Anne here, with the first of our "Christmastide" posts, Christmastide being another way of saying the twelve days of Christmas. Each day for the next 12 days, a wench will post a short holiday post. We hope you'll find time to drop in and join us, sharing your various activities and thoughts.
Today at my house, there's a delicious scent in the air — I'm baking gingerbread. I know, I should have made it earlier, but you do what you can, when you can. I hadn't planned to make it this year, in fact, but inspired by friend's posts on Fb and elsewhere, talking about the various different forms of gingerbread or ginger cookies beloved of different cultures. Surprisingly not all of these "ginger" products contain ginger, mainly because the word 'ginger' also means spicy and a little bit hot. Much as we also use the word peppery.
Perhaps one of the most famous and recognizable forms of gingerbread are gingerbread men. Some sources credit Queen Elizabeth 1 for the first gingerbread men — in the 16th-century elaborate court dinners often included marzipan (a sugary almond paste) shaped like fruit, castles and birds. The pic on the left shows marzipan shaped and painted like fruit. I always used to give a friend's mother a tray of marzipan fruit for Christmas because she loved it. (Recipe for home-made marzipan here.)
Ginger was still quite an exotic and expensive ingredient then, and there was also a royal gingerbread maker. Queen Elizabeth used to impress visiting dignitaries by presenting them with gingerbread men made in their image. (Recipe for gingerbread here. I usually put more ginger and spices in because I like it spicy.)
However gingerbread men in this time period were also sold as love tokens — eat the gingerbread man and win the man of your dreams, or present it as a love token. Ginger birscuits (cookies) were also made in heart shapes and beribboned, were sold at fairs, I suppose for the same reason.
But if you like ginger — and I do — they're also delicious. I particularly like gingernuts — a hard ginger biscuit (cookie), and I often have my heroes eating them. Copyeditors almost always query them, so I suppose they're not common in the USA. And now that I've mentioned them, I think I might also make a batch of gingernuts after the gingerbread. (Recipe here I also put more ginger in these, as well.)
What about you? Are you fond of ginger or not? What is your favorite Christmas baked treat?