What are Gingerbread Houses?
Gingerbread houses are novelty confectionery shaped like a house that’s made of cookie dough, cut and baked into the walls and roofing to build a house. The usual material is crisp ginger biscuit made of gingerbread. These houses are decorated with a variety candy and icing.
History of Gingerbread:
Gingerbread was first baked in Europe at the end of the 11th century, when the crusaders brought back the bread from Middle East. This spicy bread was brought to France in 992 by the Armenian monk, Gregory of Nicopolis. He lived for 7 years in Bondaroy, France where he taught priests and other Christians how to bake gingerbread.
Gingerbread was first shaped into different forms by monks in Franconia, Germany in the 13th century. Lebkuchen, gingerbread, bakers are recorded as early as 1296 in Ulm and 1395 in Nuremburg. Nuremburg became known as the “Gingerbread Capital of the World” when the guild employed skilled, well-mastered bakers to create complicated gingerbread art in the 1600’s. The figures we see today were first made in the 15th and 16th century for Queen Elizabeth I of England.
In the 17th century, only professional bakers were permitted to bake gingerbread, except at Christmas and Easter- where anyone can make them. In Europe, gingerbread was sold in special shops and markets that sold sweets and gingerbread shaped into hearts, stars, soldiers, babies, riders, trumpets, swords, pistols, and animals. Gingerbread was also sold outside churches every Sunday. They were sold to children and adults as presents during religious events- Christmas and Easter.
The tradition of the houses began in Germany in the early 1800’s. They were built as a result of the popular fairytale, “Hansel and Gretel.” After the book was published, German bakers began making houses like the book out of lebkuchen. These became popular during Christmas, and it came to America with German immigrants.