Gingerbread is a dense loaf cake flavored with ginger and honey or molasses, and can range from soft and moist to a hard biscuit. An Armenian monk named Gregory Makar brought the recipe to Europe in 992, teaching Gingerbread cooking to priests and Christians. Three hundred years later German immigrants brought the bread to Sweden, where nuns baked gingerbread cakes to aid indigestion, and gingerbread biscuits were created as window decorations. Today, there are many gingerbread recipes, including breakfast breads, dessert cakes, and rock-hard mixtures best suited for building popular wintertime gingerbread houses.
Several years ago, before Chris and I worked together, my office hosted an annual gingerbread house decorating contest. Before I signed up for the first year’s festivities, I had never baked gingerbread. In fact, I hadn’t done much baking at all, which is a little funny in retrospect since baking is the kind of cooking I do best (and enjoy most) now. I used this initial foray into gingerbread architecture as an excuse to buy the KitchenAid mixer I’d had my eye on for a few years, and got to work in the kitchen. I realized a few things during my baking efforts: fresh, hot gingerbread is absolutely delicious; building an actual gingerbread house was a lot harder than the milk carton and graham cracker crafts of my childhood; and gingerbread is like crack for dogs (every time I took a fresh batch out of the oven they came swarming, producing copious amounts of drool usually reserved for only the finest of treats. When all was said and done, I had a two-story gingerbread bar to show for my hard work, complete with gingerbread patrons. It wasn’t beautiful, but it was a lot of fun to make. The following year, inspired by the movie Cast Away, I created a gingerbread Island with a palm tree, a lone gingerbread man, and, of course, a little chocolate volleyball.
It had been a few years since I’d tested my gingerbread skills, but Chris and I decided to make a dessert loaf to celebrate National Gingerbread Day. This holiday actually came at a perfect time for us — this morning Chris rode a metric century for the Tour de Cure he’d signed up for on American Diabetes Association Alert Day. He did a great job, raising $600 for the cause and finishing the ride in just under four hours. But all of the energy he expended left him ravenous and he’s been a bottomless pit all day, so a yummy gingerbread dessert was the perfect way to fill his tummy.