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Christmas Craft

Everything You Need to Know About Gingerbread
Gingerbread houses are a wonderful Christmas craft enjoyed by parents and children alike. But gingerbread is more than a delicious treat: it’s a food that has a rich tradition and history. In this article, we will be teaching you a little bit about the history of gingerbread, how gingerbread houses became popular, and finally a recipe and instructions on how to make your very own gingerbread house.

 

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Gingerbread didn’t always start out as an edible Christmas craft. The inventors of gingerbread were European monks throughout Northern Europe sometime around the middle ages. Ginger was brought back to Europe during the Crusades. By the mid-15th century, these monks had realized that preserved ginger had preservative properties, and began using it in cakes and cookies. Germans—who called the tasty treat “Lebkuchen” were especially fond of the spicy bread, especially in the cold months. Thus the seeds of this future Christmas craft began to grow.

 

Because ginger was so expensive during the medieval period, gingerbread wasn’t a Christmas craft anyone could make. It was originally only baked by members of recognized bakers guild, the best-known of which resided in Nuremberg, Germany. These early German gingerbreads had elaborate Christmas craft decorations with thin lattices of royal icing piped on the surface—sometimes even gold leaf. This lattice work can still be seen in today’s gingerbread houses, with the royal icing used to outline doors, windows, and icicles.

 

Around the 18th and 19th centuries, gingerbread traditions began to further represent the Christmas craft we know today. Shapes were cut out of gingerbread such as hearts, figures, or animals, then a small hole was cut out so they could be tied with ribbons. These beautiful and delicious treats were sold in fairs across Europe. In fact, the most famous gingerbread house of all—the witch’s gingerbread house in “Hansel and Gretel—was inspired by small cookies designed to resemble witches houses, called “hexenhaeusle.

 

As with many of our favourite Christmas craft traditions, the first Christmas gingerbread houses were German in origin. The first gingerbread houses, called “Lebkuchenhaeusle,” were made (just like today) with large pieces of gingerbread the gingerbread house that were decorated with icing and sweets. Gingerbread first moved to the United States in 1854, brought over as a Christmas craft idea by Swiss Monks who had moved to Indiana.

 

So now that you know a little bit about the history of this classic Christmas craft, let’s get to baking! Here is our recipe on how to bake and assemble your very own gingerbread house. Note that gingerbread that has been made a few days in advance is much easier to use then gingerbread straight out of the oven.

Ingredients:
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup molasses
5 cups flour
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water

Directions:

This timeless Christmas craft is easy and delicious. Start by taking a large mixing bowl, and whisking the butter until smooth. Add sugar, and beat until the consistency is even. Continue to add the rest of the dry ingredients (flower, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and baking soda). Once this has all been added to the batter uniformly, then add molasses a little at a time. Water will be the final thing you will add to the mix, and by then the dough will be so thick, you will have to use your hands to mix everything in properly.

Divide dough into four separate piles, then roll into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours.

Using a sturdy rolling pin, roll out each ball on aluminium foil so it’s at least ¼ of an inch thick. Make sure everything has been dusted with flour to prevent your gingerbread Christmas craft from tearing or pulling.

 

Cut out the walls, roof, and any other items your house may need. You can pick up templates from any Christmas craft store, or download instructions on the internet. Depending on how ambitious you are, try using moulds to add brick or stone texture to the walls of your house.

Carefully take the gingerbread pieces off the foil and put them onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes, or until firm (not brown).

Take the pieces out, and let them cool. Then use royal icing to glue together the pieces, and pipe on your own decorations. The result is a fun and beautiful Christmas craft idea that happens to be a little piece of history.