We’ve been running as fast as we can to catch the Gingerbread Man, and thanks to National Gingerbread Cookie Day coming up on Nov. 21, our taste buds can celebrate the satisfaction of this crunchy, sweet, cookie — or cake.
Although gingerbread is nothing new (more on origins below) it has traditionally been a treat created and enjoyed for weeks surrounding Christmas. However, Food Ingredients First reports that a 2019 Global Taste Trends report shows that ginger has experienced “remarkable growth over the past five to 10 years.” This is due in part to a rise in popularity of “authentic ethnic cuisine,” which has been a driver of the growth of ginger as a savory flavor in restaurants and retail products. Ginger has went beyond being a seasonal flavor restricted to gingerbread, gingersnaps and cakes to other items beyond seasonality. Ginger also has gained a connotation as a “better for you” ingredient, which is superb during the cold months of indulgence with less guilt.
To celebrate National Gingerbread Cookie Day, we’ve heated up our ovens in search of the coolest facts about this unique ingredient, which as its namesake notes, can also be a bread or cake.
Want bread? Want cookies? Want a house with edible walls? This product offers a little bit of everything. Ginger in baked goods takes many shapes and forms, making it a versatile ingredient that dates back to ancient Greek times. The Spruce Eats finds that Egyptians used gingerbread for ceremonial purposes, and it popped up again in 11th century Europe when the Crusaders brought ginger back from the Middle East.
Once ginger became more affordable, varying uses become more commonplace. Back then, uses for gingerbread included not only bread, but works of art molded into storyboards that “told the news of the day, bearing the likeness of new kings, emperors and queens, or religious symbols.” Who knew that gingerbread served as an early newspaper?
Moving to the 16th century, eggs, flour and sweeteners were introduced, with the first gingerbread man making his (and her) debut, thanks to Queen Elizabeth I’s baked likeness. Once moving to the United States, Martha Washington was said to enjoy gingerbread, and then Lou Hoover, first lady from 1929 to 1933, started using “hard gingerbread” as a decoration for the White House Christmas tree.
Gingerbread houses arguably came onto the scene in 15th or 16th century Germany during medieval fairs, and then again in the 19th century with the onset of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, “Hansel and Gretel.” Houses are perhaps the quirkiest of the baked ginger family.
Bravo TV says that gingerbread is “pretty much the perfect cookie for making houses.” Nikki Wills, author of Gingerbread for Beginners and founder of the party and entertaining blog Tikkido, says that gingerbread “Tastes great, especially if you dunk it in milk, but it’s not a great snacking cookie like a nice soft sugar cookie, so it really does lend itself to these creative construction projects. Gingerbread is an incredibly rigid cookie.”
Wills said that gingerbread is a dense, heavy dough, which can lend itself to a “kitchen workout” and tough to incorporate. Yet, she makes around 100 gingerbread houses during the holiday season.
“It’s good we live in the time of nice and sturdy stand mixers because a hand mixer is not going to cut it … and I’ve burned out a fair number of motors even on my nice Kitchenaid mixers doing gingerbread,” she said.
However, making a gingerbread house is worth the effort. Used as decoration alone, houses can last years. If you want to consume the house, about four weeks from the build is prime time.
The moral of the story? Great equipment lends itself to a perfect gingerbread, house, snap or cookie creation. LloydPans’ cookie sheets are built to last and produce reliable, consistent baking results. Similar to all of our products, these sheets are manufactured from heavy-duty aluminum and come in three coating options: bare aluminum, Silver-Kote® and Dura-Kote®. Our cookie sheets are available with open or closed ends and also as traditional flat sheets.