Gumdrops, lollipops, chocolate squares, jelly bears, and peppermint candies. The sky is the limit as far as decorating your own gingerbread house. They are a ton of fun to decorate, but first, you need to make the house itself.
You can put it together fast from graham crackers and store-bought icing, or you can make it slowly, cutting in shapes according to a pattern or patted into a special gingerbread house mold. Those quick treats need to be eaten soon before they fall apart, but old-fashioned gingerbread houses are a tradition that can last through the holidays. Whatever way you pick to enjoy this yummy craft, know that your gingerbread has a spicy and delicious history.
The Historic Cookie
When the Crusaders came back from the Middle East, they brought wondrous spices that clever cooks of churches and wealthy families turned into amazing recipes for celebrations. An early European gingerbread was a mix of ground almonds, stale breadcrumbs, rosewater, sugar, and, of course, ginger. They pressed this paste into pretty molds. The finished cookie might be decorated with edible gold paint!
As time went on, spices became less expensive. Soon everyone could enjoy a treat of gingerbread, whether baked stiff for cookies or served as a simple cake with a warm vanilla sauce. Gingerbread was especially popular in colonial America. Mary Washington, George Washington's mother, was said to have served her special gingerbread to her son's friend, General Lafayette, at her home, opens a new window in Fredericksburg.
Visions of Gingerbread
The Annual Gingerbread House Contest and Exhibit at George Washington's Ferry Farm, opens a new window is a sweet holiday tradition.
If you are new to gingerbread houses but would like to try to create your own, the library has some books and step-by-step videos that should make constructing these fun and edible crafts a piece of cake—ginger cake, that is.
Where to Learn More About Gingerbread Houses
Easy Gingerbread Houses, opens a new window
There’s no need for the messy and time-consuming tasks of mixing dough, rolling it out, baking it, and waiting for it to harden. All of the houses in this book are made using graham crackers, cookies, cereal, ice cream cones, frostings, and candy treats.
Gingerbread, opens a new window by Joanna Farrow.
Features techniques, simple recipes and step-by-step instructions to make constructing gingerbread cottages and castles easy and fun, Includes ideas and projects such as Christmas tree cookies, a gingerbread Noah's Ark complete with animals, a Hansel and Gretel cottage, a steam train, a fairy-tale castle, rocking horses and much much more
Gingerbread Wonderland, opens a new window by Mima Sinclair.
Turn your kitchen into a magical winter world with 30 ideas ranging from cute gingerbread families and their gingerbread streets to a delicious chocolate birdhouse and an edible star wreath.
Just Gingerbread, opens a new window
Featuring dozens of recipes, this little book contains everything you ever wanted to know about the holiday goodness of gingerbread.
Making Great Gingerbread Houses, opens a new window by Aaron Morgan, Paige Gilchrist.
"If building a gingerbread house has long been on your Christmas wish list, this is the year to pull out the mixing bowls and rolling pin and begin. The book starts with the basics of house building -- complete, easy-to-follow instructions and how-to photography for baking, designing, assembling, and decorating. Then comes an unruly settlement of 40 diverse houses to build. There are even a few non-Christmas surprises: a gingerbread birdhouse, a carousel, and a haunted Halloween house."
Modern Gingerbread: 15 Inspiring New Ideas For Bakes And Cakes, opens a new window
The gingerbread projects included in the book are accompanied by templates, and recipes for traditional, colored and vegan gingerbread are also featured.
A Year of Gingerbread Houses, opens a new window
With designs for Christmas, Halloween, Valentine's Day, and birthdays, these exquisite projects include a cottage, chalet, and two-story house. Options as customized windows, doors, chimneys, paths, trees, topiaries, and even lighting add to the charm. More than 200 helpful step-by-step process shots; informative sections on tools, techniques, and components; and patterns, piping templates, and tips on baking, assembling, and troubleshooting assure magical results.
On the Web
Gluten-Free Gingerbread House Recipe, opens a new window
A mom was determined to carry on this cherished tradition when her family went gluten-free. Has recipes for the dough, the meringue "glue," and suggested gluten-free candies for decoration.
Make a Gingerbread Baby House, opens a new window
A craft project to go with the Jan Brett's book, The Gingerbread Baby, opens a new window. No cooking (but, alas, no eating) with this house. A quick and easy holiday decoration.
Necco Gingerbread House, opens a new window
Necco wafers, the candy that's 150 years young, makes a beautiful roof on a gingerbread house. The bakers at Necco have teamed up to create directions for a classic construction. No patterns or templates here, but measurements are included. Necco recommends baking the house pieces a day or two in advance (possibly weeks! This tough gingerbread freezes well). It's no fun to have walls of hot gingerbread caving in at the construction site. This recipe also works well with gingerbread house molds.
Why'd You Eat That? Gingerbread, opens a new window
Follow the history of gingerbread, from its origins in the medieval crusades to country fairs to today's holiday treats.