[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Santa Clarita CA
Mostly cloudy
Mostly cloudy
Today in
S.C.V. History
March 21
1837 - Ysabel Varela born in Placerville; became second wife (and widow) of SCV landowner Ygnacio del Valle. [story]

Take a Hike | Commentary by Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Sunday, Dec 20, 2015

DianneErskineHellrigelGingerbread houses, so common to see in America during the Christmas season, were made originally in Germany in the early 1800s. These houses were first described in Grimm’s fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel. In the story, these two children, alone in the forest, left bread crumbs in the path along the way so they could find their way home. But alas, the crumbs were eaten by birds, and Hansel and Gretel wandered through the woods until they came upon a witch’s house, made of gingerbread and decorated with candy – any child’s dream. Hansel and Gretel were so hungry, they began to eat the house until they were caught and caged by the wicked witch.

After this fairy tale was published, European bakers baked Lebkuchen (gingerbread). These houses, as well as gingerbread boys and girls, hearts and other shapes, became popular treats at Christmas and Easter.

The tradition came to America along with Germans who immigrated to the United States. (The English tell us they brought the treat to America.) This is still a popular tradition in both the European Union and America. In fact, gingerbread houses big enough to walk into are often seen at large hotels and other sites in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles throughout the Christmas holiday season.

gingerbread00 According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest gingerbread house was built in 2013 in Bryan, Texas. It was 2,520 square feet and was made of 2,925 pounds of brown sugar, 1,800 pounds of butter, 7,200 eggs, 1,080 ounces of ground ginger and 7,200 pounds of all-purpose flour. This conglomerate produced 4,000 gingerbread bricks that were used to construct this magnificent house. Incidentally, a building permit was actually required for the construction.

A chef in New York made the largest village, which included 135 homes, 22 commercial buildings, cable cars and a train.

When making gingerbread buildings, you can be as creative and expansive as you wish.

Every Christmas season, I make gingerbread houses. Each year they are different in size and design. This year I’ve baked five houses so far and assembled two. They will all be gifted on the 25th. All are edible, but most of my recipients tend to keep them and display them year after year.

To generations of cooks in my family, one of the biggest symbols of Christmas was the gingerbread house centerpiece. The more fanciful it was, the better the times.

My grandmother always baked gingerbread, adding piles of candies and other confections. She would often bake little gingerbread hearts and decorate the house with those, and gingerbread boys and girls playing outside. I couldn’t wait to see her creations year after year.

gingerbread08My mother baked gingerbread houses that were more delicate and highly decorated with little sugar hearts, usually dyed pink, which was my favorite color when I was little. She made clear windows from boiled sugar water that she would decorate with lattice work, embed in a window opening, and surround with lattice – 3D shutters. She would also put a light inside the house to shine through the windows. It was always a work worthy of a fairy tale.

Ginger, the root, arrived in Europe during the middle ages via the Silk Road. It was used in China for medicinal purposes and then in Europe to ward off the plague. Soon it became known for its wonderful and unusual taste and was added to bread and cookies. Then, treacle (similar to molasses) was added, along with honey and butter, and gingerbread was born.

No one in Europe can agree on who came up with the idea first. The Greeks claim they invented gingerbread in 2400 B.C., the Chinese claim responsibility in the 10th century A.D., and the Germans claim fame to gingerbread houses in the 16th Century. The English claim they were the first actually to decorate gingerbread. They even had gingerbread fairs and festivals throughout England.

To speed you on your way to your own gingerbread home, here is a recipe for gingerbread that you can bake for use in your own gingerbread house:




* ¾ cup unsulfured molasses

* ¾ cup butter

* ¾ cup dark brown sugar

* 4 ½ cups flour, plus more for rolling surface

* 1 tsp baking powder

* 1 tsp salt

* ½ tsp baking soda

* 3 ½ tsp ground ginger

* 2 tsp cinnamon

* 1 egg, lightly beaten

* Royal icing for assembling house and attaching decorations

* Sprinkles, candies, other decorations



1. In a medium saucepan, heat the molasses to the simmering point. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until it melts. Stir in the brown sugar. Allow to cool.

2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, ginger and cinnamon. Add the cooled molasses and the egg to the flour mixture and mix very well until a dough forms. You may need to use your hands to really incorporate the wet mixture into the dry mixture.

3. Wrap dough in wax or parchment paper and chill for 1-2 hours, or until firm enough to roll. Roll out on a well-floured surface, cut out 2 sides, 2 roof pieces, a front and a back. (Make your patterns from cardboard first to make sure they will fit together properly).

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

5. Transfer cut dough to a baking sheet that has been lightly greased with nonstick cooking spray or lined with a silicone baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes. The cookies will puff up but won’t spread much.

6. Cool completely on a rack before decorating with royal icing, decorative sprinkles and candies. Assemble the front, back and sides first. Let this dry completely before attempting to attach the roof. When you attach the roof, support it with cans, drinking glasses or other objects (depending upon the height you need) until it is dry.

7. Make your royal icing, and attach all the wonderful decorations, candies, etc., that your little heart desires.

8. After the season, you can gently wrap your house to save for another season, or enjoy eating it, and look forward to creating another one next year.

Have fun. And have a very Merry Christmas.


Run, run, fast as you can
You can’t catch me,
I’m the gingerbread man.

– The Gingerbread Man, a fairy tale


Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at zuliebear@aol.com.



Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.


You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment

Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
Friday, Mar 16, 2018
Quentin Kopp, retired judge and Bay Area politician, was once chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority and helped sell the bullet train to voters. He’s now suing to stop it, saying, "The litigation, which is pending, will result, I am confident, in the termination of the High-Speed Rail Authority's deceiving plan."
Thursday, Mar 8, 2018
A wildfire stripped the banks of Placerita Creek of its thick, lush blanket of green – exposing thousands of shoots of the evil tamarisk.
Friday, Mar 2, 2018
In her March 2018 message, Mayor Laurene Weste outlines why Santa Clarita is a tech-savvy "smart city" and previews coming upgrades in street lighting, recycling stations and the local fiber-optic network.
Thursday, Feb 15, 2018
There was broad public support for the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which struck a careful balance between lands available for large-scale renewable energy development and the environment. Now the federal government is rethinking it - putting the important and much-needed protections at risk.
Tuesday, Feb 13, 2018
You can prevent vision loss by finding and treating problems early. Medicare covers a glaucoma test once every 12 months for people at high risk for glaucoma
Wednesday, Feb 7, 2018
Sierra Club Angeles Chapter SCV Group Chair Sandra Cattell urges Santa Clarita Valley residents to contact their congressional representatives to push legislation to kill the Cemex mining project in Soledad Canyon.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
A flash flood watch will be in effect from 11 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 5 a.m. due to heavy rain expected over the next couple of days, according to the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station.
Flash Flood Watch in Effect Wednesday PM to Friday AM
Radio station 88.5 FM/Los Angeles, Southern California’s leading Triple-A (adult album alternative) format station and headquartered at California State University, Northridge, is adding Andy Chanley to its afternoon drive spot.
88.5 FM/Los Angeles Adds Andy Chanley to PM Drive
The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control encourages all pet owners to make their homes pet-safe during National Poison Prevention Week, now through Saturday, March 24.
March 18-24: National Pet Poison Prevention Week
The family-friendly Gilchrist Farm in Bouquet Canyon will host its annual egg hunt and Spring Fling on Saturday, March 31.
March 31: Egg Hunt, Spring Fling at Gilchrist Farm
Weather permitting, CSUN beach volleyball is scheduled to host a pair of tri-duals this week as the Matadors host Cal State LA and No. 19 Washington on Wednesday followed by No. 15 Loyola Marymount and top-ranked Pepperdine on Thursday.
Matadors Face Trio of Ranked Teams in Beach Volleyball Tri-Duals
CSUN's softball team will host the Matador Classic this weekend with Cal Poly, Pacific, Santa Clara and Georgia Tech all visiting the Matador Diamond in Northridge.
March 23-25: CSUN Softball Team to Host Matador Classic
Fale Avin's two-out RBI single in the top of the 11th sent No. 5 Oklahoma past the CSUN softball team 2-1 Monday afternoon.
No. 5 Oklahoma Edges CSUN Softball Team 2-1 in 11 Innings
No. 4/5 Notre Dame shot 54.8 percent (40-of-73) from the field as the Fighting Irish defeated CSUN 99-81 in the first round of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament Friday night.
No. 4/5 Notre Dame Defeats CSUN 99-81
CSUN senior Arvis Greene picked up his second consecutive Big West Player of the Week award in men's volleyball Monday after leading the then-No. 10 Matadors to a pair of upset wins over No. 3 Hawai'i last week.
CSUN’s Arvis Greene Repeats as Big West Player of the Week
Mental and physical agility, resourcefulness and a never-say-die spirit are just a few of the survival traits needed for participants to succeed in the inaugural Bear Grylls Survival Challenge April 28 and 29 at the Blue Cloud Movie Ranch.
April 28-29: First Bear Grylls Survival Challenge at Blue Cloud Movie Ranch
Kameron Quitno safely slid across the plate for the first home run of his collegiate career, sparking the TMU Mustangs to a 13-4 win over visiting Bethesda University on Tuesday at Lou Herwaldt Stadium.
Mustang Baseball Rides Home Runs to Non-Conference Win
Walmart recently expanded its test of new AI shelf-scanning technology to four stores in Southern California, including the store on Kelly Johnson Parkway in Valencia.
Walmart Launches AI Shelf-Scanning Technology at SCV Store
James Allen Hayes, 55, nicknamed by law enforcement authorities as the "Seasoned Bandit" because of his age, has formally pleaded guilty to robbing four banks in 2017, including two in the Santa Clarita Valley.
‘Seasoned Bandit’ Cops to String of Bank Heists
The Senate Education Committee gave a thumbs-up to Senate Bill 1009 (SB 1009), a measure to expand access to community college tutoring, according to California Senator Scott Wilk (R-Antelope Valley), who introduced the bill.
Wilk Community College Tutoring Bill Clears First Hurdle
Los Angeles County Fire Department firefighters doused a house fire in the 24700 block of Chestnut Street in Newhall Wednesday morning.
Firefighters Douse House Blaze in Newhall
To celebrate California’s Water Awareness month, SCV Water will hold its annual Open House on Saturday, May 12 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Central Park and at its conservation garden and patio located above the park.
May 12: SCV Water Open House; Vendors Sought
The city of Santa Clarita is urging residents and businesses, specifically those living near the recent burn areas of Sand Fire in the Sand Canyon area, to take extra precautions and stay alert as heavy rains fall this week.
City Urges Residents to Take Precautions During Storm
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies out to lunch at a local fast-food restaurant recognized and arrested a 29-year-old man with two outstanding warrants Tuesday, according to officials.
SCV Deputies Arrest Fast-Food Diner on 2 Warrants, Drug Possession
March hasn’t brought a miracle to California, but it has improved the state’s water picture enough to at least delay any drought declarations.
Prospect of California Drought Persists Despite Recent Rain
1837 - Ysabel Varela born in Placerville; became second wife (and widow) of SCV landowner Ygnacio del Valle. [story]
The William S. Hart High School Wind Ensemble & Concert Band, as well as the Placerita Junior High School Advanced Band will be holding a Rich Musical Heritage Concert, Thursday, March 22 at 7:00 p.m.
March 22: Rich Musical Heritage Concert
If you think you have the right stuff, Blue Star Ranch is looking for volunteers.
Blue Star Ranch Seeking Volunteers
Comic books, comic strips, graphic novels and web comics often provide an escape from reality.
CSUN Professor Establishes Comic Studies Society
From Oklahoma! to The Sound of Music, American composer Richard Rodgers forever changed the face of Broadway musicals, giving them stories and making them oh, so hum-able.
The Soraya to Celebrate Composer Richard Rodgers
The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion aimed at preventing foster youth from becoming entangled in the juvenile justice system, and ensuring supportive care for those do.
Supes Approve Motion Preventing ‘Dual Status,’ ‘Crossover’ Foster Youth
On Friday, March 23, CalArts alum Travis Wilkerson’s (Film/Video MFA 01) latest documentary, Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? screens at CalArts' Bijou theater.
March 23: CalArts Screening ‘Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?’
LOS ANGELES – As part of the team’s continuing celebration of 60 seasons in Los Angeles, the Dodgers will pay tribute to one of the most dramatic moments in baseball history by permanently marking a commemorative seat located in the area of the Right Field Pavilion where Kirk Gibson’s historic walk-off home run landed during Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. The “Kirk Gibson seat” is the first seat at Dodger Stadium to be marked in tribute to a historic event.
Dodgers Honor Kirk Gibson Homerun with Seat in Right Field Pavilion
Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley, a non-profit that mobilizes community faith groups in the SCV to assist homeless families, recently announced that after six years at its current Resource Center, they are in need of finding a new site for its offices in order to provide services to homeless families.
Local Non-Profit Seeking New Office Site
Adonna Khare will demonstrate carbon art at the April 16 meeting of the Santa Clarita Artists Association (SCAA). This event is free, open to the public and meets at 6:30 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 23630 Valencia Blvd.
April 16: Carbon Art by Adonna Khare
Santa Claritans will have an early spring celebration at the “Touches of Spring”, an art show featuring Zony Gordon, an award-winning local artist who will be showing from March 12- April 30, 2018 at the Art & Photo Gallery of Fast Frame in Valencia.
March 24: Zony Gordon Artist Reception
The ARTree Studio 2 will be holding an art exhibit by artist Six, called Food Memories beginning Friday, March 23 with an opening night reception from 6:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
March 23-25: Food Memories Art Exhibit by Six
Here is a list of Santa Clarita arts-related events for March 22-24:
March 22-24: Santa Clarita Arts Calendar
Shoppers can find all what they need to make that special Easter Brunch this year by visiting the Santa Clarita Farmers Market located at the College of the Canyons, parking lot 5 on Valencia Boulevard. The market will be open on Easter Day and runs from 8:30 a.m. to noon.
Santa Clarita Farmers Market Open Easter Sunday
The Triumph Foundation's Wheelchair Sports Festival will take place on Saturday, April 28 from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. and Sunday April 29 from 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
April 28-29: Triumph Foundation’s Wheelchair Sports Festival
With significant rain moving across the area Tuesday through Thursday this week, there is a moderate to high risk of debris flows near recent burn areas.
National Weather Service Warns Residents of Debris Flows as Storm Approaches
The Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center will hold a Cyber Security: If It's Connected, It Must be Protected Presentation on Wednesday, March 21 from 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. in Rooms A1 and A2.
March 21: Cyber Security Presentation at Senior Center