Gingerbread history

Staff

Wed November 25, 2015 8:40pm

Long before it was used as the foundation of an edible house, gingerbread was the spicy treat molded in the form of stars, animals and even important guests of Queen Elizabeth the I, who reportedly gave the cake-like treats to visiting dignitaries.
Ginger bread loaves can trace their origins to 11th century Europe—though long before then spicy bread was already being enjoyed in the Middle East—when returning crusaders brought gingerbread with them.
But it wasn’t until around the 17th century when professional bakers, who were the only ones allowed to bake gingerbread—except during certain Christian holidays— that the dessert food would be fashioned into shapes to be sold in specialty gingerbread shops.
Some of the pastries’ intricate designs would have meticulous and detailed designs that could be considered works of art, with some being gilded with gold leaf.
But it wasn’t until the Brothers Grimm published the tale of Hansel and Gretel, who stumble upon a house made of gingerbread, that gingerbread houses first came into popular existence. The tradition of making decorated gingerbread houses migrated with immigrants who brought the activity and treat with them from Germany.
While gingerbread houses are ubiquitous during Christmas, they are not exclusive to that time of year and gingerbread bunnies at Easter can just as easily be found in some specialty bakeries as gingerbread men at Christmas.