Gingerbread Men and Gingerbread Houses
A Tasty Christmas Tree Ornament
Gingerbread men and gingerbread houses have long played a popular role in Christmas celebrations.
Walk into the Christmas section of almost any store and you will see ready made gingerbread men in with the Christmas candies and confectioneries.
You will also find them among the Christmas ornaments - cookies that double as ornaments or, edible ornaments.
The same with gingerbread houses.
Magazines, to say nothing of websites, are full of instructions and ideas for making gingerbread houses and many places now carry ready to assemble gingerbread house kits complete with the cooked gingerbread panels.
While gingerbread men and gingerbread houses have been absorbed as a part of our Christmas traditions and customs, they originated separately from Christmas and continue to exist independently as well as being included as a part of Christmas.
Gingerbread houses are also found in folktales - in many versions of Grimm's Fairytale classic, Hansel and Gretel, the house the children found in the woods is often referred to as being made of gingerbread (other versions describe it a simply being made of cake).
Ginger is a Popular Spice From Asia
Ginger, a spice grown in southeast Asia, has long been a popular seasoning for food. Ginger was a common spice in the ancient Roman world but its use in Europe declined after the fall of Rome.
Marco Polo is generally credited with re-introducing it to Europe where it again became popular during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Numerous breads were seasoned with ginger and in many countries, including England and Germany, it became fashionable to bake gingerbread cookies in different shapes or figures of saints for various holidays.
Gingerbread and gingerbread cookies, especially the gingerbread man, were brought to America by the English and Germans.
Literally thousands of of gingerbread man cookie recipes have been created in America alone over the past couple of centuries.
Making Gingerbread Men - a Fun and Easy Project With Children
While I have no experience with gingerbread houses (my 19 year old niece is the expert in this area - see photo below), I have had fun times at Christmas making gingerbread men with my sons when they were younger.
Gingerbread man cookie cutters can usually be found in most department and other stores or on-line. They can also be found in various sizes, including rather large ones.
Making gingerbread men and other Christmas cookies is always a fun activity to do with young children - and the results can be deliciously enjoyed by young and old alike.
Below are two recipes for gingerbread men cookies. Feel free to try them and don't be afraid to experiment by varying the ingredients.
As noted above, gingerbread men have been very popular for over two centuries and, in times past, different regions of the country developed different gingerbread men cookie recipes.
Gingerbread Men Recipe 1
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
1 cup brown sugar (can substitute regular sugar)
1 cup shortening
5 cups flour
1-2 teaspoons of ginger (depending upon taste)
1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon (depending upon taste)
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1/2 cup of hot water
1 cup molasses
Cream molasses, sugar and shortening together.
Add egg; beat in a little.
Combine ginger, cinnamon, salt and 1 cup of the flour.
Mix soda and hot water and add alternately with dry mixture.
Then add the rest of the flour or enough to roll and cut with a gingerbread man cutter.
Decorate each cookie as desired with raisins and candies (baking candies, M & M's - your choice).
Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven about 7 minutes or until done with the touch of a finger.
Simple Gingerbread House Recipe and Instructions
Gingerbread Man Cookies - Recipe 2
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
2/3 cup shortening
1/2 c brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of salt
3/4 cup molasses
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Cream together the shortening, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, ground ginger and salt.
Add egg and mix.
Add molasses and mix again.
Mix together flour, baking powder and baking soda in a separate bowl.
Sift and add to the creamed mixture. and stir until well blended. Chill for 1 hour.
Roll out dough 1/4 at a time to 1/8" thickness or slightly thicker on a lightly floured board
Cut with a cookie cutter and transfer to a greased (or non stick) cookie sheet
Repeat with remaining dough.
Before baking, decorate with raisins and/or candies as you like.
Place in oven for 8 - 10 minutes
The House my Niece Built
© 2006 Chuck Nugent