What Is Christmas Gingerbread Spice Mix And How You Can Make It At Home


Translated simply as gingerbread, there are many different names and products in the repertoire of Christmas sweets in the Western tradition, particularly in Central European and Nordic countries. Gingerbread, lebkuchen, pain d'épices, spekulatius, speculoos, piparkakut, läckerli, printen, honigkuchen... the catalog is immense, but there is something that unites all these recipes, the spice mix for gingerbread, worth the redundancy.

In our country we are already a little more familiar with the Christmas sweets of the German tradition thanks to the German hypermarket chains and the imported specialties that some businesses that are increasingly encouraged to bring, such as panettone or pandoro.

Beyond the gingerbread man, more typically American, in Europe the Nürnberger Lebkuchen, Nuremberg gingerbread, a sweet whose recipe has specific legislation and which has had a Protected Designation of Origin since 1996. He Elisenlebkuchen it is the highest quality variant. These round doughs have among their ingredients confit orange and lemon peel, almond or marzipan, ground hazelnut or walnuts, wafer base and covered with nuts, glaze or chocolate.

The one from Nuremberg in particular is not prepared with honey, but it is another very common ingredient in the many spice breads that sweeten the holidays throughout Europe. If he gingerbread man It is prepared with molasses, the honey sweetens and provides a more subtle aroma, without that too powerful toasted touch of cane honey. There was a time when honey was more accessible than sugar, and it is still used today to achieve its characteristic flavor, and a softer texture that also helps to prolong its conservation.

By combining honey and spices, usually with nuts, you get doughs that win over time, as the flavor matures and the aromas become more intense. That is why many families bake huge quantities of these delicacies at the beginning of Advent, keeping them in metal boxes to enjoy them throughout the month of December, reserving them especially for Christmas days.

In German markets, the stalls that seduce with these sweets are very typical, highlighting the striking hearts decorated with written messages that often offer romantic phrases or family affection, rather than purely Christmas. This excuse allows them to be present at other celebrations throughout the year, from Valentine's Day to Oktoberfest.

Bread, cupcakes or cookies?

Clarifying exactly what gingerbread is is a frankly complicated task. Assuming that each region has a different specialty, even with very specific recipes within each local variant, our language doesn't make it easy for us either. The terms of sponge cake, bread, cookies or pasta are often confused and intermingled, and it is not easy to catalog a world as wide and as that of pastry and bakery under closed labels.

Because, indeed, gingerbread is not made with baker's yeast or sourdough, but we already know that not all breads must meet that premise. He pain d'épices French, for example, reminds us more of a sponge cake, despite the fact that ours are much fluffier and softer; In Switzerland, on the other hand, we find types of lebkuchen which are like biscuit snacks, and also more properly said cookies. Of course, usually with a very different texture to the typical crunchy butter pastes.

This peculiar texture is due, in part, to the fact that many original recipes continue to use ammonium bicarbonate and potassium bicarbonate as a lifting agent, which smell like rays and which today have been replaced in today's confectionery by the typical baking powders or sodium bicarbonate. They are valid substitutes for walking around the house, although the final texture is not the same, and they allow them to be kept longer.

The most properly biscuit types are those that, in general, contain a high proportion of butter and / or egg, and are somewhat crunchier. If the recipe also calls for honey or some vegetable molasses, they can hold up well even for a few weeks, although they tend to get rancid more quickly, as occurs with the types spekulatius. To avoid this, spices and the presence of nuts or external decorations help to maintain a good flavor and aroma, protecting the dough for longer.

What is the spice mix?

As the holidays approach - these days this is basically after the summer - supermarkets start to offer a good load of products to bake at parties, including spice mixes. In fact, they are usually available all year round, but it is already in autumn when the real arsenal is deployed.

In Germany or Switzerland it is very easy to find small envelopes or packages with the already prepared mixture of spices, including one or more recipes to put it to good use. Each manufacturer presents its own formula, even with different types focused on very specific sweets, differentiating between lebkuchen, birnbrot or spekuloos. In France the mixture is often known as quatre epices or melange pain d'epices, because they have incorporated more than four for a long time.

The specialized stores with bulk goods also make their own mixes, with small variations to suit each artisan. The most experienced bakers know precisely the exact quantity and number of spices they want to include in their personal mix; It is the best option to personalize your sweets and ensure the highest quality, because the fresher the spices are, just ground, the more aroma they have.

The usual ingredients of this magical formula are: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, star anise, green anise, allspice, cardamom, coriander or coriander, fennel, dried orange or lemon pineapple, galangal, mace, and , more optionally, black or white pepper. In the proportion between each of them is the particular taste, and they must be finely ground and combined into a homogeneous mixture.

Here is a basic standard recipe to prepare our own homemade spice mix, well complete and rich in intense nuances. Of course, you can dispense with the ingredients that you cannot find or that you do not like, and vary the amounts to taste. If you can, ask to have it prepared at the moment in a specialized store.


For 1 units
  • Ground cinnamon 25 g
  • Ground cloves 10 g
  • Ground coriander 10 g
  • Ground grain anise 8 g
  • Ground ginger 8 g
  • Ground cloves 8 g
  • Ground star anise 5 g
  • Ground nutmeg 5 g
  • Ground cardamom 5 g
  • Jaimacan pepper 5 g
  • Ground mace 5 g
  • Dry orange peel 2 g
  • Black peppercorns 1

How to make spice mix for gingerbread

Difficulty: Medium
  • Total time 5m
  • Elaboration 5m

Grate the necessary spices if necessary (nutmeg, mace) and grind or grind all the spices in a coffee or special spice grinder, or in a small food processor. It can also be done, calmly and skillfully, in a solid material mortar.

Combine them until you have a homogeneous mixture and store in an airtight container if they are not used immediately. Store in a dark, cool and dry place, preferably no more than a year. In summer, store in the least cold part of the refrigerator away from moisture.

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