In Hungary, where I am from, mézes kalács (aka. gingerbread) is a Christmas tradition available at outdoor Christmas markets throughout Budapest and small towns in varying degrees of fancy from simple circles or stars to intricate structures. So when I moved to Canada as a child, my fascination with the gingerbread houses and the quintessential Gingerbread Man was a given.
Working in the neuro-nutritional field I’m always trying to bring brainy hacks to the table while keeping the essence, and magic in this case, of classic recipes. And I think this cookie nails it! We used spelt flour, which is a type of wheat but is an ancient grain that hasn’t been crossed with other varieties of wheat. It is lower on the glycemic index (to help keep you off the blood sugar rollercoaster), higher in fibre, higher in protein (and neurotransmitter building amino acids), and vitamins and minerals. While it is not gluten free, it is lower in gluten than modern wheat, and brings all the texture plus more flavour than your basic wheat (it also performs the closest to white all-purpose flour in baking).
Our gingerbread cookies also showcase our motto of replacing the sugar in baking with natural sweeteners that also pack a nutritional punch. We used Deglet Noor dates (brimming with brain-loving vitamin B6 and iron) and unsweetened applesauce (high in more polyphenols than I can count). In combination with the traditional gingerbread spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and all spice, we have a beautifully elevated gingerbread cookie bursting with nutrients in addition to the classic flavour we expect and want from this nostalgic treat.
- 2 cups organic spelt flour
- 2 tsp Sri Lankan “true” cinnamon
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp all spice
- 1/2 tsp aluminum-free baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup room temperature organic unsweetened apple sauce
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 2 Tbsp warmed almond milk, or non-dairy milk of choice
- 1/4 cup coconut oil - room temperature, or slightly warmed
Date Paste Ingredients:
- 2 cups Deglet Noor dates
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil, completely melted
- 1 cup organic icing sugar*
- 2 Tbsp almond milk, or non-dairy milk of choice
- Preheat oven to 350 °F.
- Make date paste: In a high speed blender combine 2 cups packed, pitted dates and 1/2 cup hot water, blend until smooth. Measure out 1/2 cup to use and store excess in a sealed container in fridge for up to 3 months, or freeze for up to 1 year. If using left over date paste from the fridge, allow it to come to room temperature before use.
- Add spelt flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, all spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt to a mixing bowl and stir to combine.
- In a separate bowl, using a hand mixer, whip the room temperature coconut oil with the date paste until fully combined. If you can still see little bits of solidified coconut oil, try transferring to a small pot and heating on low until slightly warmed, and mix again until fully combined.
- Add room temperature apple sauce, molasses and milk of choice to mixture and continue mixing until fully combined.
- Add the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until dough starts to come together and is ready to knead.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead dough until smooth, sprinkling little bits of flour if dough is still sticky. Dough should come together and be smooth, but not stick to your hands.
- Roll dough into a ball, wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
- When dough is ready, unwrap the dough and set on lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness.
- Make sure to dip your cookie cutter into excess flour to prevent sticking, and begin to punch out your cookies, gently placing them on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat mat to prevent sticking.
- If using a 6” cookie cutter, bake for about 11-12 minutes for softer cookies, and 13-14 minutes for crunchier cookies. Cookies are done when edges have browned slightly. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before placing on cooling rack.
- To make the icing, add melted coconut oil and 1 cup of icing sugar to a bowl and mix together - it will be thick. Heat 2 Tbsp of milk of choice, and begin to add 1/2 tsp at a time until icing thins out slightly. The consistency should still be thick and hold its shape when you lift the spoon and drizzle over rest of the icing in the bowl.
- Once cookies have cooled, place icing in a piping bag and get creative!
* Make your own powdered sugar by simply adding organic white sugar to a blender and blending on medium/high until powdered.
Cookies can be stored at room temperature for 2-3 days, or un-iced cookies can be frozen in air tight container for 1-2 months.
- The high amount of dietary fibre in addition to phytonutrients like phytic acid and alkylresorcinols help to control blood sugar, which is important not only for the body but also for the brain and reducing our risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Check out our blog on why cinnamon is an essential brain food - and why it has to be “true” cinnamon!
- BIskup, I., Gajcy, M. & Fecka, I. 2017. The potential role of selected bioactive compounds from spelt and common wheat in glycemic control. Advances in Clinical and Experimental Medicine, 26 (6), 1013-1019.