Sugar and spice Of all the treats associated with Christmas, the one I like the best is gingerbread. This is despite the fact that as a pastry apprentice, I spent all my spare time in the weeks before Christmas making hundreds of pounds of gingerbread dough (that's not an exaggeration). It was baked in large sheets and then cut into "bricks", which made enormous gingerbread houses that were the seasonal centrepiece of the lobby of the hotel where I worked. The houses, which we embellished with royal icing "snow", gingerbread people, marzipan animals and colourful candy decorations, were so big that children and short people (like myself) could walk into them without having to stoop. By the end of the season, I was sick of the Christmas tunes being piped constantly through the hotel's sound system, but I never tired of the smell of gingerbread. There are many types of gingerbread. The firm dough that we rolled out and made into gingerbread houses and people yields a crisp cookie, but there's also soft, moist gingerbread cake, and dry, firm gingerbread bread (such as pain d'epices). A German friend introduced me to the joys of lebkuchen - small, individual cookie-cakes, many of which are stuffed with jam before being baked, then iced with a thin glaze. I also love the very thin, crisp and delicate gingersnaps made in Scandinavian countries.