Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Gingerbread Quest

This Christmas season I embarked on a quest to find the perfect gingerbread recipe. My goal was to make a soft gingerbread that has just the right amount of spices.

Did I find it? Not quite, but I am so close...

I started out with some regular recipes I found online that do not require and hard to get ingredients like Hirschhornsalz (baker's ammonia). The first recipe I tried fooled me and the gingerbread turned out to be hard. It was not bad, but definitely not what I wanted. The second recipe was not actually a gingerbread recipe, it contained lots of eggs and butter and was really more of a cake - but it tasted amazing. I also made something similar to Magenbrot (a gingerbread like cookie that is sold on Christmas markets in Germany), which is probably my second favorite Christmas cookie recipe, but again not really gingerbread.
After that I figured I better get some Hirschhornsalz and proper gingerbread spices from Germany (thanks a lot mom for sending me some!). Then I went online and looked for an old gingerbread recipe that contains invert sugar cream (Kunsthonig), which was used in war times instead of real honey. I found a recipe which I slightly modified by using a mix of brown and white sugar instead of white sugar only, and mostly whole wheat flour and ground nuts instead of white flour. I also let the dough rest overnight instead of using it right away, which was recommended in almost all other gingerbread recipes I found. The texture is exactly like I wanted it to be, and it tastes pretty good, but I think the amount of gingerbread spices was a little too much, and it turned out to have more of a gingerbread taste than I wanted. Maybe this will resolve itself after a few days since gingerbread is rarely supposed to be eaten right away.

Here are some pictures of my different "gingerbreads":
The last recipe: Soft, chocolate covered gingerbread

Gingerbread spice cake
Hard gingerbread

Here is my modified gingerbread recipe:
Combine 250g butter, 200g sugar (half white, half brown) and 250g honey and heat slowly until the sugar melts. Do not boil. Remove from heat and let cool down before adding the other ingredients.

Combine 100g ground hazelnuts, 100g white flour, 100g spelt flour, and 300g whole wheat flour (the original recipe simply uses 600g flour - I am sure almost any combination will work). Also add 1 tsp baking powder, 5g cinnamon and 7.5g gingerbread spices. However next time around I would add less gingerbread spice mixture, probably also only 5g (the original recipe calls for 7.5g of cinnamon plus 7.5g gingerbread spices).

Mix one egg with 1/2 cup milk. Dissolve Hirschhornsalz (= hartshorn, baker's ammonia) in milk mixture.

Add milk mixture and flour mix to the cooled honey mix. Stir until combined. Cover and store in a cool place over night (I put my dough in the cold basement for ~20 hours).

The next day, spread the dough over parchment-paper covered baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F (175 C) for 30 minutes.

Cover with melted chocolate and cut into squares while still warm.

And of while I was in Christmas baking mood I also made some other Christmas cookies:
Kokos-Marzipan-, und Haselnussmakronen
dunkle Engelsaugen

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