Making gingerbread in Germany

December 22, 2014
mkg gingerbrd1

Some of the spices in German gingerbread.

I wouldn’t have minded, really, it would have been fun–but no, we didn’t make it. We did get to watch the Family Simon show us the making gingerbread process, as well as a nifty trick to making an Advent wreath.  We had Papa Simon, Grown Son Simon, and I think the Advent wreath maker was Elizabeth.  I am not sure if she is Wife of Papa Simon or Wife of Son Simon or Daughter Simon or someone else altogether. But it really doesn’t matter, does it?  What matters is that you know it’s a family business and it is a very big deal in Passau.

mkg gingerbrd rollThe Simons have been in the gingerbread business for generations, and its the place to go for those holiday treats. We were shown into a large white tent where the family had set up a gingerbread-making demo, complete with oven. They are a common stop on the river cruise itinerary and really, I’m glad they were because they have a very nice cafe and lots of wonderful products.

mkg gingerbread 6The front row called to me so I quickly took a seat right in front of this piece of dough. Uncooked. We knew we’d be tasting, so all eyes were on the gingerbread samples that were being passed around, along with a lecture that you’ll see on video if you want, later in this post. I hope you do watch because Papa Simon is very informative about the history of gingerbread and how it’s used today in Passau.

mkg gingerbrdAt first, I wasn’t that crazy about what I tasted.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t super-spicy like ours, which my husband bakes in a very delicious way. Yes, in my house my husband is the baker and I must say he gets rave reviews from my friends. One of the few benefits of getting sick is that he will bake delicious cakes and sweetbreads for you and I have a friend who can attest to that. It is the only benefit, but hey, take what you can, right?

Back to the not-that-spicey gingerbread– it was not sweetened with sugar, at least not the traditional version. There’s a newer recipe that does have sugar and marzipan. Again, Papa Simon will tell you all about  that below. Just keep reading!

mkg gingerbread3I love the “cooling rack.” Not all that sanitary, is it? That’s one of the things I love about being abroad: I see all sorts of health and safety hazards and realize just how very litigious we are in the US. And we’re obviously clumsy and accident-prone. Because Europeans don’t seem to fall in the drink or get food poisoning the way Americans do in our own country.

mkg gingerbread2 simon

Can you see how dense that cooked gingerbread is? Unlike our gingerbread cake, it’s indestructible. So, why not learn from the experts? Let the family tell you about it on these short videos, and at the end, you’ll see the advent wreath demonstration. I promise they are quite short.

Here is the master talking about how gingerbread is made while his son makes it for us. Very cool history of the way it was made back in olden times and it’s fun watching the rolling process. I didn’t realize what a tradition it is.

Walter, the Son of Simon (no spring chicken) walks back through the centuries of gingerbread making; then talks about the different kinds of gingerbread and how each one is made and sweetened:

In the vid below, Papa Simon shows us some of the traditional gingerbread molds he uses, and tells us about events for which they might be appropriate gifts:

And I would NOT mess with Elizabeth as she does her “special trick” to affix candles to the Advent wreath she is making.  But it IS clever and notice that the speaker gives Elizabeth credit for coming up with this nifty idea.

So there you have it. I love the tradition. Do you make it and how?

27 comments on “Making gingerbread in Germany
  1. I love gingerbread and ginger cookies…this feels like something in between. When I was baking more regularly I added crystallized ginger to the gingerbread–more of a cake really, serving it with softly whipped cream.
    Might just have to make that over the weekend for a post-holiday celebration! Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. What a neat experience! I watched all of the video’s and loved them!

  3. Diane says:

    We all have our talents. Mine is tasting/eating. Pass the gingerbread!

  4. Carol! This looks amazing! Ginger snaps are our favorite here. We use my fella’s mom’s recipe. The thinner and crispier the better.

    Happy Holidays!

  5. Roz Warren says:

    I’m finally going to break open that box of gingerbread cookies that a friend gave me several months ago as a hostess gift. And it’s entirely your fault! (They’ll be delicious, I’m sure but probably not as fresh and yummy as what you sampled in Germany. )

  6. Haralee says:

    I love the cooling rack! What a treat for you on several levels and thanks for sharing.

  7. Wow! What a great experience Carol. I’m not into Gingerbread at all but this made it fun. Learning why and how things are what they are is always interesting to me so I’m sure even I would have enjoyed this presentation. Thank you for sharing it with us all and Merry Christmas! ~Kathy

  8. I adore gingerbread and I’m sure this was incredible!

  9. WendysHat says:

    This is wonderful! I would love to be there! I am a gingerbread fanatic myself!

  10. Lana says:

    Another interesting experience! My husband is also the baker in our house – his grandfather owned a bakery and passed the genetics on to him, I guess. I have never tried to make gingerbread, but this inspired me. I enjoyed the videos, and now I have another addition on my must see travel list.

  11. That’s awesome! I am not a baker but I am definitely an eater, and would love to try this gingerbread.

  12. Ruth Curran says:

    I love those videos and the “tools” they used! Now that is a rolling pin and that is a cleaver!!! Thanks Carol!

  13. Oh, how divine. I can almost smell the gingerbread. Thank you for the details. Ginger is one of my Top 5 spices. Yummy!

  14. I love gingerbread cookies but have never made them. My oldest daughter makes delicious ones, though (so why should I?).

    That dough sure does look dense. And I love how stern the family seems in the videos. Just makes me smile for some reason. Elizabeth seems the only jolly one.

    What a great experience. Thank you for sharing, Carol. (Too bad you couldn’t share a taste or two, too!)

  15. I’ve always loved gingerbread. And building gingerbread houses, which I am absolutely terrible at. My kids liked making them when they were little!

  16. Suzanne Gray says:

    I’m the lone gingerbread lover in my family so I’ve never made it at home. This tempts me to give it a try though. Loved these videos, especially Elizabeth!

  17. Linda Roy says:

    How cool that you got to do this. I’m such a culinary junkie that a behind the scenes look at a chef or baker’s methodology is fascinating to me. Thanks for sharing it Carol!

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