Gingerbread was part of the holiday rituals long before Christmas. Back in ancient Egypt, there was a tradition of making honey cookies. Honey was the only available sweetener. It is also a natural preservative, which allows these cakes to stay fresh for a long time.
The tradition of making honey cookies came to Europe from two different directions. One came from Egypt through Greece and Rome, and the other was the result of the Crusades, or rather the returnees from those wars. Many new ingredients such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, black pepper, almonds and dried fruits were brought to the west at the time. These ingredients were very expensive and families could only afford them for the most important holidays. By the 16th century, Christmas cookies had become popular across Europe and families were making them in different sizes and shapes.
In Germany, these cookies are called Lebkuchen (gingerbread) and is believed to be the first cookie of this type in Europe traditionally associated with Christmas. The Swedes call them Pepparkakor (spicy ginger and black pepper treats), while in America, Gingerbread. All these cakes are bound for Christmas and although different, they are all fulfil with the rich taste of the spices.
Gingerbread came to Serbia in a form of Licider’s heart. The highlight of the licider craft was in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Many craftsmen have been involved it in their business, which requires a lot of skill, time and effort. Each copy of the Licider cookie is unique because each cookie is hand-decorated and never has two identical copies. In our area, the Licider’s heart is attached to the fairs and various types of street markets. Tradition of gingerbread making has developed in our country not that long ago, and decorating them has become a craft that many housewives do.
Gingerbread craft is popular in my family for almost a decade. The recipe was modified by my mom and adapted to the gluten-free variant and our tastes. Decorating has become a traditional gathering time for women part of the family, and the day when real small artworks are created.
The spice mix is best to make depending on your taste. We make it from nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and pepper. All ingredients need to be well ground, or purchased in powder form.
- 1 tsp of baking soda
- 250g of honey
- 1 egg
- 2 yolks
- 150ml of oil
- 200g of sugar
- 2 tbsp spices
- 200ml of milk
- 800g Schär Mix C - Mix Patisserie flour
- 2 egg whites
- 400g of powdered sugar
- a couple drops of lemon juice
- The method of making the dough is quite simple, but it is very important to follow the instructions. Mix all ingredients except flour. Gradually add the flour and mix again. When the mass is thick to mix with the spoon, try kneading it by hand. Add some more flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands, but be careful not to overdo with it, because the dough will become hard as time goes on. Sprinkle the work surface and roll out the dough to a thickness of 5mm. Gingerbread will grow during baking. Bake for about 15-20 minutes at 220 C or until brown. Each oven bakes at a different volume, so it is best to monitor the first round of gingerbread carefully and determine the exact baking time.
- When the biscuits cool down well, you can move on to the decorating part. The decorating mass is made from powdered sugar, egg whites and a few drops of lemon. All ingredients should be well mixed. Egg white dries and hardens quickly, which means your gingerbread will be ready to pack or serve very quickly.
- The flour should be added gradually so the dough does not tighten rapidly. It has to be quite soft but not sticky. It is also very important to spread the surface moderately, as the dough absorbs the flour quite quickly. If you are making large quantities of gingerbread and the dough start getting hard for working in the meantime, add some milk and soften it again.