I am a cosmopolitan by birth and by lifestyle. For me cultural traditions are not just buzz words. I am genuinely interested in people and their different heritage. And Christmas seems like a good time to mention one of the most international men – gingerbread man.
Most countries I know have their own take on the same traditional recipes, like pancakes and biscuits. Gingerbread – that quintessentially English confectionery since the days of Elizabeth I of England has its many incarnations in cuisines of the world and varies from a soft, moist loaf cake to something close to a ginger snap.
Gingerbread in Russia
Having been brought up in Russia, my childhood treats were pryaniki. In fact, many regions of that vast country have their own version of this tasty delight.
For example, the ever wintery regions of northern Russia bake dainty Kozuly with honey, caramelised sugar, cinnamon and cloves.
Similarly, n European Russia they bake weighty Gorodetsky pryanik with rye flour, honey, vanilla essence, cloves and cinnamon.
And not forgetting the capital of Russian tea making – Tula. Here they prepare their own version of pryanik, adding fruit jam in between cake-like spicy, fragrant layers of confectionery.
Gingerbread in Sweden
Recently, my family history research has taken me to the southern shores of Sweden. Ans so, my discovery of Swedish culture inevitably turned to its food.
It turns out that, at Christmas time Sweden has been baking gingery Pepparkakor at least since Brothers Grimm told the tale of “Hansel and Gretel” in 1880s.
According to Swedish food experts all sirap (syrup) in Sweden is made from sugar beet. Apparently, that makes their taste slightly different to most other syrups sold around the world. The brand name Dansukker is the one to look out for and we have a choice of ljus sirap (light syrup) or mörk sirap (dark syrup).
In the absence of Swedish syrup in your cupboard, we can use a combination of Golden Syrup, Black Treacle and honey.
My international Christmas gingerbread recipe
- 200 butter
- 70ml Golden syrup
- 70 ml Black treacle
- 70 ml clear honey
- 200 gr brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 eggs
- 1kg plain flour
Heat syrups and honey to boiling point. Add butter and sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved and mixture is cool. Add spices, baking soda and then flour.
Knead dough until it feels pliable and looks glossy. Look at my Kolobok above for reference.
Wrap it in cling film or put into an airtight container and leave it in the fridge for 18 hours or at least overnight. Making a Kolobok face is optional.
Keeping the dough in the fridge means that it won’t crack when you will be rolling it out.
When ready, take Kolobok out of the fridge and using a large knife slice it into 1 cm blocks – it will be easier to roll them out as dough will be quite solid.
Preheat the oven to 200 C.
Roll the dough into a thin sheet and cut out shapes using Christmas cookie cutters.
Place your cookies on a baking sheet and bake in the oven 5-10 min depending on their thickness. For reference, my cookies were in the oven for 5 min.
Let your gingerbread men and others to cool down and decorate with icing sugar if you wish.
Enjoy and share!
Merry Christmas to all international men, women and other gingerbread shapes!