Lebkuchenhaus (Gingerbread House): Visiting Germany

by Karen on Monday, December 6, 2010

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“Once upon a time”…the four words I loved hearing as a child.  It meant the beginning of a fantastical journey of the imagination.  Like most children, I grew up reading fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm such as “Rumpelstiltskin” and “Cinderella.”  One of my favorites was “Hansel and Gretel.”  The story of two children who get lost in the forest and manage to escape the trap of a cannibalistic witch.  I’m sure there was a lesson to be learned as a child (aside never to trace your tracks with breadcrumbs), but the story was memorable to me because of–what else?– the witch’s edible house!  Clearly, I was a foodie starting from a very young age.

In the fairy tale, the brother and sister get lured into the witches edible house after hours of hunger and exhaustion.  The walls were made of bread and cake and the windows of melted sugar and they both begin to eat this house as the witch emerges from inside.  The Brothers Grimm’s tale popularized the lebkuchenhaus in the 19th century in Germany and later this tradition of baking edible homes spread to the United States along with German immigrants.

Gingerbread can be traced all the way back to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians.  Ginger probably came to Europe around the 11th century and was used much later by cooks when it became more affordable.  Earlier versions of gingerbread used ginger paste mixed with ground almonds, breadcrumbs, sugar and other spices that were pressed into molds.  Earlier shapes featured kings, emperors and religious symbols.  Today, gingerbread takes on two forms, one which is a softer and fluffier gingerbread and another harder version which is cut into various shapes and decorated with frosting.  These are often sold and enjoyed at the German Christmas markets, which are a collection of outdoor stalls selling crafts, sweets and mulled wine.

This week, the fabulous and crafty gals at Honestly…WTF and I will teach you how to make an easy and elegant gingerbread house that will be worthy of center stage at any holiday dinner.  If you’re not quite in the holiday spirit yet, join us Friday.  The intoxicating smell of ginger, spice and everything nice will get you in the mood before you can say “lebkuchenhaus!”

(Image from here, here, here)

{ 7 comments }

The Cilantropist December 6, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Love Germany and love all these photos! Can’t wait to see your lebkuchenhaus recipe! :)

Honestly...WTF December 6, 2010 at 3:56 pm

one of my favorite “DIYs” to date! love the history and facts behind the lebkuchenhaus. can’t wait for Friday and can’t wait to make another!

New York City Girl Expat in Japan December 6, 2010 at 5:50 pm

WOW, that was my favorite story as well.. I used to read it over, and over again….and listen to the record too.. I would imagine the candied house, I could almost taste it.. I loved Lebkuchenhaus…. there is no other place like it.

jeff December 6, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Omg, Ive been to that castle. neuschwanstein castle. It was built in the 1800 by some vain german prince so that he can have Wagner play his fancy operas. They had ironclads and steam engines in the 1800s! This castle was definitely for fairy tale purposes. But it goes well with the ginger bread story. I must eat lots of lebkuchenhaus!

Deana December 9, 2010 at 9:00 am

Oooh I can’t wait for Friday to see this!

Sasha @ Global Table Adventure December 10, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Hi there! I found your web site doing research for my Danish meal … looking forward to following your escapades. Especially the gingerbread house – yum :) We decided to make a castle by the ocean for our gingerbread house this year – our dream location ;)

Ella December 1, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Lovely! I love Christmas atmosphere and gingerbread house!

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