useful over Winter! Luckily for us, ginger and more specifically gingerbread is pretty much synonymous with Christmas.
Gingerbread is over a thousand years old and is massively popular in Europe. Though it’s known all over the world, it seems to differ in every country. Gingerbread and Christmas go hand in hand; here in the UK we’ve been making gingerbread men in the form of a biscuit since way back in the 16th century. They’re great for giving away as presents or hanging on trees.
Germany makes a both a crisp and slightly softer biscuit called Lebkuchen. They can be flavoured with other spices and nuts They can also made into larger biscuits that are shaped like hearts or often horses, then hung and decorated just like gingerbread men, with intricate patterns and piped messages. Look out for them at the German markets during the festive season!
Whilst on the subject of the harder, crisp biscuit, there’s no way that we can talk gingerbread and leave out gingerbread houses! These became popular, particularly in Nordic countries, after the Brothers Grimm published Hansel and Gretel. The panels are glued together using caramel or icing, and are often spectacular works of art. They involve hours of work, precise measurements and copious amounts of sweets, candy other treats for decoration.
In the USA, gingerbread is more of a cake. It’s similar, but not quite the same as Parkin over in the UK. It’s all about the sweet addition, whether it’s treacle, golden syrup or molasses. It’s what will dictate the colour plus the deep, caramel flavour that carries the ginger.
There are so many more forms of gingerbread; from crumbly Dutch Ontbijtkoek, eaten with butter to Swiss Biber, which is filled with marzipan. Whatever form you enjoy ginger at Christmas, make sure you make plenty extra for your loved ones. They’ll thank you for it!