Barneblad: Build your own pepperkakehus!
Heidi Håvan Grosch
We are always learning something. If you are a grown-up, you might remember when you learned to drive, started university, or got married. If you are a child, you might remember when you learned to ride a bike, started school, or were able to stay up past your bedtime. For me, I have now had my first time making a pepperkakehus (gingerbread house) with students from all over Europe, and that is something I will always remember.
It is very popular for families to make a pepperkakehus during the advent or Christmas season here in Norway. Sometimes you can buy the pepperkake (gingerbread) pieces in a box, with walls and roof and chimney already cut out and baked, so all you have to do is put it all together. You can also create your own design.
Draw out your design on paper (wax paper or baking paper work well). You can practice making your house if you test your design with cardboard. Cut out the walls, roof, chimney etc… and glue them together to see if they fit. If they don’t, you can make adjustments before you begin with the pepperkakedeig (gingerbread dough). After you have made the dough, rolled it out, cut out all the pieces, and baked them, you need to put the pieces together.
If you are older, or if you have a grown-up helping you, the best “glue” is melted sugar. You will need a pan that is large enough to dip the pieces in if possible; otherwise you can drizzle the melted sugar onto the gingerbread pieces with a wooden spoon. Here is how you do it: put a little sugar into the pan and melt it until it is liquid. Don’t let it boil too much. Be careful because the melted sugar is hot! If you don’t want to risk the hot sugar, you can make a mixture of powdered sugar and egg whites. There are many recipes online if you google “Making Gingerbread Houses.” At the end of this page are a few sites to get you started on your search both for recipes and ideas.
Making a pepperkakehus is so popular that many cities have contests to see who can have the largest collection of gingerbread houses. Our town of Steinkjer is doing this. People make a pepperkakehus and deliver it to a local bakery where they are on display. Fingers crossed that we beat Bergen this year (pepperkakebyen.org)! Norway House in Minnesota also has an exhibit of gingerbread houses looking like buildings in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Tickets to Gingerbread Wonderland are $5 and children are free. Watch this newscast for more information: www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-JVPBh5X3I OR go to Norway House’s website: norwayhouse.org.
So what do you DO with your pepperkakehus after it is finished? It is made of good things to eat, after all… What I learned this year is that for many Norwegians, it is traditional to save your pepperkakehus until New Year’s Eve, then smash it with a hammer and eat it! Others say they nibble on it (like little Christmas mice) all through December. So if you make a pepperkakehus this December, can you take a picture of it and send it to The Norwegian American before you smash it and eat it? You can send your picture to Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember to include your first name and your city (and country) so we can give you credit!
The story of the Gingerbread Man
Have you ever heard the story of the Gingerbread Man? An old woman makes him, a child wants to eat him, and the Gingerbread Man runs away crying, “you can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!” If you want to read the story, here is a free downloadable version to get you started: www.enchantedlearning.com/stories/folktale/gingerbreadman/story. You can also google “The Gingerbread Man” or look on YouTube for animated videos.
Gingerbread house websites for making your own
• home-school-coach.com/easy-gingerbread-houses-for-kids-make/ (this one uses graham crackers and is great for the littlest ones)
• There are many good videos on YouTube as well.
History of the gingerbread house
This article is a part of Barneblad, a monthly feature by Heidi Håvan Grosch to share with kids and grandkids.
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 16, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.