Take a quart of hony, & sethe it, & skeme it clene; take Safroun, pouder Pepir, & throw ther-on; take grayted Bred, & make it so chargeaunt that it wol be y-lechyd; then take pouder Canelle, & straw ther-on y-now; then make yt square, lyke as thou wolt leche yt; take when thou lechyst hyt, an caste Box leves a-bouyn, y-stykyd ther-on, on clowys. And if thou wolt haue it Red, coloure it with Saunderys y-now.
MS. Harleian 279, Leche Vyandez, 35.

Ginger Bread.
Take a quart of honey and seethe it and skim it clean. Take saffron, powdered pepper, and throw thereon. Take grated bread and make it so stiff that it will be cut in slices. Then take cinnamon powder and strew thereon enough. Then make it square as though thou wouldst slice it. Take, when thou have sliced it, and cast box leaves above, stuck thereon in cloves. And if thou will have it red, colour it with sandalwood enough.

Gyngerbrede is a very well known recipe from medieval times; it was regarded as a luxurious treat to give to honoured guests, being packed with expensive spices. However, as with the recipe above, some recipes don’t actually contain ginger! It may be implied by the name, or this recipe may be a variant on others that contain ginger. I have chosen to add the ginger.


500 ml honey ½ tbs cinnamon
500 g bread crumbs (approx) ¼ tsp white pepper
1 tbs fresh or powdered ginger (optional) Pinch saffron
½ tsp sandalwood (optional)

To garnish:

Branches from a box tree Whole cloves


  1. Bring the honey to a boil and skim off any scum.
  2. Keeping the pan over very low heat, add the spices except the cinnamon, and sandalwood if using, adjusting the quantities to suit your taste.
  3. Slowly beat in the bread crumbs. Add just enough bread crumbs to achieve a thick, stiff, well-blended mass You will know you have enough bread crumbs when the mix becomes hard to stir; this may take more or less bread crumbs than the amount specified.
  4. Remove from the heat and turn the mixture onto a lightly greased shallow baking tray. Press the gingerbread evenly out into the pan.
  5. Leave to cool in the fridge. When cool, sprinkle with cinnamon.
  6. Gently ease the ginger bread out of the tray, and cut into small squares.
  7. To serve, garnish with sprigs of box, and whole cloves.


  • “Box tree” refers to plants of the Buxus genus. The wood of this genus is very dense, and can be used in woodturning. Other Gingerbread recipes suggest to serve it in boxes made from box wood. (Renfrow, 2003, 264).


Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from Amazon.

Austin, Thomas (1856). Two Fifteenth Century Cookbooks.
This contains two complete fifteenth century cooking manuscripts, including Harleian 279, and excerpts from others.
Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books: Harleian Ms. 279 (Ab. 1430), & Harl. Ms. 4016 (Ab. 1450), with Extracts from Ashmole Ms. 1429, Laud Ms. 553, & Douce Ms. 55
Renfrow, Cindy (2003). Take a Thousand Eggs or More.
This contains easy to follow recipes taken directly from the manuscripts above, and also has an excellent glossary.
Take a Thousand Eggs or More

One comment on “Gyngerbrede

  1. Eva@L.E.EBakers says:

    This looks delicious!


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