Half a year is the ideal time for gingerbread dough to mature. Does that seem like a long time? The teachers of Poděbrady study centre also teach students Czech realia, and they know very well that gingerbread dough for a wedding should ideally be made on the day of the bride's birth.
When preparing this year's gingerbread for decorating, however, they broke tradition in Poděbrady. The dough was prepared a few days before Advent. To decorate the Assembly Hall, several batches of dough were made, so each student could choose from hundreds of baked decorations in traditional Christmas shapes.
The amount of Christmas gingerbread that needed to be prepared for the students was easily handled by the teachers from Poděbrady. As Centre Director, Martin Melcer, admits, they are used to large-scale baking of Christmas confectionery, because every year he alone prepares Linz biscuits from two kilos of flour.
And what was this year's recipe for more than 500 gingerbread biscuits? Above all, a lot of time. Just rolling out and cutting out the dough, baking, and coating it with egg white takes more than four hours for a coordinated team of four teachers. But the most important thing is properly prepared dough: for one batch, you take 210 grams of plain flour, 210 grams of rye flour, 300 grams of honey, 100 grams of cane sugar, a bag of gingerbread spices, a teaspoon of baking soda, 50 grams of butter, two egg yolks, and a little milk.
Two in the mouth, one on the table, that's how most students decorated their gingerbread. No one solved the dilemma of whether to bite off the gingerbread man's leg or head, because the whole man went into their mouth! The students liked the decorating so much that when they ran out of gingerbread and had some egg white frosting left over in the icing bags, they decided to use it to decorate the trays.
While the icing was drying, the students honoured the first post-Velvet revolution president, Václav Havel. In memory of one of the most famous students of Poděbrady castle, they assembled a burning “Havel heart” from candles in the castle salla terena.
The serious atmosphere was replaced by the typical Christmas impatience, preceding the lighting of the Christmas tree and the singing of carols. The students quickly returned to the tables covered in decorated gingerbread and hastily threaded and tied strings to decorate the tree. It successfully resisted the unexpected load, which, according to well-informed sources, has never lasted the whole Advent season. It is said that the students cannot resist temptation and crunch the gingerbread.
Text: Petra Köppl
Photos: Stanislav Pecháček