We do tend to connect gingerbread with Christmas but people have been eating gingerbread since the time of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. Ginger was taken for medicinal reasons, including the soothing of the stomach and digestion. Today gingerbread houses and gingerbread men come to mind, thanks to the stories of the Brothers Grimm.
In Europe, the guild of gingerbread bakers determined which bakers could bake gingerbread and what times of the year. Members of the guild could bake gingerbread throughout the year while others could only bake it on Christmas and Easter. European traditions were brought over to the American colonies with German and English immigrants.
Louisa Macculloch (1785-1863) had several gingerbread and ginger cake recipes in her cookbook. All of these recipes call for baking powder or baking soda which may mean they date from the 1840s to the 1860s.
This week compare the Soft Ginger Bread recipes of Louisa Macculloch and Malinda Russell, Juneteenth Recipe Suggestion: Gingerbread from Mrs. Malinda Russell’s 1866 cookbook – Malinda Russell: African American Cook and Author, both adapted for the modern kitchen.
Soft Ginger Bread
Cream together ½ cup butter and ½ cup sugar. Add 2 eggs, 1 cup molasses, and ½ cup milk. Sift together 2 cups flour, 1 heaping teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon ginger and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Add to other ingredients. Bake in moderate oven.
Adapted Recipe for Today
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 cup molasses
½ cup milk
2 cups flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, molasses, and milk. Sift together flour, baking powder, ginger and cinnamon. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Grease square baking pan and pour gingerbread mixture into pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Check the gingerbread after 30 minutes. To test, insert toothpick in center and toothpick should come out dry.
Topic: Munchie Monday
Age / Level: High School, Life Long Learner