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All Things Gingerbread

Catch These Gingerbread Fun Facts

“Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!” You may remember this line from a classic — and slightly scary — holiday story from your childhood. It’s the tale of a woman who bakes a gingerbread man only to have him escape and run through town tormenting local livestock. But how did “Gingerbread Men” become a well-known seasonal sweet? And later — a whole house?! These answers involve a little fairy tale magic, a little royal creativity, and a lot of sugar and spice.

Gingerbread: The Cookie
Along with ginger, today’s gingerbread cookies get their distinct flavor from spices like cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg, with molasses, honey, and sugar as the source of sweetness. Early versions of modern-day gingerbread can be traced way back to ancient Greece, Rome, China — where ginger was first cultivated as a form of medicine — and Egypt. A mid-15th century English cookbook even contained a recipe for “gyngerbrede” that used honey, grated bread and spices to form candy-like squares. But it wasn’t until later, when cream and butter became common in Europe, that the gingerbread we know and love today began to take form and eventually made its way to America with early colonists.

Gingerbread: The Man
Speaking of form ... how did the gingerbread cookie suddenly become associated with the human shape? For that, we have Queen Elizabeth I and her royal gingerbread maker — one of the more delightful medieval professions — to thank. One night at a banquet, Queen Elizabeth ordered gingerbread cookies to be made in the shapes of all the local dignitaries attending the event as a sort of personalized, edible keepsake. Around the same time, it was believed that if a woman ate a cookie in the shape of a man she admired, it might lead to love. Before long the Gingerbread Man was fast on his way towards becoming a worldwide treat.

Gingerbread: The House
While invented in Germany in the 16th century, it wasn’t until the Brothers Grimm’s tale of Hansel and Gretel in the 1800s that the holiday tradition of building and decorating houses made of gingerbread became popular. Once German settlers began to come to America, they brought with them their holiday traditions, and people have been delicately constructing icing shutters and gumdrop window treatments on gingerbread houses every holiday season since.

Gingerbread: The Holiday Treat
No one is entirely sure why the smells and tastes of gingerbread are so closely associated with the holiday season. It could be because ginger is a spice known for warming you up, so it’s enjoyed more during the colder months. Or, it could be because ginger is known for soothing tummies that might be upset by holiday indulgences. Some food historians even think that it could be because the gingerbread man resembles the baby Jesus, and that’s why they’re around during Christmas and Easter. No matter what the reason, we’re glad it’s gingerbread season!

Gingerbread: The Recipes

Go beyond cookies and houses with some of our favorite gingerbread recipes:

Gingerbread Pancakes

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Hermit Cookies (Gingerbread Raisin Cookies)

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Gingerbread Truffles

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Gingerbread Bundt Cake

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