Sunday, November 13, 2011

Gingerbread pathway through the Europe

Hansel and Gretel by Scott Gustafson.
Golden age of cookie mold printed gingerbread and cookies might be history, but Europe still has some gingerbread crumbs to offer for traveler all around. These gingerbread "shrines" includes shops, museum rooms and other places offer chance to bake your own old fashioned gingerbreads!
Gingerbread detective task

I must admit in start that my search is still unfinished. There are many locations, bakers and museums to tell about. So if you have any additional information offer, it would be most useful for my task! 

Poland's gingerbread museum view. Picture source.
For example Mr. Kvapil recently offered me new source of information about Russian gingerbread and Tula's history. It really hit the spot, because there was even mention about how to bake gingerbread without baking soda, while using fermentation of dough. This source also offered multiple recipes, and can be found here.

Russian gingerbread can be so heavy, that two men are needed to carry it! Picture source.
This blog post is dedicated for museums, shops and other places with activity related cookie mold cookies or gingerbread around the Europe. Later I will focus more about each country's history and traditions. Little about gingerbread history can be read below, after links for locations around Europe.

Gingerbread capitals and guilds

In past there were several gingerbread capitals in Europe and Russia, which were famous for their own gingerbread with unique taste. While some countries or towns had bakers doing the job, other had even own guild for gingerbreads only: The gingerbread guild. Such guild were very high ranked in society and usually only they had right to bake gingerbread with few exceptions through year. 
Here is only few gingerbread towns to mention: They were Nürnberg (Germany),Toruń (Poland), Parabuci, Prague (Czech) and Tula (Russia).

Gingerbread guild was a group of people, usually only for men, which formed from guild master, apprentices and students. At Poland it took six years to finish "gingerbread studies" until person was allowed to become apprentice. This was proofed in certain test, where student was required to show his skills with gingerbread baking.

Other historic cookies

Belgian cookie, Couque de Dinant. Picture source.
Some cookies also come from hundred years ago; such are for instance Speculaas, Aachener Printen and Couque de Dinant. Usually such cookies are related to some particular town and production was limited there only due recipes were kept hidden and only passed on through family lines.
Destiny of gingerbread culture

While Europe did have very vivid and rich culture about gingerbreads and cookies prepared with wooden cookie molds, several reasons was behind while tradition slowly died out and only pale reflection of past's glory remained. Rise of industrial baking, such as confectery with machines were more practical and lack of skilled wood carvers made cookie molds rarer. War and economic crisis were other causes, for example this was the case at Russia.

Gingerbread shrines

Polish gingerbread molds. Picture source.
There are still few locations were old traditions and cookie molds can be seen in some way. Like I said earlier, my sources are very limited, so there will be even more places what I just don't know yet.

Important thing to notice about modern gingerbread culture: At many places old, cookie mold printed cookie has now been replaced with modern methods and lack of artisan touch.

List to be updated when new information is gathered.

Important note: Some shops might focus for Christmas season and stay less open during other time of year. Few museums might require group or other arrangements for meeting in advance!


La Maison COLLARD à Dinant
Dinant. Several different shops offering local "gingerbread" or cookie and showing old carved cookie molds aswell.

Maison Dandoy
Old fashioned cookie buotique. Picture source.
Brussels. Several different shops, selling local speculoos and other cookies too. Decoration of each shop varies, but at least some of them should show old, even 80 cm tall molds on walls.

The Czech Republic

Gingerbread Museum Gingerbread House No. 38

Czech decorated gingerbread, picture by Petr Baláž. Picture source.
Ráby Gingerbread related building with museum and activities related to Czech gingerbread and wooden cookie molds.


Kalev Marzipan Museum Room

Tallinn. One of my recents findings was information about german artisan bringing wooden cookie molds for marzipan molding to Estonia, Tallinn. I am currently trying to find out does little museum room tell anything about these molds or include some of them too.


La Maison du Pain d'epices

Alsace. Museum and shop. Gingerbread related shop with museum about French gingerbread tradition.


Printenbaker from Aachen

Aachen. Shop with little museum too, selling local Aachener Printen cookies.


World of Toruń Gingerbread (at Nicolaus Copernicus House)

Living Gingerbread Museum

Torun. People of Poland loved their gingerbread so much, that they dedicated two different museum for it. While other is traditional "watch and walk" museom about Torun gingerbread history, other is more about workshop offering chance to bake gingerbread like it was baked centuries ago.


Gingerbread museum

Tula. Small, few rooms showing russian gingerbread molds and baked gingerbread, pryaniki.


Bischofberger AG (Appenzeller-Bärli biber)

Lebkuchenbäckerei Goldapfel

Einsiedeln. Museum and shop.