In association with fifteen Queen Street and their Lunch Time Show Off event, project Co-ordinator, Alex Davis met Wivenhoe based gingerbread baker Emily Garland. They discuss the joy of baking, and what it’s like running her own business – Maid of Gingerbread –  ahead of  her   Lunch Time Show Off!  at  fifteen Queen Street on Thursday 19th January.

Alex writes, when I turn up to meet Emily she has already made two gingerbread wedding boxes and is currently preparing to make some biscuits. Based in a small flat in Wivenhoe the minute you enter you are welcomed by the smell of fresh gingerbread. It is also filled with wondrous objects from her journeys in Indonesia (she has a degree in Indonisian music). I’m delighted to be invited to this baking HQ.

“I’ve been running Maid of Gingerbread for a year now. I used to be based in London supplying local cafes and shops with my baked creations. I’m also commissioned to construct bespoke gingerbread sculptures for weddings and birthdays.” Emily makes traditional houses, wedding boxes, edible tea sets, radios, to pac-man and moustache shaped biscuits.

“I’ve just moved back to Colchester after spending ten years in London so I feel like I’m getting to know it again. What I’ve always liked is the complete mixture of people it brings together, and once you know where to look you can find some really interesting things”.

The gingerbread boxes on the table have a ‘stained glass’ lid, “This is made by putting a boiled sweet in the gap and it fills and melts – creating a stained glass effect.” It’s a working box that biscuits or gifts can be hidden inside. “This is for my friends wedding. I’m creating some dragonfly biscuits to go inside and once created the box can last for 2 months.” – If someone could resist not eating it.

I wonder if the biscuits also last for months “I use different recipe for houses to biscuits. The biscuits only really last a few days and aren’t strong enough to be used for sculptures. The recipe was passed down from my Mum – an old German ‘Lebkuchen’ recipe which I’ve adapted for the two uses.”

Emily heads to her little kitchen to begin baking the biscuits, “My kitchen has been tested and certified by the Food Standards Agency. It’s funny. A man came round with a clipboard and checked everything”. Her kitchen may be small but is perfect to cook in and she begins to weigh out the ingredients. “In my recipes I use local eggs and honey. I’ve been trying to find some Wivenhoe eggs as at the moment I currently use Colchester ones.”

Her grandmother used to keep a recipe book of everything she cooked for over 20 years. “It contains descriptions of fantastic meals she created in the 1940s to 60s. Even in the wartime she was constructing huge feasts – some things she shouldn’t have been able to make with rations.” Sort of an underground gourmet book I question. “Either way it’s fascinating to see what they were eating back then.”

We discover there is some extra dough and we decide to create 15 Queen Street biccies. “I would like to bring out my own recipe book one day documenting and showcasing all the different shapes you can make with gingerbread”.

Emily rolls out the dough with precision and constructs little letters to adorn the boxes and cuts out dragonfly shapes. “I have a huge tub with different cutters but also use templates to make my own shapes. I make a basic paper template for houses and larger structures.” She will measure and cut the dough, baking it to hold the shape.

One of her challenging creations was a gingerbread piano “It was quite difficult to make and had to have lots of supports” but the more Emily makes, the more she can create. “My next self-initiated project is to create an exact replica of Wivenhoe church”.

After the biscuits have cooked – they only take 10 – 12 minutes they are left to cool on a rack. “I feel I came back just at the right time, with firstsite now open and lots of smaller projects nearby, it feels like Colchester’s becoming the place to be for creatives which is great. I’m really looking forward to getting properly involved”.

Once cool the biscuits are decorated with icing and edible glitter. Icing is used to stick the letters in place spelling out the soon to be married couples name and wedding date. We complete the 15 Queen Street biscuits with tiny decorated number 15s.

Emily held a gingerbread workshop here at 15 Queen Street in December. 16 gingerbread houses were created. “The finished houses were so varied in character – from a quaint cottage with thatched roof and picket fence, to a crazy candy house covered in sweets. It was great to get creative and have some fun!”

Come hear more about Emily Garland and the wonderful world of gingerbread at the Lunch Time Show Off! this month on Thursday 19th January. 1 – 2pm @ 15 Queen Street, Colchester, CO1 2PH

In the meantime, try out the recipe for Em’s Simple Spiced Hot Chocolate here

This feature is brought to you by fifteen Queen Street, a hub offering affordable workspace to creatives living and visiting the town, whilst aiming to celebrate, nurture, share and support their talent