November 21st is going to be a VERY SWEET day for those who traditionally love a certain kind of cookie: Yup, it’s the gingerbread cookie! (Wow, funny I should talk about gingerbread on the week before Thanksgiving, huh?!)
The gingerbread cookie happens to come from, what else, the gingerbread, which refers to a broad category of baked goods, those that are flavored typically with ginger, cloves, nutmeg, or cinnamon, while being sweetened with either honey, sugar, or molasses. There are a variety of gingerbread foods that range from something close to a ginger snap to a soft, moist cake.
The backstory of how the gingerbread came to be is as old as time itself; it was claimed to have been brought to Europe by an Armenian monk named Gregory of Nicopolis in 992 CE; He would then leave Nicopolis to live in Bondaroy, which is north-central France, near the town of Pithiviers, until his death in 999.
Then the German immigrants brought gingerbread to the 13th century, while two centuries later, a gingerbread guild-controlled production in Germany. There are early references from the Vadstena Abbey that show that the Swedish nuns in 1444 baked gingerbread to help ease indigestion, while it was custom to bake and paint white biscuits and use them as window decorations.
The 17th century is where the first documented trade of gingerbread biscuits dates; Gingerbread began to be sold in pharmacies, monasteries, and town square farmer’s markets. In Medieval England, it was thought that gingerbread would have medicinal properties. In one hundred years time, the Shropshire, England town of Market Drayton would become very best known for its gingerbread, and they had certainly displayed it properly on their town’s welcome sign, claiming to be the “Home of Gingerbread”.
Settlers from Europe would bring gingerbread to the Americas; Before molasses came along, sugar was quite expensive, but then they began to use the molasses, which soon became a common ingredient while producing a softer cake. In 1796, Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery was published, which offered seven different recipes for gingerbread.
One of the most popular ways in which one uses gingerbread is when one makes a gingerbread house; It is a novelty confection that is shaped like a building that is made of cookie dough, mostly gingerbread, and is cut and baked into appropriate components like walls and roofing, and then it is glued with and covered with icing and candies.
So, when you plan on honoring National Gingerbread Cookie Day on November 21st, don’t forget to complete the cookies with milk…or egg…nog…