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.
The 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.
The 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.
At 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!
I 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.
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?