With candy cane fences, peppermint pathways, and gumdrop roofs, gingerbread houses are a popular way to decorate for Christmas. Almost everyone can recall countless memories of baking and assembling these crafty creations during the holiday season. Not only is this construction project edible, it’s also artistic as well. Sometimes the final product turns out to be so beautiful; it’s (almost) too good looking to eat!
Gingerbread is a type of biscuit, typically flavored with ginger, cloves, nutmeg or cinnamon and sweetened with honey, sugar or molasses to create a yummy, spiced treat. The gingerbread is used to construct the walls and roof of the “house” and then royal icing is added to create the illusion of snow. Finally, the house is adorned with various types of candies to complete the look.
But how did this tradition come about? Ginger root first appeared in ancient Asia, but the Crusades or the 11th allowed the root to be brought to Europe. Ginger was thought to have medicinal properties and was used to disguise the taste of preserved meats. During Medieval times, ginger cookies became a favorite in many parts of the continent, including France, Holland and England. The cookies were often cut into various shapes, decorated with gold leaf, and displayed at fairs.
Gingerbread houses were first created in Germany during the 16th century. Nuremberg was recognized as the “Gingerbread Capital of the World” and master bakers and skilled workers were employed to create complicated works of art from gingerbread. However, they didn’t become popular until the Brothers Grimm published the story of Hansel and Gretel in 1812. The tale of children stumbling upon a house made of sweets was adopted by people who wanted to recreate the delicious-sounding house while also making it more festive and merry, instead of creepy. Also thanks to the popular children’s story, the idea of making gingerbread houses spread to the United States.
Fun fact time: the world’s largest gingerbread house was built in 2013 at the Traditions Golf Club in Bryan, Texas. The house required a building permit and used 4,000 gingerbread bricks during its construction. The delectable structure is 60 feet by 42 feet and measures up to 20 feet tall. Starting with a wood base, it took 1,800 pounds of butter, 7,200 eggs, 3,000 pounds of sugar, 7,200 pounds of flour and over 200 volunteers to become the tasty, record-breaking reality it is today. But what’s a gingerbread house without some decoration? More than 22,000 pieces were added to the house’s facade after construction to provide the final, yummy touch.
So whether you’re a beginner or a gingerbread expert, everyone can enjoy this holiday tradition! Fun to make, fun to eat; creating gingerbread houses is the perfect activity for the whole family!
To learn how to bake and construct your very own gingerbread house, check out this recipe: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_make_a_gingerbread_house/
Need some decoration inspiration? Check out the gingerbread house designs created by Milwaukee Area Technical College’s Bakery and Pastry Arts students. You can see them all here or in-person today through December 15th at the Milwaukee Public Market!
Find a Gingerbread House at one of these WBA member bakeries:
Clasen’s European Bakery
7610 Donna Dr.
Middleton, WI 53562
Phone: (608) 831-2032