The scent of baking gingerbread is, for many of us, an essential part of the holiday season. Whatever your preferred form such as gingerbread houses, shaped cookies, snaps or cake, it may make an appearance in your holiday celebrations this month. Culinary curiosity made us wonder where this holiday staple originated.
The History of Gingerbread
The Chinese began cultivating ginger for medicinal use. Depending on your source, the spice made its way to Western Europe either via the Silk Road or was brought back by Crusaders from the Middle East.
Queen Elizabeth I is credited with popularizing the gingerbread cookie, which she had baked in the likenesses of visiting dignitaries in their honor. Her father, Henry VIII, used ginger as a way to ward off the plague.
Gingerbread Houses increased in popularity with the publication of Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. The largest recorded gingerbread house was built in 2013 by Traditions Golf Club in Bryan, Texas. Coming in at 40,000 square feet, it is impressive indeed.
Gingerbread House Competition at L’Ecole Culinaire
L’Ecole Culinaire in St. Louis has a long tradition of gingerbread house making. Since 2006, L’Ecole has partnered annually with Lydia’s House, a domestic violence shelter, to host a gingerbread house competition to raise funds for the organization. Professional chefs, avocational bakers and culinary schools all create houses around a theme and compete for the best house by category. This year’s theme is National Monuments. The houses are on display from November 15 – November 23rd in the center court of the St. Louis Galleria Mall, near Santa. The exhibition is free and open to the public. Please join us!
Our Gingerbread Recipe
Thanks for staying with us. Looking for a tasty gingerbread recipe? Here is one from our chefs at L’Ecole Culinaire:
Flour 3.5 cups
Ginger 1 ½ teaspoons
Cinnamon 1 ½ teaspoons
Salt ¼ teaspoon
Shortening ½ cup
Brown Sugar ½ cup
White Sugar ½ cup
Warm Molasses ½ cup
Dissolve 1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda in 8 ounces of room temperature water. Add to creamed mixture. When blended, add the dry ingredients and roll the dough on a well-floured surface to approximately 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out gingerbread shapes with floured cutters. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 degree for 15 – 20 minutes, depending on size. Allow to cool. Enjoy!