Incense “Gingerbread”

In the last two or three years I have become increasingly involved with kneaded incense such as Kyphi and Neri-Koh. Last year I wondered whether you could use fresh orange peel for this, so I used this recipe [DE] as the basis for an experiment.
The results are these tiny incense gingerbread. (Along with a number of other successful experiments that I will share here later, and from which its own subcategory of kneaded incense emerged: “Oranganak” – a word creation my best friend came up with.)
As with all of my blends, I recommend not using the Gingerbread on charcoal, but on an incense heater.

For the orange peel, please use untreated organic oranges. It should be peeled off as thinly as possible, i.e. without the white layer inside. I do this with a peeler, which cuts really finely. I get 14–18 grams from one orange.
It is important to process the peel immediately. If you leave it lying around, oil and moisture evaporates and if you cover it and leave it for longer, they oxidize and change their aroma (not for the better).

First, roughly chop the cinnamon bark, also the star anise if it is whole.
Put all the spices together in the blade grinder. You should make sure that the grinder does not get too warm, as this can be harmful to the aromas. The spices should still have a relatively coarse grain size and not become a fine powder.
If you don’t have an electric coffee grinder, you can alternatively crush everything in a mortar.
Next, add the frankincense. (I use relatively cheap “Aden” frankincense for this recipe. In my opinion, it has a good price-performance ratio. Using a really high-quality one would be a waste in my eyes, as all the other ingredients are very potent and highly aromatic, and the fine notes would get lost in the blend.) A few grinding strokes should be enough.

The orange peel is added last. It’s best to cut the stripes into small pieces beforehand. It may be necessary to divide the amount into 2 portions to grind it. If you work with a mortar, this is especially likely, perhaps you even have to split it into several portions.
Grind it for a few seconds, then take a look and repeat if necessary.
The result should be a crumbly, soft dough that sticks well to itself. It may get a little warm during this step, but I’m under the impression that this is actually beneficial for a nice consistency.

At this point, if you like, you should put on your gloves. I prefer to work with my bare hands.
Remove the dough, compress it a little and put it in the bowl.
Scoop out small amounts of it (with your fingers or a spoon). First, roughly form it into a ball and then press it flat with your thumb in your hollow palm to give it the gingerbread shape.

These are then placed on the drying rack (or pan splash guard) and left to dry for about 2–3 days, preferably in a not too warm but low-humidity place.

For storage, I put them in a small tin can, which fits the theme perfectly. 🙂

According to the original recipe, this incense blend is good for easing anxiety and blockages.
With its spicy, warm scent, it goes perfectly with the cold season and is an ideal gift.


Orange peel, fresh17g
Cinnamon bark (cassia)5g
Star anise5g
Frankincense (Aden)5g

Tools and Aids:

  • a peeler or similar
  • mortar & pestle
  • a blade grinder
    (electric “coffee grinder” with blades)
  • a small bowl or plate
  • a pan splash guard or drying rack
  • a spoon or spatula
  • a study brush
  • gloves (optional)

I would strongly recommend purchasing a separate grinder for incense. In this case, all the ingredients are edible, but that’s not always the case and few people will appreciate a note of frankincense in their food.
I use a really cheap one for just under €20, it has 200W and is made of stainless steel on the inside – which is what I would pay attention to.

If you’re wondering what the brush is good for:
In this case, it’s useful to get the last bits of dough out of the mill, especially on and under the blades.
Actually, a small, sturdy brush is part of my basic incense making equipment.

If you don’t have a proper drying rack, you can use a pan splash guard. They are available very cheaply in €1 shops. You either clamp the handle underneath somewhere so that the mesh stands free, or you jack it up.
This allows air to reach the gingerbread all around and helps it to dry evenly.

  • “Do they have to be whole spices, or can I also use ready-ground spices?”
    Without having tried it, I would say – yes – it should also work with pre-ground spices. However, this could make the dough a little harder to handle.
    The big disadvantage of pre-ground spices is that they quickly lose their aroma, and often have already lost quite a bit. If I have the choice, I almost always use whole spices/herbs, just like for cooking.
  • “Does it have to be cassia cinnamon?”
    Perhaps. In contrast to “true” Ceylon cinnamon, cassia bark contains mucilage. The mucilage might be partly the reason why this recipe works (i.e., forms a dough that is workable and remains stable when dry). I think that the moisture from the fresh orange peel activates the mucilage and acts as a binding agent. At the same time, I think that the oils of the orange peel do the same to the frankincense resin. Citrus oil is an excellent solvent, and it softens resin and makes it sticky.
  • “Does it have to be exactly 17g of orange peel?”
    No. If you only got 15g from the orange, it will likely still be enough. If the dough is too dry and doesn’t hold together, it’s not enough.

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