Alcott · Little Women

Cookbook Outtakes: Hannah’s Hard Gingerbread

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Author: Alcott, Louisa
Book: Little Women
Difficulty rating: Little Women
Deliciousness rating: Acceptable

Hard Gingerbread

A Happy New Year to you all, my dearest family, which of course includes Mr. L. and a young man by the name of Teddy. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed your Christmas bundle, for I didn’t get it till night and had given up hoping. Your letter came in the morning, but you said nothing about a parcel, meaning it for a surprise, so I was disappointed, for I’d had a ‘kind of feeling’ that you wouldn’t forget me. I felt a little low in my mind as I sat up in my room after tea, and when the big, muddy, battered-looking bundle was brought to me, I just hugged it and pranced. It was so homey and refreshing that I sat down on the floor and read and looked and ate and laughed and cried, in my usual absurd way. The things were just what I wanted, and all the better for being made instead of bought. Beth’s new ‘ink bib’ was capital, and Hannah’s box of hard gingerbread will be a treasure. I’ll be sure and wear the nice flannels you sent, Marmee, and read carefully the books Father has marked. Thank you all, heaps and heaps! (Chapter 33: “Jo’s Journal”)

Nowadays we assume gingerbread will be dark brown, spicy, and molasses-flavored, but this version is much milder and more subtle in flavor, almost like animal crackers. (Tbh, these are fine. But we thought the traditional gingerbread was way more delicious, which was why this recipe was ultimately cut from the final draft of our book.)

HANNAH’S HARD GINGERBREAD
Yields around 1-3 dozen, depending how you roll it out

  • 3 ounces room-temperature butter
  • 5 ounces sugar (⅔  cup)
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon rose water (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons powdered ginger
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 10 ounces flour (2 ⅓ cups)
  1. Whisk flour, ginger, salt and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add milk slowly, mixing as you add. 
  4. Add rose water.
  5. Stir in flour mixture in three parts. You should have a soft dough.
  6. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.
  7. At this point, you have two options:
  8. For a slightly softer version with more ginger flavor: Roll out the dough between ¼ and ½ inch thick, and cut out with cookie cutters or the rim of a glass.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until pale golden brown. 
  9. For a crisp, toasty version (preferred by most of our tasters): Roll out the dough ⅛ inch thick and cut in squares or with cookie cutters. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, till entirely browned but not burnt.

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Alcott, Louisa. Little Women. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1896.

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