June 5th National Gingerbread Day

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(CNN) — It’s not just for the holidays – June 5 is National Gingerbread Day.

Gingerbread actually refers to a number of sweet confections that include ginger, whether a moist loaf of bread or a crispy cookie.

Ginger is one of those versatile spices that lends well to lots of different cooking styles. It’s related to warm and sweet spices like tumeric and cardamom, and pairs well with molasses and cinnamon. The Germans have pretty much perfected their type of gingerbread cookie, called the Lebkuchen, but it tastes nothing like that sweet and spicy gingersnap your grandmother makes.

There’s also a debate over whether using dried ginger, fresh ginger or crystallized ginger is best. Each has different merits, ranging from ease of use to ginger flavor. Try each one and decide for yourself, just be careful when substituting them for each other!

Below is my favorite gingerbread cookie recipe. It’s from a co-worker’s great aunt of County Down, Northern Ireland, and calls for both ground ginger and crystallized ginger.

Auntie May’s Ginger Biscuits

6 ounces salted butter, softened to room temperature

8 ounces (1 cup) granulated sugar

1/2 cup molasses

1 egg

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 cups bread flour (you can also use all-purpose, but not self-rising)

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 ounces crystallized ginger, chopped finely

Preheat oven to 190° Celsius, or 375° Fahrenheit. Mix together the soft butter, sugar, molasses and egg until smooth.

In a separate bowl, blend together the flour, baking soda, spices, salt and chopped ginger until even.

Stir the dry mixture into the liquid. Stir very well until it reaches a dry dough consistency.

Allow to rest in cool larder or refrigerator for an hour or two.

Prepare greased baking pans. You’ll need at least two to handle volume. (The recipe makes about 50 small biscuits.)

Roll the dough into one-inch balls. Coat in sugar and place them on the baking pans about 3 inches apart.

Bake for 9-12 minutes. Allow to cool on a tea towel and then put in sealed tin to keep biscuits crisp.

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