Petra’s Pantry

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She’s known near and far for her delicious Gingerbread and speaking from experience, they are a taste sensation. 

Run, run, as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man! Do you know much about the origins of this fable?

I have only been introduced to that story here in Australia, so I don’t really know about the origin. I was brought up with the story of Hansel and Gretel and the witch with her gingerbread house – but that image is not really conducive to a gingerbread business!

Could you tell us a little bit about where Gingerbread originated from?

Gingerbread’s (Lebkuchen in Germany, where I come from) origins are lost in history. I have heard lots of stories, like this one: during a siege of a castle, people would mix their ration of flour with honey (which acts as a preservative) so it would not go off. I think it would then have to be locked away very safely from weevils, ants and kids. 

In the Middle Ages, and even well into 19th Century, the gingerbread making was tightly controlled by guilds. Only certain bakers were allowed to produce it. It was often made for special occasions like the birth of a crown prince, royal weddings, coronations and even funerals, but later it was available at markets, especially the famous Christmas markets. A young man would buy a heart on a long ribbon for his sweetheart, and she would wear it proudly around her neck.

You’ve been making gingerbread for quite some time. How long have you been in the business, and how did it all start?

It all started in the early ’90s, when I went to markets to sell unneeded stuff after moving from the city and found no gingerbread at any market. So, I started to make some gingerbread men for my stall – and they took off (like in the story). By the time I had no “stuff” to sell anymore, the gingerbread business was well on its way.

I have tasted many of your delicious cookies. Is there a secret ingredient or recipe?

There are no secret ingredients to my recipe. It was shared in a German magazine, and I freely share it with anybody who is interested. The only not so secret secret, is making sure we get the freshest spices, honey direct from beekeepers and fresh eggs.

Each biscuit is beautifully decorated; where did you learn such a skill?

 Decorating the biscuits is self taught, learning tips wherever I can. I think I still have a lot to learn.

Come Christmas, you make incredible gingerbread houses. How long does it take to make one, and what are some of the challenges? 

I can’t really put a time on making one gingerbread house, as they are done in groups and over a period of time, allowing setting off the icing in between. I actually don’t really want to know – I would probably have to raise the prices.

Do you offer any classes or workshops where one could learn your craft?

I have done a few classes in the past, but those people still come and buy their gingerbread house from me at Christmas. Some friends have learned from me, and now they sell it in Brisbane, Canberra, Newcastle and Pacific Palms.

What are some of the special events you cater for?

I am often asked to make special gingerbread for birthdays, baby showers, anniversaries and of course, Christmas, Easter, St Valentine’s Day and Christmas in July parties.

Where can we taste these delectable goodies, or find out more information?

Aside from markets (Nabiac Farmer’s Market, Hub Taree and Blackhead Bazaar) I also sell through coffee shops; these include Greenhouse Café Nabiac, Tropical Coffee Taree, Dragon’s Den Forster. In addition, you can find my gingerbread at The Nabiac  Bank Centre, Nabiac General Store, Nabiac Post Office and Nabiac Liquor Shop.

And finally, what gingerbread do you enjoy making and eating most?

I enjoy icing the small items best – no great loss if I make a mistake. I rarely eat the gingerbread these days, being surrounded by it; however, it is tempting when it’s hot and straight from the oven.

Thanks Petra.

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