09 October 2011

German gingerbread, part one

Yes, gingerbread. Yes, I know Christmas is still almost 3 months away. And yes, there's a reason why the gingerbread making is going on now. Read on and you'll see.

Can you think of a better way to spend a cold, dark and rainy Saturday afternoon than standing in the kitchen and fighting with an unmanageable mass of sticky dough while the air around you smells like Christmas? No? Neither can I. So that's what I did on Saturday: I made Gingerbread dough.
This is a recipe I was given to by a friend who, in her turn, got it from the German recipe database Chefkoch. My friend swears by it and since I now have a pantry aka a place where I can let the dough rest for 2 (yes, two) months, I finally caved in and decided to try it out. Apparently, it is a very old recipe, handed down for generations and as, in my humble opinion, old biscuit recipes almost always beat fancy new ones by a mile, I'm expecting this to be a revelation. At least. The pressure's on.

So here goes the recipe (no picture because the dough is currently wrapped in a very unsightly plastic bag and packed away in the pantry. It's not very fotogenic, anyway. Just imagine a shiny brown ball.)


250 g/9 oz runny honey
250 g/1.25 cups cane sugar
100 g/(little less than) 1/2 cup butter
1 sachet of gingerbread spices (you can substitute 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp cardamon, 1/2 tsp cloves, 1/2 tsp ginger, a generous pinch of coriander and an equally generous pinch of allspice)
zest of 1 lemon
500 g/4 cups flour
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 eggs
12 g (about 1 heaped teaspoon) salt of tartar (not to be confused with cream of tartar! Salt of tartar is also known as potash or potassium carbonate. You should be able to get it at the chemist's or a well-assorted supermarket)
1.25-1.5 Tbsp cherry brandy

- Combine sugar and honey in a pot and heat it up on the stove. Add the butter, spices and lemon zest while stirring. Take it off the stove and let it cool for a couple of minutes.
- In a large bowl, mix the flour and the cocoa powder. Slowly add the honey-sugar-butter-mix and combine it all thoroughly.
- Whisk the eggs, then add them to the dough.
- Add the salt of tartar to the cherry brandy and stir until completely dissolved, then add to the dough.
- Knead the dough until it's shiny and not sticky anymore. You may need to add a little more flour.
- Roll the dough into a ball, put it in a plastic bag or an airtight container and let it rest in a dry, cool place for at least 1 night, ideally 2 months.
- One more piece of advice: Don't go around telling people that you made gingerbread dough that needs to sit around for two months because everybody will just tell you you're crazy. The only variation in the reactions I received was that people either said "Are you sure you didn't misread the recipe?" or "But the dough will just go bad. You'll die of salmonella!" but they were pretty unanimous in the declaration of my insanity. And while it is fun to argue with the first two or three people, it stops being anything but annoying with the sixth or seventh person who tells you that you'll have dropped dead by New Year's Eve.
And in case you yourself are worried, let me just tell you: My friend's been making this recipe for years now and she's still in excellent health.

I'll leave you in complete suspense about the rest of the procedure (because, surely, nobody has the slightest idea about how to proceed) and pick the subject up again somewhere around the beginning of December.


  1. Who might that friend be? I wonder.
    Btw, one sachet of gingerbread spices should amount to more than 2 1/4 tsp.

  2. yes, you're right. mistake corrected.