Who knew gingerbread cookies would be so easy to make, but they are. They are even easier to eat, which is a problem in my household. Of course, few are stolen before the gilding of the lily…the royal icing is added. After that bit of sweet has adorned the top of the cookies, they do not last long.
Gingerbread can actually be any sort of baked good from cookies to bread to cake. The only consistency is the fact that it contains ginger. Other frequently included ingredients are cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, molasses, sugar (brown or white), corn syrup, and/or honey. As a great foil to the spicy sweetness, sometimes a minced piece of candied lemon peel will be added to the dough which makes a wonderful addition.
The origin of gingerbread has to start with ginger which originated in Asia. From there the trail goes cold, but many believe crusaders brought it to Europe from the Mediterranean in the 11th Century. Gingerbread, cut into shapes of animals or kings and queens, and tied with a ribbon were commonly sold at European markets. Some were even gilded.
In medieval times, a piece of gingerbread was given to a knight before a joust for good luck. Or cut into the shape of a man as good luck for a single lady to find her prince. Could this be the origin of the gingerbread man?
In America (George Washington even enjoyed gingerbread), I tend to think of a flat, dry cookie when I think of gingerbread. However, my husband lived in Germany for a few years when he was in the Army. He liked Lebkuchen which is a form of gingerbread, but a soft cakelike cookie with a sweet, thin icing on top. They are baked on a thin wafer, so thin that I originally didn’t notice it. He orders Lebkuchen from a German bakery each year for us to enjoy.
I often take cookies to a fundraiser for our local Court Appointed Special Advocates (Lake Country CASA) Cookie Walk. Last year, the executive director mentioned that there weren’t that many gingerbread cookies available at the fundraiser. I decided I would make some this year (sadly due to COVID, the Cookie Walk was cancelled) to augment the gingerbread offerings. I found a great recipe at Food.com. The cookies were perfect on the first try!
Once baked, the real fun starts with decorating the cookies. Have plenty of royal icing and edible decorations available, and let your family aid in the process. We had fun decorating the cookies from traditional to not-so-traditional cyclops and pirates (the latter’s eye-patch covered a split in the edge of the cookie head).
Of course, the smell of gingerbread got Archie in the holiday spirit. He wanted to wear his Christmas pajamas in anticipation!
And of course there were Archie inspired gingerbread cookies to enjoy (but none for Archie to eat)!