Monday, 30 June 2014

The Tale of the Gingerbread Man

Daughter N loves the story of the Gingerbread Man. I came across the book on holiday in Mallorca last year and because it brought back memories of my childhood in New Zealand I bought it without hesitation. That evening I read it to the children, not suspecting how different their responses to the story would be.

I'm sure many of you remember it well: the Gingerbread Man not only escapes his bakers but everyone else who pursues him with the sole intention of gobbling him up. Gingerbread Man is too fast for all of them: "Run, run, as fast as you can, you can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man." That is... until he meets sly and cunning Fox. Fox tricks the Gingerbread Man when he helps him cross a river and as a result is able to enjoy a good ginger-flavoured afternoon snack.

Here's the little guy getting away from everyone

Now I know my son. He is a sensitive and deeply empathetic boy and I love him for it. So, as I was nearing the end of the story and the full impact of the ending began to dawn on me, I suddenly regretted buying the book. Realising it would be odd to suddenly throw the book out of the window for no particular reason I continued reading, trying my darndest to sound as cheerful as possible. But as I came to the last lines of the story with a giant, aching smile on my face - the bit where Fox throws Gingerbread Man into the air and catches him with his widely opened mouth - I could see S's expression begin to change from one of friendly interest to one of utter horror. "Well, that's the end of the story - time for bed," I said smiling my head off, but S would have none of it. He put his hand on his chest, swallowed away some tears and said in disbelief: "You mean, mama... that's the end of the story?" Still foolishly believing I could laugh the whole thing off, I said: "Yip, well, s*** happens, let's go brush your teeth" (or something to that effect).

Oh, the horror... the horror

That evening was one of tears and talking in the late evening Mallorca heat about the unfairness of it all: sweet, happy-go-lucky Gingerbread Man devoured by sly, mean Fox whilst celebrating his deeply desired freedom.  And I realised with a heavy heart that when the time comes to really break the news that bad things happen to good people, I will have my work cut out for me.

And N? Well she was far more pragmatic about the whole thing: "Bye bye Gingerbread Man. Fox must be hungry, poor Fox,  and the Gingerbread Man must taste delicious. Can you bake some soon, mama, so I can eat one too?"

Gingerbread Man certainly does taste delicious and there is nothing quite like the scent of ginger wafting through the house and into the garden on a sunny Sunday morning. Without further ado, here is the recipe, adapted from the one in Mary Berrry's Ultimate Cake Book. I use coconut and brown sugar instead of muscovado sugar; and maple syrup instead of  golden syrup (cutting down on the refined stuff somewhat) and as always, spelt flour instead of wheat.

Gingerbread Men
adapted from Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake Book by Mary Berry

350g spelt flour
1 heaped teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
100g butter
100g coconut palm sugar
75g brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
4 tablespoons maple syrup
gingerbread man cutter
yields 17-20 biscuits, depending on your cutter

  • preheat oven 190 degrees Celsius
  • line a baking tray with baking paper
  • put flour, bicarb and ginger into a large bowl; rub in the butter to form something that resembles bread crumbs
  • stir in the sugars
  • add egg and syrup
  • knead mixture with a light hand until you form a smooth dough
  • divide the dough into two halves
  • take one half and roll out on a lightly floured surface. Using a cookie cutter, cut out the gingerbread men and place them on a tray
  • do the same with the second half of the dough
  • you may need to bake in two batches, as I always do  
  • bake 10-12 mins           

N felt Gingerbread Man should have a belly button


  1. Je recept ga ik zeker proberen !
    En ocharme, je zoontje... Maar misschien is zo een verhaaltje nog niet zo slecht om kinderen stilaan te leren over de minder leuke dingen des levens.... Want die confrontaties komen er vroeger of later toch, dus beter het zo voorbereiden...

  2. They're adorable. I love their belly buttons. :) Thank you for sharing your recipe.

  3. It is easy to forget how bloodthirsty the old children's tales could be! Three little pigs, Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, good to read as adults but a little harsh for children. Give me Winnie the Pooh anytime

  4. I'd kind of forgotten how the story ends! Fairy tales can be alarmingly dark sometimes - I recently read Hansel and Gretel to my two and was struck by how sinister it was. But your gingerbread men look delicious, and not at all creepy! x

    1. Yes, Hansel and Gretel is particularly horrifying - not because of the witch, but because their parents deliberately abandon them in the woods, leaving them there to die. Though I could probably explain it to my daughter, it would be far too hard for my son to digest at this point in time.

  5. I actually do prefer the moralistic sinister endings to the fairytales, instead of the Disney happy endings. You know, where they still cut open the wolf and fill his belly with stones and all gather round to watch him drown. I tell it with my best horror voice. :)
    I don't like the notion that everyting has to end well. Same with the notion that there are no losers to a game. I think these sort of things teach kids the most valuable things in life: watch out for strangers, do not always believe what you see, there are wolfs in sheepsclothes in this world, it is best you deal with disapointment, the world does not owe you anything.

    Pfew, heavy stuff for the early morning!

    1. Good point. I suppose that is the purpose of fairy tales - the world is not always a nice and trustworthy place. With S there is always the issue: how do I teach him these things without tainting his kind nature (and giving him nightmares!). Well, I guess it's just one of those parenting dilemma's we all deal with, especially when a sensitive child is involved.

    2. I can see that. It is not that I don't hesitate, because I do. Timing is key in this, especially for a boy with his kind nature. I play with it and am forever searching for the best way. For example I'd say something like: "Right guys, listen up, now it gets REALLY scary" And in the case of the gingerbread man, I told them: ahhh, poor gingerbread man. Or is it poor? The fox also needs to eat, etc.

      O, I *do* wish they would give you a manual together with the baby~!

  6. sensitive boys will grow up to be empathic men. that's what I keep telling myself. x hope eating a gingerbread man helped.


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