We all remember the alluring Gingerbread House in the fairytale, Hansel and Gretel; beautifully iced, decorated with candy and waiting to trap the unsuspecting pair. Gingerbread Houses can trap you, alright, but not for sinister reasons. They are delicious, traditional treats of the season that delight young and old alike.
Gingerbread has it’s roots in the eleventh century. It was sometimes highly spiced, sometimes soft and spongy and sometimes cookie crisp, served with lemon sauce and cream. It has always been a sweet treat, but Germany took Gingerbread to the next level in the eighteenth century, shaping the spicy delicacy into different shapes; hearts, as an example, that were lavishly decorated with colorful icing and tied with festive ribbons. During the Christmas season, Lebkuchen Houses were built, many times as replicas of indiviual homes. By the nineteenth century, European immigrants had brought their cherished family recipes to the United States and we had happily continued this delightful tradition. We have included a gingerbread recipe at the end of this writing.
For those of you who love the architectural wonder of these elaborate, edible structures, The Raleigh Gingerbread House Competition is holding a free display of our area’s entries. Hosted by the Alta Oakridge Community, located at 10810 Sandy Oak Lane, this event will go on from now, until January 5, 2012. Check their website for hours and directions.
If you have the time to bake, design, engineer, cut out, assemble and decorate your own architectural wonder, more power to you! But if you are keen to continue this lovely tradition or to begin one with your family, there are terrific kits available. Trader Joe’s has it’s own brand of pre-cut Gingerbread House kits available at all locations. The cost is $7.99, and includes the structure and the edible decorations, along with detailed assembly instructions. Check their website for your nearest store. Additionally, World Market is offering a pre-assembled Gingerbread House kit, created by Monaco. All you have to do is open the box and begin your decorating extravaganza. They are on sale today for $17.99, but that price may go up a bit. Again, use their store locator for the World Market neasest you.
Now that you’re armed with a Gingerbread house to display and eat later, try our Gingerbread recipe for instant gratification…..
Old Fashioned Christmas Gingerbread
- 2 cups of all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1/3 cup of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
- 1 cup of molasses
- 1/2 cup of melted butter
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup of buttermilk
- 1/4 cup of hot water
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8 inch square baking pan.
Sift the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and spices. Add the butter, egg, molasses, and buttermilk, stirring until moist. Add the hot water and beat the batter until smooth, either by hand or with a hand mixer. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for between 45 and 50 minutes, until the cake springs back when touched. Serve warm the old fashioned way, with lemon sauce or whipped cream – or both! Your house will smell amazing and your family and friends will be demanding this delectable creation for years to come.