Speculaas and peperkoek in Belgium (Flanders) and the Netherlands, pain d’épice in Walonia (Belgium again) and France, pfefferkuchen and lebkuchen in Germany and Austria, that is gingerbread in the United Kingdon and Unites States. They are all very similar and still different. So what to they have in common? The answer is in the spices: there is cinnamon, cloves, ginger, pepper and salt. The sweetener in them is usually a brown type of sugar or sometimes honey, molasses or syrup.
Here in England, you find gingerbread mainly in the shape of men, those little men with a face of icing. Usually they have some buttons of their top on their tummy. I didn’t really know gingerbread men before we moved to the UK. Even then, it was only after we had are children that I really noticed them. That is because they are usually presented for kids more than for adults. Why that is, I am not sure, because the taste is rather sophisticated compared to other kids food favourites in shops and cafes. Now are eldest is 7, I have tasted quite a few different types of gingerbread men and I read the story of the Gingerbread Man many times as well . The things you learn when you move abroad…
Because of the shape and the name I didn’t really make the connection between gingerbread and speculaas and peperkoek from Belgium. Not until I started baking some, that is when my penny dropped, the recipes were very similar! Suddenly I also noticed that around Christmas lots of gingerbread houses appeared. That is of course the same as the gingerbread houses we decorate at Christmas and the ones you see in Germany around Christmas! In Belgium we decorate them with all sorts of sweets like the one in the Hans and Gretel story. Here people decorate them with icing mainly and they look absolutely fabulous! But the idea is the same, I loved discovering how all the cultures were connected in a way I hadn’t noticed before!
Around Christmas last year I made gingerbread men for the first time. I had never made gingerbread before. It was round the time of Christmas that I started to look for festive, but rather healthy recipes. That lead me to Cookie and Kate once more, I am a big fan of her recipes. I only slightly changed her recipe. I used raw honey instead of melasse, used a bit less of it as well and fiddled with the spices.
The reason this is healthier than a traditional gingerbread recipe is that it uses wholemeal flour instead of white flour, coconut oil instead of butter and coconut sugar and raw honey instead or normal brown sugar. So this is still a biscuit, but on top of the nutritional value of the spices any gingerbread has anyway, these substitutes bring in some extra nutritional value as well.
These biscuits are very easy to make; the hardest thing about them is not loosing count when you are adding the spices. There is so much of them going in there! The dough is firm and easy to roll out. This should come on the page with recipes for kids very soon! The other great thing about them is, you can dress them up as you like. I made them into little pirates for a pirate birthday party as you can see in the pictures below.
Healthier gingerbread men
- 300 grams of wholemeal flour
- 60 grams of coconut sugar
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black peper
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 125 grams of honey
- 100 grams of coconut oil
- 1 egg
- For the icing and decoration:
- 1 tbsp of water
- 100 grams of icing sugar
- mini smarties to use for the buttons
- Mix all the dry ingredients together.
- Bring the coconut oil and the honey together in a big cup and warm up in the microwave or use warm water to warm the mixture up Au Bain Marie (by putting the cup in the hot water).
- Now add the oil and the honey with the dry mixture. Add the egg as well and knead well until it comes together.
- Wrap the dough in clingy film and put it in the fridge for a few hours. It allows the coconut oil to become solid again, but also for the spices to release their flavours beautifully. You can easily keep it in the fridge for a night and finish the next day.
- When you take the dough out of the fridge, it is ready to be rolled out. Use some flour to dust the kitchen top, your dough and the rolling pin.
- Roll the dough out until it is about 5 mm thick. While rolling, press your rolling pin gently only, so you don't press the dough into the kitchen top or cover until it sticks to it. Roll often but gently.
- Stick out your shapes, and put on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
- Bake your gingerbread men for 10 minutes on 180 º Celsius. They need to be slightly soft still when they come out of the oven, they will become harder when they cool down. You don't want them overcooked because then they are hard and tough to bite through.
- Only add the icing after the biscuits have cooled down.
- Add about 100 grams of icing sugar to 1 tablespoon of water (or lemon juice if you prefer) and mix it in. Add extra sugar if necessary to make the icing stiff enough not to run out when you add the dots for the eyes. Practice on something else first.
- Draw eyes, a mouth and 2 buttons on the little men. Pop mini-smarties on the tummy for the buttons. Or leave it to your own (or the kids') imagination and make something completely unique!
from More Than Just Carrots