Our family has made gingerbread houses since we were married. We can’t remember whether we made them every year in the beginning or what year my wife worked up a chocolate version. We have made one most years since the kids were born (The photo above is from many years ago). This year’s house was much softer than usual, even though my fist still hurts from busting it last night.
Some people are saying gingerbread houses were inspired by Grimm’s fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel,” but that story was published in 1812. While it may have popularized family gingerbread house-making, Germans were making these cookie houses for a couple hundred years already and had become a Christmas tradition. Tori Avey of The History Kitchen offers many more interesting details from the history of gingerbread.
Gingerbread arrived in the New World with English colonists. The cookies were sometimes used to sway Virginia voters to favor one candidate over another. The first American cookbook, American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, has recipes for three types of gingerbread including the soft variety baked in loaves:
Soft gingerbread to be baked in pans.
No. 2. Rub three pounds of sugar, two pounds of butter, into four pounds of flour, add 20 eggs, 4 ounces ginger, 4 spoons rosewater, bake as No. 1.