Sunday, December 14, 2014

Uncommonly Good "Common Gingerbread"

Common Gingerbread, c.1841

This gingerbread recipe comes from Sarah Josepha Hale's, The Good Housekeeper, published in 1841.  Sarah Hale is known as the Mother of Thanksgiving as she used her platform as editor of Godey's Ladies Book to lobby presidents and the American public for an annual national day of Thanksgiving.  Here is her recipe for gingerbread cookies that can be served at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or anytime you are in the mood for a chewy, spicy, and slightly sweet treat!


Common Gingerbread
Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Housekeeper, Boston, 1841

Take a pound and a half of flour, and rub into it half a pound of butter; add half a pound of brown sugar and half a pint of molasses; two tablepoonfuls of cream, a tea-spoonful of pearlash, and ginger to the taste.  Make it into a stiff paste, and roll it out thin.  Put it on buttered tins, and bake in a moderate oven.

Modern Recipe Adaptation
5 Cups All-Purpose Flour, Plus More for the Board
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 1/2 Tablespoons Ginger
1/2 Pound (2 Sticks) Butter, Cut in Small Cubes
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Cup Molasses
2 Tablespoons Milk or Heavy Cream


  1. Preheat oven to 375ยบ F.  Butter cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper.  Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and ginger. 
  3. Add the butter to the flour mixture.  Use your hands to work the butter into the flour until the butter is evenly distributed.
  4. Add the brown sugar, molasses, and cream.  Mix all together using a wooden spoon or an electric mixer.
  5. Mix until all of the ingredients come together in a ball.  Let the dough rest at room temperature or in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. You can make this a day ahead and keep refrigerated.
  6. On a floured board, roll the dough until it is about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut with your favorite cookie cutters.
  7. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes.



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