Quite frankly, we've been seeing and eating more gingerbread than we ever thought humanly possible. 'Tis the Season! There are gingerbread houses and cookies everywhere you turn! As we took a bite into one of our very own tasty gingerbread recipes, we started to wonder . . . where did gingerbread come from? Who is the gingerbread man?
While what we found didn't reveal gorgeous, tasty gingerbread hunks, it did unveil a bit of captivating history that we felt compelled to share. And, to set the record straight, gingerbread's history did not commence with the well-known fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel, published in 1812.
It's been said that gingerbread can be traced back as early as the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. It made an appearance in Europe when 11th-century crusaders returned home (from the Middle East) with the spice, and the wealthy used it in their cooking. Eventually, the spice became more affordable and grew more popular. Earlier recipes contained ground almonds, stale breadcrumbs, sugar, rosewater and ginger. After mixing the ingredients, the paste was pressed into a wooden mold, then used to portray the news of the day, much like a storyboard. Some of the cookies were elaborately painted with gold or white icing.
As the 16th century rolled in, the English replaced breadcrumbs with flour, eggs and alternate sweeteners, creating a lighter cookie. Queen Elizabeth I even decided to use gingerbread for entertaining important guests; she had gingerbread cookies crafted into the likeness of her visitors!
In the first American cookbook, American Cookery, published in 1796, Amelia Simmons recommended that housewives mold and shape their dough to their liking. As this trend took off, so did bakers' entrepreneurial spirits. The gingerbread man we all have come to know, love and adore started to take flight.
To learn more about gingerbread, check out our slideshow above!