Saturday, December 12, 2009

"How could one be in this world without feeling dismayed by it? Even if one paints flowers and gingerbread." - Gerhard Richter, German Artist, born 19

"And I had but one penny in the world. Thou should’st have it to buy gingerbread." – William Shakespeare, Love’s Labours Lost

Second only to the fragrance of a fresh cut pine tree; the aroma of fresh gingerbread baking in the oven conjures up pleasant images of Christmas festivities in my head.

Most artists are self absorbed finding nothing quite as fascinating as themselves. That being said, it was interesting to learn that ginger bread, popular in all the countries in Europe, has it's roots in Germany. Since my family line can be traced back to Nuremberg, Germany I am fascinated to learn the history of gingerbread from it's humble beginning of soft bread crumbs, honey, cinnamon and ginger pressed into elaborate wooden molds carved into the shape of the reigning king or other current events. In America, present day sweet aromatic cake can be made firm enough to shape a ginger bread house, boy or served as a soft cake like confection. Who does not love the taste of ginger bread?

"Gingerbread was not baked in homes in the fifteenth century, but rather was made by government-recognized guilds. Nuremberg, Germany was the location of the best known guild."

"In Germany the Christmas period is full of customs, with the German Christmas Market a sight in many towns and cities for hundreds of years now. At these festive events food and drink are high on the agenda, with Gluhwein and Egg punch being used to wash down all kinds of edible delights. German Gingerbread or Lebkuchen as they call it, is a staple part of festive celebrations. Originally it was made by local organizations under government control. These guilds, such as the Nuremberg guild, became well known and their names remain today as indications of the humble gingerbread's past. The Nuremberg guild also decorated their bread with icing and, since the seventeenth century, it has been recognized as the standard by which other brands of Lebkuchen are measured."

"Nuremberg became known as the "gingerbread capital" of the world and as with any major trading center, many fine craftsmen were attracted to the town. Sculptors, painters, woodcarvers and goldsmiths all contributed to the most beautiful gingerbread cakes in Europe. Gifted craftsmen carved intricate wooden molds, artists assisted with decoration in frosting or gold paint. Incredibly fancy hearts, angels, wreaths and other festive shapes were sold at fairs, carnivals and markets."

"Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Bavaria’s second-largest city,is the home of clockmakers and gingerbread bakers. Nurenberg is also the home of my great grandmother Kunigunda Romsaur who emigrated to American in 1841 settling in Western New York. Baking, cooking and sewing garments provides a spiritual connection with the women in my family.

The freshly baked slice of Gingerbread Cake shown in the image above is served on a dessert dish made by
L. Bernardaud & Co. Limoges B & C0 France.
The complete set of china belonged to my grandmother, Clara Lemminger Rice. It traveled with her from Buffalo, New York to her first home in Pittsburgh 1931 on Elsinore Square,
Later the china moved along with Clara Rice to Edgehill Ave. in Dormont, to Lovingston Rd in Mt. Lebanon, to Wilmington, Delaware, to a condo on the beach in Boca Raton, Florida then to New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The china was delivered back north to me on Great Oak Dr. in Pittsburgh after my Aunt Mary's death by her husband Jack along with The Rice FamilyBook of family history and pictures in 1998. These treasured processions moved along with me to Clarence, New York in 1999.

Here is my recipe for Ginger Bread Cake

1 1/4 cups fine ground whole wheat flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 stick butter, softened
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
1/2 cup boiling water

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 9" cake pan.
Mix flour, baking powder, ginger, baking soda and cinnamon in medium bowl; set aside.
2. Beat butter, brown sugar and molasses in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well mixed. Add eggs; beat well. Add flour mixture alternately with boiling water, beating on low speed after each addition until smooth. Pour into prepared pans.
3. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire rack.

I whipped about 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, real vanilla extract, flecks of real vanilla bean and 1/4 cup sugar to form a topping. Spoon a dollop on top and sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon & ginger if desired.

Create some Christmas treasured memories of your own baking ginger bread.

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