In popular folk tales, one of the best-known gingerbread houses is found in the story of “Hansel and Gretel” as told by the brothers Grimm, who hailed from Germany.

... Suddenly Hansel and Gretel came into a cleared place in the forest and saw a cottage with a steep roof that reached almost to the ground. When they went close to it they saw the cottage was made of bread and cakes, and the window panes were of clear sugar.

Hansel reached up and broke a piece off the roof, in order to see how it tasted; while Gretel stepped up to the window and began to bite it.

The brother and sister are captured by a witch who lives in the gingerbread house. The witch plans to devour them but is killed by a clever trick on the part of Gretel.

The children escape with her wealth and return to their family.

Little did the person who first told the folk tale about Hansel and Gretel know that this story would be the basis for gingerbread houses to be built by children as well as adults all over the world.

The tradition of making flat, shaped gingerbreads comes from 15th century Germany and its surrounding lands. The city of Nuremberg was known as “gingerbread capital” of the world.

Large pieces of gingerbread (“lebkuchen”) were used to build “Lebkuchenhaeusel” (gingerbread houses), also called “Knusperhaeuschen” (houses for nibbling at).

Last week we baked our gingerbread walls, door, chimney and roof and stuck them together with Royal Icing. This week we are ready for the fun.

If you haven’t done so yet, make a list of candies, cookies and whatever else you are planning on using on your house. Remember to have plenty of Royal Icing on hand.

You will need three to five plastic disposable decorating bags and/or parchment decorating bags and two to five couplers and tips. Choose numbers you like, or if you have no preference you might start with numbers 6, 7 or 8, 16 and 352.

Paste food colors are best as they give a deeper color without watering down the icing.

Using the coupler place a #16 tip (or any other one you like to use) to make fancy zig-zags on the corners of your house and on top of the chimney.

It is probably best to think about what candies you want to use and where you plan on using them before you start decorating. When you are completely through decorating your house, make it snow by sifting powdered sugar over it.

If you want to preserve your house you will need to wait for two to three days until it is thoroughly dried.

Using a crystal clear spray, fog the inside of the house by spraying through the front door. Try to move the stream of the spray around so it can get on all the surfaces of the inside.

Then you can spray the outside of the house. Repeat this process again, several times. To get a good protective coverage, you’ll probably need one whole can per house.

Make trees from ice cream cones covered with green icing using a No. 352 tip. Use cones that are even all around the top. Place the tip vertically on the cone, squeeze and pull up. Start at the bottom of the cone working toward the top. Shrubs may be made with icing covered marshmallows.

It’s not so much the house; it’s the goodies on it that make a gingerbread structure memorable.

For smaller hands, or just for fun, try this easy way to make a Gingerbread House completely on your own — although it’s more fun with family and friends.

By using graham crackers or pre-made gingerbread squares you can also make gingerbread houses. Keep it simple so your helpers don’t get frustrated or bored. Put icing in a bowl for dipping candies into before attaching them to the house. Consider putting the house together beforehand, then letting the children decorate it with their favorite candies.

Even the witch in Hansel and Gretel knew that sharing gingerbread is what it is all about. Of course, the predicament for Hansel and Gretel was that she only pretended to be their friend, all the time wanting to eat them.

Whether your gingerbread of choice is warm from the oven, or that tongue tingling, snapping-crisp ginger cookie made by your aunt because she knew you might come to visit or the first gingerbread house you ever saw, gingerbread is memories. These are things people do because they want to make someone happy.

And these are the memories that when shared, are looked back on and revisited each time one sees a piece of gingerbread, a gingerbread cookie or a gingerbread house.

Have fun making memories with your family and friends this holiday season.

(Food Editor Patty Miller may be reached at


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