Sugar & spice
Colourful gingerbread houses made of crispy ginger cookies and decorated with icing are a delightful part of Christmas treats. Chefs from the city tell us about this traditional fare and what they have come up with this year
A colourful house, gingerbread man, Santa Claus, Christmas tree — all made of gingerbread cookies is part of the Christmas tradition and add fun to the festivities.
Gingerbread houses made of crispy ginger cookies, which have ginger nut or ground ginger in them, and decorated with icing and Christmas ornaments are one of the highlights of the festive treats.
There are many legends about the origin of gingerbread house. Praduman Bisht, executive sous chef, Marriott Suites, Pune, believes that the most popular original story of the gingerbread house is that it was introduced to the world by the Germans. He says, “Gingerbread was first baked in Europe at the end of 11th century, when the returning crusaders brought back the custom of spicy bread from the Middle East.”
He says that the tradition of baking the gingerbread house took off because of the fairytale Hansel and Gretel by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, popularly known as the Brothers Grimm, and with it the wonderful idea of creating a house out of cake and candy took off and till date is widely loved by all.
This year, the gingerbread house at Marriott Suites is of a humble size and is adorned with jellybeans, marshmallows, chocolate and candy.
The gingerbread house at Radisson Blu, Hinjewadi, represents a warm welcoming home which is all decorated and ready for Christmas in a winterland. Talking about the gingerbread house tradition during Christmas time, Nishesh Tripathi, executive chef, Radisson Blu, says, “In addition to gold, frankincense and myrrh, given as gifts by the three wise men from the East, ginger was the gift of one wise man who was unable to complete the journey to Bethlehem.” This legend attested in a Greek document from the 8th century is presumed to be of Irish origin and is translated into Latin with the title Collectanea et Flores.
Courtyard by Marriott Pune Chakan has take a step forward and has recreated the Vatican City and has added 16 sculptures depicting the Pope and the devotees. Anant Bansode, pastry chef, Courtyard by Marriott Pune Chakan, says, “The Germans turned gingerbread baking into an art with their Lebkuchen cookies.” He explains that the cookies are native to Nuremberg, where the bakers guard their recipe like a family treasure. The cookies were baked by local monks in the 14th century and the city recognised them by making an official League of Lebkuchen Bakers in 1634. He says that even though the gingerbread house is a novelty bake, it does have the therapeutic power of ginger which works against the winter cold. Besides, the gingerbread bakes have a festive feel.
Gingerbread houses have changed over the past few years from tiny gingerbread homes to some really huge ones with additional flavours and textures. Tripathi says, “From simple two-dimensional figurines to 3-D structures, the art has evolved over the years.” He further mentions that nowadays Guinness World Records are made for creativity in gingerbread homes.
Big or small, gingerbread houses always make for an attractive decoration during Christmas, and the best part is that you can have them too.