When we think of gingerbread thoughts go to a yummy cake or even gingerbread men but it wasn't always like that. Ginger was originally used as a preservative for bread.
During the 16th, 17th and 18th century gingerbread recipes were based on either a dense dough made from breadcrumbs or a ground almond paste mixed with spices etc rather than the use of flour. Gingerbreads could be gilded or red, the red colour coming from the red sandelwood tree. In fact the red colour was so popular in the 16th century that a guild of beaters actually existed to grind the red sandelwood to powder.
Recipes from the 16th century for the dough include breadcrumbs, liquorice/aniseed ginger, forming a stiff dough which was placed in the gingerbread mould, the gingerbread mould had previously been sprinkled with a powder of liquorice and aniseed to prevent sticking.
The other type of gingerbread popular during the 16th-18th centurywas based on ground almonds,dates,ginger and aniseed. The paste was placed onto the gingerbread mould which had been sprinkled with ginger powder or cinnamon to prevent sticking.
The gingerbreads were then left to dry in front of the fire until they were hard, they were not baked in an oven. Gingerbread could then be stored in boxes where they could be kept for upto a year. This continued into the 18th century in the North of England. But by the 18th century in London gingerbread recipes had flour and sugar eggs, treacle, ginger and lemons and the gingerbread was baked, much like todays recipes.
Did you know that in the 17th century in many parts of Europe only professional gingerbread bakers were allowed to bake gingerbread except at Easter and Christmas?
Antique treen gingerbread moulds are fascinating they were made in all shapes and sizes very popular in many parts of Europe including the UK, Germany, Holland, Poland interestingly the earlier antique gingerbread moulds can be quite intricate, well carved. The carving became less intricate as the centuries got later particularly as in some places where the baker of the gingerbread also had to carve there own moulds.
Nowadays the antique treen gingerbread moulds are a great thing to collect, they are little pictures in their own right and can be hung on a wall but still could be used for their original purpose, some are double sided to make use of all the wood. Images below are of a variety of themes, Punch and Judy, hearts and soldiers and royalty were particular favourites. All are lovely pieces of antique treen aged by use over the years.