Note: If you’ve never made a gingerbread house, you’re missing something fun! Since today is Thanksgiving Day, we thought we’d share Heidi’s post about making gingerbread houses. If you have some time after eating your Thanksgiving dinner, and if you (like some of us on the team) don’t want to fight the crowds at the stores tomorrow, you might just enjoy creating a brand new tradition during your time off over the next day or two. We truly hope that you have a blessed Thanksgiving Day and that you enjoy spending some time with your family being thankful and having fun together! ~The Hip Homeschool Moms team
The History of Gingerbread Houses
*Gingerbread has been baked in Europe since the eleventh century.
*Medieval England gingerbread meant simply “preserved ginger” and was an adaptation of the Old French gingebras, derived from the Latin name of the spice, Zingebar. It was only in the fifteenth century that the term came to be applied to a kind of cake made with treacle, an uncrystalized syrup drained from raw sugar during the refining process, and flavored with ginger.
*Germany is the country with the longest tradition of flat, shaped ginger breads. At every autumn fair in Germany, and in the surrounding lands where the Germanic influence is strong, there are rows of stalls filled with hundreds of gingerbread hearts, decorated with white and colored icing and tied with ribbons.
*During the nineteenth century gingerbread became more popular with the discovery of a collection of German fairy tales by the Grimm brothers, and on in particular – Hansel and Gretel. In Hansel and Gretel two children who, abandoned in the woods by penniless parents, discovered a house made of bread, cake and candies – a gingerbread house perhaps!
*At Christmas, gingerbread makes its most impressive appearance. The German practice of making lebkuchen houses never caught on in Britain in the same way as it did in North America. It is here still that the most elaborate and intricate creations are found.
The History Channel has a fun video from Famous Fat Dave about the history of gingerbread houses as well as the making of one!
A Gingerbread House Recipe
Gingerbread Dough Recipe:
- 5 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 tsp. powdered ginger
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 cup solid white vegetable shortening (such as Crisco)
- 1 cup unsulphured molasses
Baking Gingerbread Houses Directions:
- Preheat oven to 375°
- Melt shortening in saucepan.
- Add sugar and molasses and mix well.
- Sift all the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, slat, and ginger together in a mixing bowl.
- Gradually stir 4 cups of the dry ingredients into the melted shortening mixture and mix thoroughly.
- Then put the dough on your counter-top and mix in the remaining 1 cup of dry ingredients by hand.
- After it’s thoroughly mixed, divide the dough in to three equal parts and share each part into a ball.
- Put each ball onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
- Roll each dough ball into a rectangle 1/4″ thick.
- After cutting the various parts, (you can use these FREE Gingerbread House Patterns) remove excess dough and bake right on the cookie sheets.
- Bake for 13-15 minutes or until lightly brown.
Icing Recipe: 4 batches are suggested
*NOTE* this icing gets very hard. Each batch makes about 1/2 cup.
- 1 Large egg white
- 1 2/3 cups sifted confectioners sugar
- 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
- Beat egg white in small mixer bowl with electric mixer until foamy.
- Gradually beat in sugar and cream of tartar.
- Continue beating until smooth and stiff peaks form when beaters are lifted.
- Keep tightly covered with a damp cloth or plastic wrap when not being used.
- Divide into portions and color as desired.
This holiday season try taking some time out to create your own gingerbread houses! They could even be trains, buildings, animals and more! Let your imagination take your creations to new places!