I am fascinated by the incredible amount of work and detail that goes into the work of bakers in creating Gingerbread Houses. At the Four Seasons, I marveled at the Christmas decorations but am drawn to spend some time in front of the Gingerbread houses. These craftsman and bakers can maneuver and shape almost anything out of dough!
The origin of gingerbread has been around since the 11th Century when it is thought that crusaders brought back this spice from the Middle East. The baking of gingerbread became an art of centuries as the bakers guild acknowledged it as a profession. In the 17th Century only professional gingerbread bakers were permitted to bake with the exception of Christmas and Easter season.
The actual baking of houses came after years of molds and tradition in Europe. Houses were created for the first time in the 18th Century, the result of the well-known fairytale, Hansel and Gretel. The children were abandoned in the forest and found an edible house made of bread with sugar decorations. This book made it popular for German bakers to bake fairy-tale ornamental houses of ginger during Christmas. I believe the Bavaria area of Germany (my heritage) was the area of its origin.
In 2013, a group in Bryan, Tx, broke the Guinness Book of World Records set the previous year for the largest gingerbread house, with a 2,520-square-foot edible-walled house in aid of a hospital trauma Centre. The gingerbread house had an estimated calorific value exceeding 35.8 million and ingredients included 2,925 pounds of brown sugar, 1,800 pounds of butter, 7,200 eggs and 7,200 pounds of general-purpose flour. How fun is that?
As a project for grandmother one Christmas, we left my daughter, Blair, in her hands to build a Gingerbread House. When we arrived home late, the house had slid off the plate and laid in a clump on the floor. We decided to glue it back together, keeping it for decoration! It is a funny memory and it brings a smile to my face. So grab some icing and take a stab at your own creation this year! And forever have “sweet” memories of this Christmas holiday season.