- Ginger is a plant native to India and China which is prized throughout the world for its culinary and medicinal uses.
- Gingerbread is made from ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, anise and is generally sweetened with molasses or honey.
- The term gingerbread is used to describe a variety of foods ranging from the hard biscuits used to make gingerbread houses to soft loaf cakes more reminiscent of bread.
- To be considered gingerbread, the recipe must feature ginger as a dominant flavor and use either honey or molasses to add sweetness.
- It is made using the gingerbread method which requires the fat to be melted and then all ingredients to be mixed together at once in a bowl. This is much easier than other baking techniques.
- Originating in the East, gingerbread is said to have been brought to Europe in 992 by a monk and was used to treat indigestion and upset stomachs.
- Both the Greeks and Egyptians used gingerbread in their ceremonies.
- In the 16th century, Gingerbread was used to create news displays by pressing the rolled dough into carved wooden molds before baking. It often showed the portrait of a new king, a religious symbol or some other important image.
- Queen Elizabeth I is believed to be responsible for the first gingerbread man as she had them made to resemble visiting dignitaries and then presented them to the dignitaries as a gift.
- After the Brothers Grimm published “Hansel and Gretel” in the 19th century, gingerbread houses became very popular in Germany.
- The tradition of making gingerbread and building gingerbread houses was brought to America by early German settlers.
Around the World
- English gingerbread is a dense, spice cake or bread that can include mustard, pepper, raisins, apples, or nuts.
- In Northern England, a hard form gingerbread made with oatmeal called Parkin is popular.
- Although pain d’epices from France is similar to gingerbread, it is always made with honey rather than molasses.
- Both the hard biscuit style gingerbread and the soft cake version can be found throughout Germany.
- In Norway and Sweden, a version of gingerbread is used to create window decorations that are decorated with icing and candy.
- The tradition of using gingerbread to display news and creating gingerbread men as gifts is longstanding and likely lead to the creation of the first gingerbread house.
- The most common type of gingerbread used to build houses is the harder biscuit style popular in Germany.
- In Norway, the town of Bergen creates an entire city made from gingerbread houses each year.
- The world’s largest gingerbread house was built at the Mall of America in Minnesota in 2001 and required 9 days to build. Once completed, it stood 67 feet tall and was decorated with 1,800 Hershey bars, 1,200 feet of Twizzlers, 100 pounds of tootsie rolls, 100 whirly pops and thousands of other pieces of candy.
- While gingerbread houses are fairly popular in the United States and much of Europe, they are not popular in England.
Holiday Gingerbread Events Around the Valley:
- Glendale Gingerbread Nights
- Gingerbread Village on Display at the Four Seasons Resort, Scottsdale
- Gingerbread House Contest at the Arizona Biltmore
- Gingerbread Houses on Display at the Arizona Science Center
- LON’s Art of Cooking Series: Build the Perfect Gingerbread House