Latvian Gingerbread

I found this recipe in the comments section of an article in the Guardian of Christmas baking recipes. It’s by someone called Karlis Streips and I have only slightly adjusted the recipe. Gingerbread has traditionally been associated with Christmas in many countries. Maybe it’s the spices, like ginger itself, that are warming and linked with warding off colds and coughs.

There is a very good short history of the origins of gingerbread here written by Tori Avey. Across Europe in medieval times decorated gingerbread in different shapes was sold at big fairs. Some fairs became known as Gingerbread Fairs, and the gingerbread was known as “fairings”. The fairings were cut in many different shapes according to the time of year of the fair; traditional shapes often included animals, kings and queens, flowers and birds.

And of course there’s the Gingerbread Man, who ran away from the Little Old Woman and the Little Old Man, only to end up eaten by a wily fox.

I have quite an extensive collection of cutters although I tend to use the same old few favourites.

This is honestly only a third of the collection…

So – the recipe:

Ingredients and Method:

Melt together the following:

1/3 cup molasses

1/3 cup honey

1 cup brown sugar (I used dark)

1/2 cup butter

3 tbsp oil ( the original recipe said lard, but I wanted to keep it vegetarian)

Then add:

2.5 cups of flour

1 tsp each cinnamon and ginger (I would add more next time)

1/2 tsp each black pepper, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg and cloves – ground of course, and again you could add more to taste

Cool this mixture until lukewarm.

Then add 2 lightly beaten eggs, 2.5 cups of flour, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1.5 tsp baking powder. Stir this mixture like crazy. Then place on the counter and knead like crazy. The original recipe said well floured – I floured my granite top lightly and found that was fine. The dough should be dark, shiny and feel heavy.

Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a damp towel and rest for an hour. I forgot to grease the bowl, but it came out fine. Also I left mine overnight in the fridge covered in clingfilm and it was also fine.

Shiny brown dough after kneading well.

Preheat the oven to 190 deg C or Mark 5. The original recipe said 200 deg (Mark 6) but I think that’s a bit hot, and next time I would even consider slightly cooler at Mark 4.

Flour the work top (I didn’t bother and the dough didn’t really stick, you might find it easier to roll if you do…) Roll out pieces of dough quite thin – about 4mm. How thin depends on how thick and chewy you like your gingerbread. Bear in mind that the thicker the biscuits the longer they will take to bake. Cut out shapes. If you use different cutters try and make each trayful roughly the same size shapes for more uniform baking. I rolled out a quarter of the dough at a time which was a reasonable amount to work with. You could keep some back in the fridge and bake it another day. Allow time out of the fridge for the dough to soften.

Bake for about 9-12 minutes depending on your oven and how thick/big your biscuits are. They should be just beginning to darken round the edges.

Leave on the baking sheet for a a couple of minutes before transferring to a rack to cool. When they are cool you could decorate them with royal icing.

This makes plenty of gingerbread biscuits. I took some to work and there were still lots at home!

If you are baking for Christmas/ the holidays I hope you are having fun!

(PS. sorry for the very variable picture quality – all photos are taken on my phone, and it’s usually poor lighting situations..)

2 thoughts on “Latvian Gingerbread

  1. Fantastic. A fascinating and very interesting article, I never knew about the Gingerbread fairs across Europe. I love all the cutters too. I will try this recipe.
    I bought the Nordic cook book earlier this year and the gingerbread had almonds in one of the recipes – tasted delicious.


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