What is Gingerbread?
Gingerbread is the umbrella term for a variety of bakery products including soft loaves of bread, cakes, soft cookies, and hard snaps. The main ingredients in these foods are flour, water, yeast, sweeteners like molasses, honey, or sugar, and spices such as ginger, clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon. These sweet treats are most popularly consumed in winter around Christmas time.
- In the United States, it’s common to make gingerbread houses around the holidays, although this tradition was brought over by German immigrants.
- Gingerbread men are another popular form of this spicy holiday treat
The top 9 most popular ginger cookie brands are:
- Nyakers Swedish Ginger Snaps
- Williams Sonoma Mug Toppers
- Enjoy Life Soft-Baked Gluten-Free Spice Cookies
- Williams Sonoma Moravian Ginger Spice Cookies
- Pepperidge Farm Gingerman Cookies
- Archway Cookies
- Williams Sonoma Holiday Mini Iced Cookies
- Tate’s Gluten-Free Ginger Zinger Cookies
- Williams Sonoma Cookies
Origin of gingerbread
The first known recipe for this dates back to Greece in 2400 BC. Later on, in the 10th century, the Chinese developed their recipes for this spicy treat. In 992, a monk is credited with bringing this food back with him from the east as a treatment for an upset stomach. By the Middle Ages, Europeans would craft their own recipes for this spicy yet sweet baked good. The tradition of making this as part of local Christmas celebrations originated in Germany in the 16th century as part of local Christmas celebrations.
However, it is Queen Elizabeth I who was the first to shape this spicy treat into the form of people. The gingerbread man came about when the queen asked that the baked goods be shaped into the form of visiting dignitaries to present the cookies to them as a gift. Since then, it has become world-famous, reaching many nations through popular culture references such as the Hansel & Gretel fairytale. This spicy and sweet baked good continues to be enjoyed near and far, especially around the holidays.
The nutritional values of gingerbread depend largely on the recipe being used. A piece of ginger cake can contain:
This food can also provide a lot of nutrients, including Vitamin A, B6, B12, Calcium, Irona and many more. Not to mention that ginger has many health benefits, including aiding digestion, combating nausea, providing pain relief, relieving cold and flu symptoms, among others. Although foods like cake aren’t always considered healthy, a study suggests that cake may be beneficial for your diet. This nutritional study focused on how the hunger hormone ghrelin may be affected by a breakfast that is rich in carbohydrates and protein. Granted that a healthy balanced diet should always be accompanied by regular exercise for optimal results.
The commercial production begins with mixing the ingredients, which differ according to the recipes used by the manufacturer. Once a dough is formed, it is kneaded using special machines to reach the right consistency. Then, the dough is formed into either loaves, cakes, or cookie shapes before being sent to the oven to bake. The shaped dough is baked at a temperature of 350°F for approximately 15 minutes. Finally, the baked bread gets its final touches, which can be a sweet filling, chocolate coating, or sugar icing before it is packaged and prepared for distribution.
Gingerbread can retain its flavor long after the holidays have gone. Nonetheless, it’s recommendable to follow the ‘best by’ date printed on the packaging. This food’s shelf life generally depends on what kind of product it is. For instance, ginger cake can last for 5-7 after its printed date, whereas cookies can last 2-3 weeks. On the other hand, gingerhouses can last for 3-4 weeks, while ginger snaps will stay fresh for 2-3 weeks after the printed date.
This classic holiday treat has been reinvented in many ways. Here are a few popular recipes:
The Food & Drug Administration classifies ginger as a rarely consumed raw product and, therefore, does not regulate it. However, it generally recognizes ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) as a safe substance. Furthermore, the FDA has regulations regarding gingerbread, as well as the minimum and maximum amounts of acrylamide that can be present in this food. They also offer food safety tips for mothers-to-be who want to enjoy holiday foods, such as gingerbread. In this case, the FDA recommends avoiding tasting raw dough, batter, or fillings if they contain raw egg.
Avey, Tori. “The History of Gingerbread.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 20 Dec. 2013, www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/history-gingerbread/.
“Gingerbread Man Facts for Kids.” Kids.kiddle.co, Kiddle Encyclopedia, kids.kiddle.co/Gingerbread_man.
“Dieting? Have Some Cake.” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, 1 June 2012, www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/dieting-have-some-cake.
“Gingerbread: Baking Processes.” BAKERpedia, BAKERpedia, 11 Dec. 2018, bakerpedia.com/processes/gingerbread/.