"Of gyngebreed that was ful fyn" - Sir Thopas
.iiij. Gyngerbrede. Take a quart of hony, & sethe it, & skeme it clene; take Safroun, pouder Pepir, & throw ther-on; take gratyd Brede, & make it so chargeaunt that it wol be y-leched; then take pouder Canelle, & straw ther-on y-now; then make yt square, lyke as thou wolt leche it; take when thou lechyst hyt, an caste Box leaves a-bouyn, y-stkyd ther-on, on clowys. And if thou wolt haue it Red, coloure it with Saunderys y-now.
- Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books
This recipe is, as W.E. Mead says in The English Medieval Feast, gingerbread without the ginger. Pleyn Delit, however, speaks of the forgetfulness of the scribe who neglected to include the ingredient, and therefore includes the spice in its modern version. Either way, this bears little similarity to our contemporary gingerbread, and is instead more like a confection or candy. It is among the many sweets brought to Sir Thopas:
"They fette hym first the sweete wyn, and mede eek in a mazelyn, and roial spicerye of gyngebreed that was ful fyn, and lycorys, and eek comyn, with sugre that is trye."
Bring the honey to a boil and skim off any scum. Keeping the pan over very low heat, stir in the breadcrumbs and spices. When it is a thick, well-blended mass (add more bread crumbs if necessary), remove from heat & let cool slightly, then lay out on a flat surface & press firmly into an evenly shaped square or rectangle, about 3/4 of an inch thick. Let cool, then cut into small squares to serve. OPTION: add a few drops of red food coloring when adding the spices, "if thou wolt haue it Red."
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© James L. Matterer
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Book II. A Chaucerian Feast Part 1 | Part 2
Book I. A Chaucerian Cookery Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3