“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!”here, here, here)