What does one get when two best friends, both mothers of toddlers, having an avid passion for baking, and a mind frame for eating consciously healthy food, come together? Ginger and Lace: a bakery for artisan bespoke cookies with the finest ingredients sourced from Egypt.
Basma Hamdy and Nora Abdel Salam Hussein are two young mothers. The first holds a degree in graphic design and the second has studied Chinese languages.
As a child Hamdy read cookbooks. Her first was “Chocolates and Sweets , one of the ubiquitous Ladybird series. It was her first introduction to the complexities of kitchen chemistry, marvelling at the various possibilities simply through the usage of varying temperatures of heat.
“But it was not just about the actual making but presentation of the recipes that enthralled Hamdy.
Hamdy and Abdel Salam Hussein kept in touch throughout the years as their families moved between Egypt and abroad. During the numerous email exchanges, Hamdy had mused about the possibility of the two friends starting a baking business together one day.
A self-proclaimed realist, Abdel-Salam-Hussein laughs at recollections of Hamdy’s enthusiasm for getting the project started.
Yet, since November 2008 the two young women have introduced Cairo to novelty cookies that are truly delicious. Using fondant icing to decorate their cookies, they have worked long hours to perfect the very cookie recipes which they now use on a daily basis to keep up with the orders pouring in.
“We offer a whole concept, a distinct brand identity, attention to detail and theme of the cookie, unlike the conventional desserts available in Egypt, says Abdel-Salam-Hussein.
With a brand name of Ginger and Lace, they evoke the most pungent and beautiful spice of ginger and the intricate handiwork of lace. Each cookie is ascribed with old fashioned piping techniques reminiscent of delicate lace, and the best quality vanilla bean pods, Belgian chocolate, ginger or cinnamon spices are used. There is nothing mechanical about their cookies, nor mass produced.
“No mass produced bakery has a ‘baked from scratch’ baking process, says Hamdy. The two women are keen on having the bakery grow gradually whilst adhering to the usage of fine ingredients and maintaining strict levels of hygiene. “Pasteurized eggs were a sourcing challenge but necessary for uncooked icing, said Hamdy.
Each cookie is a delicate case of fine icing craftsmanship which Hamdy and Abdel Salam-Hussein create from beginning to end. They are the sole bakers and decorators in their current baking studio. As business is growing, they are looking to hire but are struggling with reconciling themselves to the necessity of doing so.
“We’re obsessively thorough and very driven we don’t stop unless [the cookie is] perfect, says Abdel-Salam-Hussein. She marvels at the sheer chemistry of it all. “Baking is a science and an art.
Whilst attending a food fair targeting hotels, restaurants and bakeries in Egypt, they discovered that a majority of the food sold by local sources to local establishments were selling ingredients that had been chemically enhanced to keep away fungal growths, ensure a longer shelf life, and maintain elasticity throughout the baking process amongst other things.
They speak with horrified tones about their discoveries and speak proudly of their adventures in sourcing products that would allow them to work with un-tampered castor sugar and pure flour, using organic baking ingredients. Their sole concern is using ingredients that are not premixes, using real butter as opposed to shortenings, and avoiding any ingredients that include preservatives.
Primarily focusing on theme cookies shaped and decorated in various forms, Ginger and Lace offer treats for special occasions such as baby showers. Rattle shaped cookies and cars were a huge success at Abdel-Salam-Hussein’s nephew’s baby shower. For hen nights, the duo offer burlesque lingerie cookies which highlight their strong piping skills: the corset laces are the fine intricate lines of fondant icing.
Almost every item can be personalized with short messages or names, and in doing so, creates a memorable dessert and decorative concept.
Bride and groom cookies for weddings, Mother’s Day flowered tea cups and saucers, daisy flowers and Valentine’s Day roses have all been made. Christmas ornaments threaded with ribbon to suspend from Christmas trees and holiday treats baskets were also big sellers.
Customers requesting difficult commissions such as Thomas the Tank Engine have been pleasantly surprised. Hamdy relied on her art skills to create a flat cookie with a Thomas whose famous chubby cheeks were sculpted out of icing.
With Easter upon us, they speak excitedly about the eggs, rabbits and other Easter characters they are going to create, looking forward to every holiday and customer’s request as a challenge.
In addition to the cookies, Ginger and Lace offers cupcakes with perfect domes, themed cakes and interesting takes on other candy such as Egyptian asaliya or honey candied sticks that they cover in chocolate.
For occasions, they can create dessert tables with a central theme and lay out delectable treats for the guests. The visual treat is fantastic as childhood fantasies of Willy Wonka are evoked.
They are so passionate as they speak about future plans. A gourmet line, potentially a café in which they can serve their goods, a store from which to sell (they currently sell from their baking studio) are all in the works.
But for the month of April, they will suspend baking as they focus on marketing, the intricacies of business and discuss future plans.
“We look bigger than we actually are, we want to match our size, says Abdel-Salam-Hussein.
www.gingernlace.comTelephone to place orders: 0160072210Facebook group: Ginger N Lace