Last updated: August 16, 2021

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In recent years, the gingerbread tradition has spread to every corner of the world. When we speak of gingerbread, Christmas and wintertime immediately come to mind, but not only. We find gingerbread in every season and in certain cities in Germany that continue this old tradition.

Over time, the gingerbread recipe has changed. There are more and more varieties, and gingerbread production is adapting to the taste and dietary needs of customers. We have therefore compared different gingerbreads so that you can learn what to look for when buying and how to find the right one for you. Let's discover the secrets of this ancient pastry together.




The most important facts

  • Gingerbread is available in a wide variety of varieties and packaging, so that every individual taste is catered for.
  • Whether for breakfast, as a dessert or as a perfect gift: there is a gingerbread for every purpose. The market offers different price ranges, depending on their origin and processing (handmade or industrial), whether they are single or mixed, or combined with other products.
  • This pastry has an ancient and interesting history and its distinctive taste lends itself to a variety of uses in the kitchen.

The Best Gingerbread: Our Picks

In this section, we have compiled our favourites for you, which can help you make a purchase decision. The right gingerbread is presented for every taste and every need. This can then be easily ordered.

Buying and evaluation criteria for Lebkuchen

To help you choose the best gingerbread, we have summarised the most important criteria so that you can find the tastiest gingerbread for you. These criteria are as follows:

Now we'll explain what to look for in these criteria so you can make a well-informed decision.

Variety

Over the centuries, gingerbread has undergone various developments. The best-known varieties are:

  • Traditional gingerbread with wafers, with icing, chocolate or decorated with almonds, like the Elisen from Nuremberg
    Gingerbread with filling, such as heart, star and pretzel shapes
  • Gingerbread from the tray, baked as a cake
  • Gingerbread figures, in different shapes, like gingerbread house, gingerbread man, gingerbread heart, as well as gingerbread train.

On the market there is also the so-called gingerbread crumb, tasty good, but aesthetically partly damaged.

Ingredients

The traditional Omas Lebkuchen has adapted to different needs over the years. We therefore find: vegan gingerbread, without egg, gingerbread gluten-free or without flour, sugar-free and gingerbread for diabetics or low-calorie gingerbread.

For those with a sweet tooth, there are alternative ingredients such as gingerbread with dark or milk chocolate, gingerbread with marzipan, with jam or with apples.

Origin

There are many European varieties of gingerbread, but the German gingerbread specialities, such as Nürnberger Lebkuchen and Aachener Printen, are known worldwide, so both are certified as products with a protected geographical indication.

You can often find them from manufactories that bake them themselves according to the oldest recipes. There are many regional varieties, such as the Pulsnitz gingerbread. Some spices came from far away, so cities with a long gingerbread tradition were important trading centres. Besides Nuremberg and Aachen, Pulsnitz, Augsburg, Ulm, Cologne, Munich and Basel were also important centres.

Packaging

Gingerbread is available in different packaging and quantities. We find the industrial and commercial as well as the elegant artisanal ones. There is also beautiful rigid packaging for gift giving.

Among these are the tins and the chest, which show old impressive pictures of Christmas or of the cities they come from. Some of them also have music and music boxes.

Guide: Frequently asked questions about gingerbread answered in detail

In this section we explain the most frequently asked questions about gingerbread so that you are well informed when you hear about gingerbread and want to buy some.

What is gingerbread and what is in it?

Gingerbread is a spicy and long-lasting pastry that is especially eaten at Christmas. A characteristic of gingerbread is that it is very sweet - honey or molasses is added - and spicy.

Lebkuchen

According to legend, Elisenlebkuchen are named after Elisabeth, the daughter of a gingerbread baker from Nuremberg. Thanks to this pastry, which her father had made for her from the best spices and ingredients, she recovered from an illness. (Image source: Gerhard G./ Pixabay)

The secret of the gingerbread recipe is the typical spices, such as anise, fennel, ginger, cardamom, coriander, mace, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and cinnamon. Potash and staghorn salt are the traditional leavening agents.

How did gingerbread originate and where does the name come from?

The origin of the name could come from the Latin lībum, flat cake, or from Leip, unleavened bread. Clues to the ingredients can be found in the names honey cake, pepper cake - pepper was synonymous with strong spice mixture - gingerbread, ginger bread and pain d'épices, spice bread.

Honey cake was already prepared by the ancient Egyptians and Romans. Gingerbread in its present form was invented in Dinant, Belgium. In the 14th century, gingerbread was baked in the men's monasteries in and around Nuremberg.

What types of gingerbread are there?

When it comes to gingerbread, not everyone thinks of the same confectionery product. We list the most common types of gingerbread that exist in Germany and around the world.

  • Brown gingerbread: like Gebildbrot, Printen, Pulsnitzer Pfefferkuchen and Dominos. From the baking tray, like breakfast cakes and Basler Läckerli.
  • Wafer gingerbread: from a soft mass, like the typical basic shape with icing, Elisen gingerbread and hazelnut, walnut, nut gingerbread.
  • Gingerbread figures: made from kneaded dough, such as gingerbread hearts, gingerbread men and women or gingerbread houses.

There are also many European gingerbread varieties, such as: Lebzelten in Austria, Panpepato in Italy and Prjaniki in Russia. Regional traditions are also found in France, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

What can you do with gingerbread?

If you are a gingerbread lover, you can make brownies, cakes and even muffins with gingerbread. A gingerbread latte with a gingerbread cheesecake is the perfect accompaniment to a coffee date. If you want to surprise your guests with a gingerbread dessert, prepare a gingerbread crème brûlée, gingerbread panna cotta or gingerbread tiramisù.

For a party, gingerbread cake pops and chocolates with gingerbread liqueur are suitable. For breakfast, enrich your yoghurt with gingerbread granola and spread your bread with a gingerbread spread.

Fancy gingerbread in summer? Gingerbread ice cream is the solution. And gingerbread at Easter? Cut out typical Easter shapes from your gingerbread. And for savoury dishes? Use the famous gingerbread sauce as a gingerbread jus for meat and especially sauerbraten.

Conclusion

Gingerbread is a timeless pastry to keep in your cupboard when you're craving the taste of Christmas. Thanks to the countless types of gingerbread, you can find the right one for you to satisfy your palate, for your sweet or savoury recipes, as a gift or even to send a message that you can write directly on your gingerbread heart.

Gingerbread, besides taste and tradition, offers different packaging options, from the simplest to the most sophisticated. When deciding which gingerbread to buy, personal taste and purpose are the most important factors.

(Cover photo: NickyPe/ Pixabay)

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