Gingerbread is a cookie that is made of sugar syrup, flour and spices. It is a traditional Christmastime pastry that is most popular in Germany, England, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia and Latvia. Although it is called Gingerbread in English it is named “Piparkook” in Estonian which word by word means pepper cake. Yes, Estonian gingerbread really has pepper in it, no joke! While gingerbreads and gingerbread dough are widely sold in supermarkets, Estonians still enjoy making them at home too. Dough is rolled thinly on flour and then pieces are cut out of it with special forms. Traditionally gingerbread forms are shaped as Christmas trees, stars, crescents or hearts. Gingerbreads are baked in oven for about 5 to 7 minutes and then put aside to cool down. After that gingerbreads are decorated with sugar icing which is usually bought from store. Making gingerbreads is usually a family activity.
250 grams sugar syrup (preferably dark)
160 grams sugar
1 package (or 30grams) gingerbread spice, you can add 0,5 teaspoon of black pepper
5 tablespoons lemon or orange juice
250 grams butter (chopped to small pieces)
650 grams flour
2 teaspoons soda
Heat syrup and sugar in a pot until it almost starts to simmer. Then remove pot from the heat and add chopped butter. Mix and let it cool. Add eggs and mix again carefully. Mix soda with flour and add it to the dough. Knead the dough thoroughly and pack it into food wrap. Let it sit in refrigerator for a day. Roll the dough as previously mentioned and cut out the cookies with gingerbread forms. Preheat the oven to 180℃ or 356℉ and bake them 5 to 7 minutes.
History of gingerbreads quoted and translated from – piparkoogimaania.ee.
„Tradition of making gingerbreads is much older than commonly believed. Origin of gingerbread is associated with Germany and Christmas, but first gingerbread is actually known to come from Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. They reached to Europe through crusaders and spice importers in 11th century. Gingerbreads were first cut to different shapes in the middle of 15th century.
… It was believed that gingerbreads have healing, magical and lucky characteristics. They’re peak of popularity was in 16th to 18th century. Gingerbreads were not only enjoyed in Christmastime but year around during many Holidays.
… The ingredients of gingerbreads were flour, honey and spices in the Medieval Times. Only wealthiest burghers could afford gingerbreads as sweets until the 18th century. Honey in the dough was replaced to less expensive sugar syrup, in the beginning of 19th century. That change made gingerbread available to everyone. The spices that were used for gingerbread were – cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, coriander, clove, ginger, black pepper, anise, orange or lemon peel and chopped nuts. Gingerbread recipes were kept carefully secret and recipes were passed down from generation to generation.“