An expensive yet unfailingly delicious dessert that makes the Christmas holiday one of joy and love. Full of old traditional flavors and pleasures for young and old alike.

Red and White Gingerbread (Scottish Medieval)
Recipe type: Desserts
Serves: 12
  • In British (Imperial) measurements
  • 1 pound honey
  • 1 pinch powdered saffron
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 pound white breadcrumbs
  • box or bay leaves and whole cloves to decorate
  1. Warm the honey over a gentle heat until quite runny, then stir in the saffron and pepper. Pour into a large bowl and add the ginger and cinnamon, then mix in the breadcrumbs.
  2. It is impossible to say exactly how many breadcrumbs the honey will absorb because it varies, but the mixture should be very stiff. If not, add a few more breadcrumbs.
  3. Line a shallow gingerbread tin with baking parchment and press the mixture into it with your fingers. Level the top and leave to firm up in the fridge for several hours, then turn out on to another sheet of paper and cut into small squares.
  4. Arrange the gingerbread on a large plate, then decorate each square with two box or small bay leaves and a whole clove stuck in the centre. You can achieve an even prettier effect by gilding a few of the leaves or painting the ends of some of the cloves red.
  5. If you want to achieve a chequerboard effect, make the mixture up in two lots, adding a few drops of red colouring to one quantity of honey before mixing, then continue as before. Arrange the red and white squares of gingerbread alternately on the serving plate.
Makes about 12 servings. From "A Book of Historical Recipes" by Sara Paston-Williams The National Trust of Scotland


Gyngerbrede (dated from 1430 AD)

"Take a quart of hony, and sethe it, and skeme it clene; take Safroun, poudir Pepir and throw ther-on; take gratyd Brede and make it so chargeaunt (thick) that it wol be y-leched; then take pouder Canelle (cinnamon) and straw ther-on y-now; then make yt square, lyke as thou wolt leche yt; take when thou lechyst hyt, an caste Box (garden box) leves a-bouyn, y-stkyd ther-on, on clowys (cloves). And if thou wolt have it Red, coloure it with Saunderys (sandalwood) y-now."

Historical note: Gingerbread, both red and white, was a favourite medieval sweetmeat. Home-made gingerbread could be prepared by mixing breadcrumbs to a stiff paste with honey, pepper, saffron and cinnamon. Ginger is omitted from the earliest recipe we have, but this may be due to an accidental slip on the part of the scribe. Once made, it was shaped into a square, sliced and decorated with box leaves impaled on cloves.

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