Make some medieval gingerbread

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My kids wanted to make a gingerbread house this Christmas. While the gingerbread was cooking and the smell of ginger and spices was drifting though the house, we had a look at the history of gingerbread which was really very interesting.

The idea is thought to have been brought to Europe by the Crusaders in the 11th Century, although the recipe then was quite different to the one we use today.

It was popular in medieval Europe at fairs and festivals where it was moulded and shaped into many things including toys for children, hearts, people, coats of arms and characters from the Nativity around Christmas time. Unmarried women would eat a gingerbread man in the hope that it would help her find a husband!

Shakespeare mentioned it in his  play Love’s Labour’s Lost  written way back in 1598. “An I had but one penny in the world, thou shouldst have it to buy gingerbread.”

It is also said that Queen Elizabeth I used to give gingerbread men as a special gifts to her favourite knights and courtiers.

We adapted this Medieval recipe found here, which uses bread crumbs, honey and spices. We used ginger and cinnamon, but gave the saffron and powdered pepper a miss.

Medieval Gingerbread

You will need

  • 200g of honey
  • 3-4 slices of stale white bread made into breadcrumbs
  • half a teaspoon of ginger (or to taste)

First, put the honey into a pan and heat it until it boils. Add the spices while it is still warm, then allow to cool a little. Stir in the bread crumbs until you have a firm, sticky dough.

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You can then mould the dough into shapes or cut it into squares. The original recipe calls for it to be decorated with leaves and cloves.

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We also had a go at putting some into a mould inspired by these amazing moulds. I had a small silicone cake mould which we just pushed the dough into, then let in set in the fridge for half an hour.

What do you think? We liked them but I warn you they are very very sweet. Even my two boys could not eat a whole piece.

We also made some gingerbread men and hearts with our modern gingerbread recipe which were a bit more popular!

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But now when I eat one, I can picture myself back at a market in the middle ages…

 

Stirling Castle – medieval life in 4D

Stirling castle life in 4D

We visited Stirling Castle this morning. We often meet my mum and dad there as it is half way between us and a good place to catch up and spend a few hours. The kids love exploring the ‘dungeon’ (which is not actually a dungeon at all, but some dark creepy rooms down steep steps) and running round the battlements.

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Last time we were there we discovered a whole new area in the palace vaults designed for kids, so we went back there today to have a better look. There was plenty to do – not just reading and quizzes, but also things to touch, feel, smell and hear.

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After listening to a TED talk this week about how the use of all your senses can improve the quality of an experience (this was not a talk for children I would warn you!) it really made me appreciate how good these displays were. It made me think much more about how life must have been like back then – how it must have sounded and smelt, and how impressive all the colours and rich fabrics must have been to mere commoners like myself. The only things missing was something to eat! Plenty of inspiration there for some Medieval/Tudor projects I think…

 

Make a jousting lance

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After Sundays jousting extravaganza we were inspired to have a go at jousting ourselves. I had some unused foam pipe insulators (79p each from a hardware shop) which we decorated with some coloured card and tape.

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Cut out a large semicircle of card – we used a big baking bowl as a template.

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Wrap it round the lance and tape snugly in position (strong glue would also work well.)

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Decorate the lances with coloured tape or ribbons.

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 Joust!

How about trying some jousting games?  Hitting ballons and catching hoops would make great Knight party games, though if you have any number of boys present they will  probably just end up bashing each other over the head!

The boys have also had some great fun with this online jousting game from the V&A museum.

How did you get on?

Jousting at Linlithgow Palace

 

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We have just got home after a fantastic day out at Linlithgow Palace watching some medieval jousting.  Well done to Historic Scotland for a really well organised event which was loved by all our kids (and adults too.) The jousting was highly entertaining with badly behaved knights, amazing fast horses and plenty of booing and cheering.

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Yes that is a severed head he is spiking. It was lovely to see my eldest son who at the age of 6 had wanted to be a knight more than anything in the world, enthralled once again. He got to hold a huge sword in a march around the ground which made his day. We also watched how to use various weapons, had a look at some medieval cooking and went to watch some of the ladies-in-waiting get dressed – outdoors as well – shocking!

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I had never been to Linlithgow Palace before and was impressed at how beautiful and imposing it was. This was one of the carvings on the fountain inside the courtyard.

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And as I discovered yesterday the unicorn is the national animal of Scotland (been spending too long on Pinterest.)

If you fancy a day out at the jousting too, do not worry, the Knights of Royal England are back at Linlithgow tomorrow and on the 6th and 7th of July, and later on in July at Hever Castle and Blenheim Palace.