China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

Yang Yong­fang (also known as Chef Grace) is just one ho­tel pas­try chef in China who’s been in a ginger­bread frenzy this month. For Do­main bak­ery at Beijing’s East ho­tel, she’s cre­ated do-it-your­self ginger­bread-house kits, and all month she’s been host­ing groups of lo­cal Chi­nese school­child­ren who squirt fat streams of white ic­ing to glue the pieces to­gether and then dec­o­rate them.

“When­we­came up with this idea, we thought we’d sell maybe 10,” says the ho­tel spokes­woman, Mina Yan. “But thanks to so­cial me­dia, it re­ally took off. I know we’ve done at least 200. Chef Grace says she’s done noth­ing but made ginger­bread all month. She prob­a­bly wants to kill me.”

While ginger­bread is un­fa­mil­iar to some Chi­nese, every­body knows the ginger root that gives it fla­vor — used much more in every­day cook­ing in Asia than in the West. Ginger­bread can be a cake or a type of cookie or bis­cuit; in the lat­ter form, it’s popular to cut the dough into shapes of ginger­bread men be­fore bak­ing.

The first recorded ginger­bread, as we know it to­day, was made for Eng­land’s Queen El­iz­a­beth I, who had it served to im­por­tant for­eign vis­i­tors.

Jean-Luc Vasseur, ex­ec­u­tive pas­try chef at the Ritz-Carl­ton Shang­hai, Pudong, says he en­joys mak­ing ginger­bread dur­ing the hol­i­days in dif­fer­ent shapes. For the ho­tel’s high tea, for ex­am­ple, he makes soft ginger­bread lol­lipops with orange mar­malade in the cen­ter. “Chi­nese peo­ple like it be­cause I put a lot of cit­rus fla­vor in it and a lit­tle star anise.”

His Chi­nese guests like the fla­vor “if you play with it”, he says, but notes that they don’t care much for the hard bis­cuit-type ginger­bread cook­ies fa­vored in theWest. “Sowedo cup­cakes with ginger­bread fla­vors, or creme brulee.”

The bis­cuit-type ginger­bread is also made into houses — from the table­top sizes Chef Grace makes with kids to almost life-size houses in some ho­tel lob­bies that peo­ple can walk inside to buy hol­i­day good­ies.


Chef Yang Yong­fang (left) leads par­ents and their kids to make ginger­bread houses at Do­main bak­ery, at East Beijing ho­tel.

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