At this time of year, I enjoy doing a little baking. Cookies,
mostly. Particularly gingerbread. I have fond, but fuzzy,
memories of making them with my mother when I was
much younger. I even have many of the cookie cutters
we used, plus a few newer ones. My favorites are a star,
a bell, and a small gingerbread boy (er, person?).
When I bake these, I do them “from scratch,” yes? Um,
well, no. Not usually. Thing is, I don’t typically keep all
the required ingredients on hand, be it flour or cloves
or ginger or whatever. Not that I couldn’t buy them.
I don’t really remember what my mother did. I tend
to lean towards “from scratch,” yet, knowing her…but
I just don’t remember.
In any event, it’s just easier to pick up a box mix.
Maybe some day, I’ll be adventurous and go all out,
but for now, store-bought-box-mix is my method.
I know. Bad cook, historical or otherwise. Again.
Now, I usually pick up good ol’ Betty Crocker Gingerbread
Cake & Cookie Mix. It’s easy, works well, and tastes fine.
However, the other day I found boxes of Hodgson Mill
Whole Wheat Gingerbread Mix on the store shelf.
Now, for any of my other baking, particularly and especially
historical, I prefer to use Hodgson Mill Unbleached Flour.
Why? Well, first, because it’s not been treated with modern
chemicals to make it whiter. The usual bleaching agents
include benzoyl peroxide, chlorine, nitrogen dioxide, and
so on. Second, no artificial vitamins have been added (as
is required by US law) to replace the real ones lost due
to the chemical bleaching process, because it wasn’t
bleached in the first place. (Incidentally, bleaching is
prohibited in Europe.) When you see flour is labeled
as being “enriched,” that’s what it means. Vitamins
such as niacin, iron, riboflavin, and, my own favorite,
thiamin mononitrate, have all been added. And lastly,
I appreciate that Hodgson’s contains no other flours.
Most, if not all, other commercially sold flours, whether
bleached or not, include “malted barley flour.” So they’re
not just wheat flour; they’re wheat and barley flour.
The labels will typically add, in parenthesis, that this
“improves yeast baking.” Which only makes sense,
as malted barley is the basis for brewing beer, and
beer is built on yeast.
Just for fun, let’s do a little label comparison.
The ingredients of Betty Crocker Gingerbread Mix:
Enriched flour bleached (wheat flour, niacin,
iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic
acid), sugar, partially hydrogenated soybean
&/or cottonseed oil, molasses, wheat starch,
baking soda, dextrose, corn starch, salt,
sodium acid pyrophosphate, natural flavor,
Hmmm…not a bit of cinnamon, cloves, or even GINGER,
in Betty’s GINGERbread mix. Guess the “natural flavor” is
good enough?! Incidentally, all the words in parenthesis,
following “bleached,” are the exact same ones that’re found
on other bags of bleached flour.
Here are the ingredients of Hodgson Mill Gingerbread Mix:
Whole grain whole wheat flour, molasses,
brown sugar, baking soda, ginger,
cinnamon, salt, cloves.
Wow! Real ingredients. Bake on!
My Hodgson Mill’s gingerbread cookies were pretty tasty.
They were a bit different, however. I think, possibly, it
was the use of whole grain whole wheat flour. They did
seem a little more “earthy” tasting. I’ll have to make more,
maybe Betty’s and some “from scratch,” and then compare!