Alton’s Ingredient Alchemy: Gingerbread | Food Network

ALTON BROWN: I just want to say that if you're planning on leaving a plate of gingerbread cookies out for Santa, there are a couple of things you ought to know 17th century Europeans believed that gingerbread men were used by witches like voodoo dolls, only tastier

So they'd bake cookies that look like their enemies, and then gobble them up The rhizome of ginger, aka Zingiber officianalis, and molasses are the key ingredients in those gingerbread cakes, and early English versions were made with breadcrumbs, honey, ginger, and red wine

And they added other things like pepper, and dried fruits, and saffron, just to show off how rich they were But don't worry It got better Eventually, molasses replaced the honey Flour replaced the bread crumbs

Leavening was added, and we got the moist gingerbread cake that we know And yet, that dark side still lingers Remember Hansel and Gretel? Well, that gingerbread house that you make each holiday was first inspired by the old witch that tried to gobble those little children up Happy holidays