Ah gingerbread houses. The bane of every parent and the love of every child. The holidays are coming soon and you know what that means. Sticky fingers, icing everywhere, and a house full of gingerbread crumbs. So you build the thing and see your kids happy. Good.
But what do you do with the gingerbread house then ? Do people actually eat gingerbread houses ? Are they just for decoration ? How long can you leave them out ?
Well, today we’re going to clear that up for you. Even if you’re not making your own gingerbread house, maybe you got one as a gift and have no idea what to do with it. So here’s the answer you’re looking for.
Do people eat gingerbread houses ?
Yes, gingerbread houses are supposed to be edible. They are made from edible parts, like the gingerbread itself, the icing, the candy. It may not taste great, depending on how the items were made.
A gingerbread with walls and roof baked just to be hard enough to stand upright might not be the best tasting one, because that wasn’t the focus. The dough used is still edible, as it contains the same ingredients as regular gingerbread.
If you’re making your own, you may want to make sure both the texture and the flavor of the gingerbread are good, if you’re planning on eating it later.
After all, building it is half the fun. Let your kids demolish that house and they’ll absolutely love it. Or you can eat it by yourself, we’re not judging. We’ve had edible gingerbread houses in the, uh, house since 2018 and we left no crumb behind.
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Gingerbread houses are usually hard
An important point about gingerbread houses. They’re usually baked to last several weeks. This means the walls, floor, roof, windows and whatever else made from gingerbread will be tough.
This is to make handling each piece easy, especially if you’ve got very young kids who don’t have a lot of finesse in their hands just yet. It also means the house has less of a chance of drooping later.
So can you eta the tough, hard gingerbread ? Well, yes, it’s edible but you might hurt your teeth and the roof of your mouth. They’re denser than a biscuit.
If the one you made or bought or got is softer then go on right ahead. You can test this by gently pinching an exposed gingerbread surface. If it gives a little, it’s on the softer side and will be good to eat.
Even so, the icing on these thing is tough like cement. It’s supposed to glue everything and keep it from falling apart. This means chewing through it can be like chewing hard candy.
How long do gingerbread houses last ?
You can usually keep gingerbread for up to a month before it starts to lose flavor and turn moldy. Since gingerbread doesn’t have that much moisture, it won’t be as moldy as a cake or something more moist.
Still, it’s best to eat the gingerbread long before that month is over. If you’re building the house on December 23rd, and want it to last until January 1st, that’s totally doable. Cute, even, since it keeps the holiday spirit.
But you should definitely finish it before January 23rd, otherwise it’s going to be unpleasant.
Gingerbread can gather dust
One thing you may notice about gingerbread houses is that they’re usually packed in a decorative plastic bag. That’s both to keep them from drying out, and to keep the clean until you decide to open the package.
This happens with home made gingerbread houses too. Once you’ve set the house on a table or somewhere on display, it’s constantly exposed to air. It will dry out, and gather dust.
If you have any intention of eating it be sure to put something like clingfilm over the top, loosely covering the house. It might still dry out a little, but it definitely will be dust-free. As for pre-made, packaged gingerbread houses just keep them in their plastic wrap.
Can dogs eat gingerbread ?
Animals have a harder time processing sugars than humans, so it’s not a good idea to feed the gingerbread house to the dog when you’re done. An important note is that gingerbread often has nutmeg, which can upset a dog’s stomach quite badly.
That being said, a very small piece is probably okay. But you should keep the gingerbread house away from pets anyway. Not just dogs, but cats, parrots, rodents, or bunnies all the same. Better to be safe than sorry.
Why do we eat gingerbread at Christmas ?
Gingerbread is a very old sweet bread, and because of this is has many ties through religion, traditions, typical Christmas decorations, and possibly fairytales.
To start off, the exact start of gingerbread is unknown. Traditional gingerbread is made with honey and cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and cardamom. All of these are common ingredients, and honey cakes are recorded as far back as ancient Rome.
As time went on gingerbread became associated with religion, and it was often sold outside churches on Sundays after service. Gingerbread guilds became a thing, and for a while bakers enrolled in those guilds were the only ones allowed to bake gingerbread (aside from Christmas and Easter).
Old gingerbread was decorated with more than just Christmas trees and Santa. It depicted current events, monarchs, and even biblical scenes. It was always a very decorative sweetbread.
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The Grimm brothers made gingerbread houses popular
Then came along the brothers Grimm. We all know the famous Hansel and Grettel story, and some believe it was the beginning of the gingerbread house tradition. In fact, the brothers merely collected the story from folklore, and did not invent it themselves.
Not only that, but gingerbread houses were built and sold are fairs before the stories were published. There’s no doubt that the story made the house much more common and well known, and gave folks a clear idea of what to build for the next holiday.
Gingerbread houses became associated with Christmas, as did gingerbread cookies in general. There’s no mistaking the decorative tone gingerbread has. In fact, it’s been used as Christmas tree decoration long before baubles were invented.
You may wonder why the tradition didn’t stick for Easter. We don’t know, but we guess it’s got to do with the difference in nature between the two holidays. Christmas has a very strong decorative theme, and people put a lot of effort into making everything look festive. Easter is a little plainer by comparison, and much more religious.
All that being said, gingerbread houses are here to stay. Personally we think they’re the best thing ever and love seeing them everywhere.