Sunday, 30 December 2012

The History of Gingerbread

Gingerbread, which comes from the old French "gingebras", is over 1000 years old.  Originally a cake, gingerbread had a mixture of spices in it like cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, white pepper, anise and ginger.  Armenians brought the recipe to France back in 992 where the locals called it "pain d'epices".  Within decades it was brought to Germany where the locals called it "lebkuchen".  By the 13th Century, German immigrants brought gingerbread to Sweden where nuns used it as a treatment for indigestion.

By the 1500's, German bakers started making gingerbread molds of kings, queens and emperors.  Samples of these gingerbread mold carvings can be found in Nuremberg, Germany, Lyon, France and Prague, Czech Republic.  The 1600's saw the appearance of crisp gingerbread cookies cut into various shapes.  The century also saw the first gingerbread houses in Germany which they called "lebkuchenhaus".  The Brothers Grimm popularized the gingerbread house in the early 1800's with their story Hansel & Gretel about two young children who are lured into a witch's gingerbread house.

In Bergen, Norway, residents consider gingerbread house making an art form.  For the past 20 years, they have created a "Pepperkakebyen" or Gingerbread City which can be viewed from late November to New Year's Eve.

Note:  For gingerbread connoisseurs, visit the Bread Museum in Ulm, Germany.

Photo of Pepparkakebyen in Norway courtesy

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