Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gingerbread Houses For You And Me

One of the most enduring symbols of Christmas is the gingerbread house. This is every child's fantasy, a yummy house decorated with candy. For adults it brings back memories of simpler times when life wasn't so complicated. Nowadays there are many variations on this theme. You can do a green ginger bread house or even a condo.

The idea of gingerbread itself goes back to ancient times. The Greeks used to travel to the island of Rhodes for spice cakes made with Middle Eastern ginger. The Crusaders brought it back with them during the Middle Ages where it was given to monks for their baking. In turn the holy men used to bake early forms of gingerbread for the sick. The Germans probably were the first to bake it into squares to form houses. Germany had its' own Lebkuchen guild as early as 1637. It was mentioned in Grimm's fairy tale's with Hansel and Gretel visiting the "hexelhausen" or witch's house. Swiss monks made them in the US in Indiana in 1857. From then on, they have become afirm tradition here in the States.

Nowadays there are endless competitions for making the best or the most unusual gingerbread house. Some bakers have even created them to look like Rhine castles or California ranch houses. Other have baked mini houses to hang on trees. Decorating them is a matter of taste. Use a glue like icing such as royal icing to hold walls and roofs together. Also use this when attaching other candies for windows or decorating as well. You can add M&M's , hard candies, mints, gum drops and licorice to create the perfect gingerbread house. For added fun create a gingerbread family complete with cats and dogs.

The gingerbread house is a reminder of all things wondrous this holiday season. It represents fantasy and fun, along with the magic of Christmas.

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