Gingerbread: History, Herbs, & Recipe

Gingerbread.
The warm, sweet, spicy scent and taste on wintry nights. I love a good, spicy gingerbread with a good play of all the flavors of spices used.
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It took me several tries to get my gingerbread cake and cookies just right.  Of course, I bake with organic whole food ingredients.
I have waited a whole year to share this with you. Yes, I wanted to get it out for Christmas baking festivities, but being a musical person in December is really busy.

Below is the history, herbal actions, and my recipe.

You likely think of gingerbread houses and cut-out cookies at Christmastime, not really seeing it as something to have at other times of the year.  It is perfectly acceptable to have a gingerbread creation, whatever the season.
This confectionery does have a history….

Long before Christmas, the ancient Egyptians made a form of gingerbread to aid digestion and as religious offerings to their gods. The Chinese used ginger root as medicine for its hot, pungent qualities.

As Europe began to have the exotic Eastern spices, they also took on the gingerbread baking. These cultures also used the gingerbread recipes the most around their religious holidays: Christmas and Easter.

The cakes and cookies could be made year round. But winter is favorable to pungent, hot spices.  They have warming, circulatory-supporting, and antimicrobial properties that aid keeping healthy in cold weather.

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A slice of my gingerbread cake.

THE HERBS:
GINGER- Ginger has an affinity for stimulating circulation in the lower belly and pelvic region. It helps move stagnant energy from the belly. It helps relieve respiratory illnesses, especially where there is inflammation with excess dampness. Ginger is widely known for its use relieving nausea and settling the stomach.

CLOVES- Cloves, like ginger, stimulates circulation and digestion. It is a very powerful antimicrobial herb. Hence, the amount used in recipes is low. The eugenol oils in clove alleviate pain when applied topically.

CINNAMON- Sweet & spicy! It supports digestion and sugar-handling. It is warming and comforting: cinnamon will stimulate circulation and has aphrodisiac effects.

NUTMEG- Warming, comforting and can promote relaxation. Nutmeg, like the others, promotes digestion. Pets are sensitive to nutmeg; please don’t share your gingerbread with them!
All of the herbs/spices are associated with the fire element (masculine aspects). And, they are said to bring luck, money, power and love. The spices together have an aphrodisiac quality.

Blackstrap Molasses- No, not an herb. I am giving it a little section because it does have nutritional aspects. The sugar content is low and the nutritional value is higher than other sugar cane substances (Healthline, 2020).  It has iron, calcium, magnesium, and B6. My mom took tablespoons of it for her iron- and the minerals- as a therapeutic food at one point.

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Fresh from the oven.

MY RECIPE

This is the recipe for gingerbread cake I have been using for a few years. It’s been floating around my house for some time and I am not sure of the original source. There are many recipes out there. I encourage you to find ones you like an experiment.
One recipe I have seen calls for dry mustard.  You can try out grated fresh ginger root –or with a combination of dried ginger and fresh grated. I prefer dried ginger.  Blackstrap molasses has a stronger flavor, but I think it blends well with the spices.
For mixing, I prefer my stand mixer.

Gingerbread Cake
2 cups of flour (my mix: organic all-purpose, pastry and sprouted wheat)
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger powder
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoons ground cloves
½ teaspoon Redmond Real Salt

12 Tablespoons organic unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup (slightly under-filled) organic evaporated cane sugar (I use Florida Crystals)
2 eggs, organic
¾ cup organic Blackstrap molasses (grease measuring glass with organic ghee or coconut oil to help the molasses slide out).
½ cup hot water.

Set oven to 350 F.
Line an 8×8 baking pan (I use metal) with baking parchment.

Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the blackstrap molasses and mix briefly.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each one.
Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients, mix briefly.
Add a portion of the hot water and mix briefly.
Alternate the dry ingredients and water until they are all in. Scrape the bowl of the stand mixer and blend for 1-2 minutes, or until the batter looks uniform.
Put the batter in your baking pan. Send to the oven for about 50 minutes. Check on it at 45. If a toothpick comes out clean, it is done. Give it a few more minutes until the toothpick comes out clean.
Let it cool. I like to cut it in squares and top with whipped cream. A sweetened ricotta or cream cheese would be lovely, too.
My dad loved this plain.

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My baking ingredients. Allspice wanted in the photo. 

Comments and questions are welcome.

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~Dréa

References:
4 Blackstrap Molasses Benefits. (2020). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/benefits-blackstrap-molasses
Bone, K. (2007). The Ultimate Herbal Compendium: A Desktop Guide for Herbal Prescribers. Warwick, Queensland: Phototherapy Press.
Fallon, S. (2001). Nourishing Traditions: A Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. Washington, DC: New Trends Publishing, Inc.
Gingerbread Houses – A Delicious History. (2020). Bellevue University. http://blogs.bellevue.edu/library/index.php/2016/12/gingerbread-houses-a-delicious-history/
Tenney, L. (1992). Today’s Herbal Health. Provo, UT: Woodland Books.

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