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How to Make a Swiss Gingerbread House


The Christmas season in Switzerland is just around the corner and soon people will be busy baking and eating Christmas cookies, practicing their poems for Santa's visit, getting ready their Christmas calendars and Advent wreaths, buying or making gifts and generally enjoy the holiday season.

Different Swiss Christmas Traditions

Although there are some Swiss Christmas traditions that most people observe - e.g. Swiss Santa or Christmas Calendars - each family also has their very own tradition of how Christmas should be celebrated. Some people will go to church on Christmas eve while others prefer to celebrate at home, for example. Some read the Christmas story, others simply enjoy family time and the exchanging of gifts.

Also, the food served on Christmas eve varies from household to household. A Swiss classic for Christmas eve is Fondue Chinoise where you cook meat and vegetables in broth in a shared pot right at the table but by now almost anything goes.

Swiss Christmas Cookies

What cannot be missing from any typical Swiss Christmas are the Christmas cookies. Mailänderli, Chräbbeli, Zimtsterne - whatever you're favorite - a mix of cookies is always part of the Christmas table in Switzerland. Most families will bake a few batches of their own and share them with friends and families. This way, everyone ends up with a large selection of cookies to enjoy during the Christmas season.

Mailänderli - a classic Swiss Christmas Cookie


Swiss Gingerbread called 'Lebkuchen'

Another sweet thing that we eat mostly during the Christmas season is a Swiss version of gingerbread which we call 'Lebkuchen' in German or 'Läbchueche' in Swiss German. Swiss (or European) gingerbread looks and tastes different from what is known as gingerbread in other English speaking countries. One of the main differences is that in Switzerland we use lots of honey in the dough and not just sugar! Also, we not only use ginger and cinnamon to create the typical flavor but also anise, star anise, mace, fennel seeds, cardamom seeds, cloves, nutmeg and others!

In Switzerland, Lebkuchen comes in all shapes and sizes - hearts, cookies, signs, etc. - the most common being a Santa Claus shaped gingerbread that is part of the treats given out by Swiss Santa during his visit on December 6th.

A Swiss Gingerbread House

Another form of preparing and eating Lebkuchen is a classical Swiss gingerbread house. Not only is it a great treat for Christmas eve and morning but also a pretty adornment for the house during the season.

We bake and build a different gingerbread house each year. The recipe for the gingerbread stays the same but we change the architecture and decorations from year to year. This way, the challenge and the fun are new each Christmas!



How to Make a Gingerbread House

I translated a gingerbread house recipe from Swissmilk.ch for you. You'll have to figure out your own design and architecture or use one of the many house patterns available online.

Ingredients:

Dough:
500 g liquid honey
100g brown sugar
100g powdered sugar
100ml milk
15g baking soda
1kg flour
15g gingerbread spice (you can use a mix of cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg)
2 eggs

White glazing:
2 egg whites
300g powdered sugar

Instructions:

1. Heat honey and sugar in a pan. Once the sugar is completely dissolved remove from heat. Let cool until hand warm.
2. Dissolve baking soda in milk
3. Mix flour and spices in a bowl
4. Add eggs and honey-sugar mixtures and start kneading
5. Add milk bit after bit and keep kneading until dough is soft and smooth.
6. Put dough in plastic bag and refrigerate at least 16 hours.
---
7. Cut out the house pattern
8. Roll out 2/3 of the dough about 3mm thick
9. Lay out the patterns and cut the dough accordingly
10. Use the rest of the dough for the bottom slab
11. Use leftover dough for decorations like blinds, flowers, trees, animals, etc.
12. Move everything to sheets lined with baking paper
13. Bake in the middle of oven at 180°C for 8-10 minutes
14. Once done, remove from sheet and place on cooling rack
15. Let cool completely before building the house!

baked pieces of the gingerbread house


Decorating the house:

1. Beat egg whites until stiff. Add powdered sugar and keep beating until smooth.
2. Use white glazing as mortar to build your house
3. Add decorations as you wish

Tips:

- It is easier to first add the decorations, then erecting the walls and finally the roof because it's harder to add the decorations on the walls of an existing house. They tend to slide down the walls instead of sticking to them since it takes a while for the white glazing to dry.
- After each construction step, take a break and let the house dry. It will be more stable to continue the work.
- For decorations you can use chocolates, dried fruit, nuts, gummies, sugar beads and candies. 


For inspiration, I'll add a few pictures of last years gingerbread house!







© 2019 IRENE WYRSCH "A HUMOROUS GUIDE TO SWITZERLAND" ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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