Posts Tagged With: Gingerbread House

The Gingerbreadening, Part the Third

matrix-gun-rack-oDecorating the gingerbread structures is done with copious amounts of royal icing and modeling chocolate. And candy. Lots of candy. I feel like Neo when he decides to rescue Morpheus, except I’m asking for “Candy, lots of candy!”

(If I was really dedicated, I’d crack into that gif and change all the guns to candy, but that’s a LOT of work.)

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Now one may think, “Gee, that looks good enough to eat!”, and you would be correct. However, you should NOT eat it. It’s been sitting out for days, collecting dust and cat hair. The modeling chocolate has been kneaded and sculpted by hands. Sweaty, germy, human hands. The cinnamon stick columns are basically tree bark and only good to eat ground up into a fine powder (I don’t recommend the Cinnamon Challenge, though).

If you want to eat it, do what we do: make a veritable army of Gingerbread Mans (yes, I call them “Mans,” you can thank StrongBad for that) just for eating (and invading Gingerbread villages).

If you want to see all the pictures, here’s a handy-dandy slideshow at Photobucket. Unfortunately, since I didn’t take the time to rename all the files to put them in chronological order, it’s kind of a random look at the week+ we spent, rather than anything that makes sense.

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The Gingerbreadening, Part the Second

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(Trying to get WordPress to put images where I want them is always a struggle when I have more images than text, so I apologize for the presentation.)

In one respect, building a gingerbread house is like any other construction project: you need to start with a plan.

(You can click on the images to enlarge them.)

Many gingerbread books include plans for the structures they feature (some do not). There are also some available online. You can also create your own by constructing your buildings out of cardstock or cardboard, then using the finished pieces as templates for your baking.

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Part of our prep work also includes making modeling chocolate. Domed and round structures are really hard to make out of a cookie, so using a flexible medium eliminates a LOT of stress.

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The Gingerbreadening, Part the First

There comes a time of year when spices emerge, vast quantities of butter, sugar, and eggs are acquired, and the baking begins.

This is not an activity that comes without planning. Architectural plans are drawn up and mock-ups are created in cardboard, then used as templates.

Pounds upon pounds of confectioner’s sugar (aka icing sugar aka powdered sugar) will be used in quantities that could make the kitchen look like a cocaine den.

This time of year is called THE GINGERBREADENING.

2014-11-22-18-20-52Each year has a theme. The last time The Gingerbreadening happened, it was a village square. This time, it is Tim Burton’s “A Nightmare Before Christmas.” Normally, part of the challenge of building gingerbread structures is keeping everything straight. It’s like building a house of cards: if your cards were made out of cookies. I don’t know if purposely constructing warped, crooked structures is going to make this easier or more difficult.

Thus far, only the base has been created. Well, that’s not true. All of the gingerbread pieces are complete and ready for assembly. But, in order to assemble them, a baseplate must be made ready. It is little more than a foil-wrapped cardboard box covered in white fondant.

Fun fact: different brands of mini marshmallows are different colors. Even when the coloring additive in all of them is Blue 1. One batch had a definite blueish cast. Another was more yellow. The third was sort of a neutral, off-white. Once the building are in place and decorated, it is doubtful anyone will notice.

Echo Station 3-T-8. We've spotted Imperial Walkers on the north ridge!

Echo Station 3-T-8. We’ve spotted Imperial Walkers on the north ridge!

My wife left me alone with the base while the fondant was drying. This was the result.

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And Now for Something Completely Different…

THE GINGERBREADENING!

Every year, my wife and I build a gingerbread house, then have family come over to help decorate it. We try to follow the rule of “it must be edible,” though I confess to bending that rule a bit… tongue depressors are non-toxic, and non-nutritive, though other than some really rough insoluble fiber, they are edible. This is not for a competition, so it doesn’t really matter (and we’re not planning on ever competing).

So, before I show off our handiwork, some statistics:

  • 30 pieces of gingerbread, individually designed and baked
  • 8 lbs. powdered sugar
  • 3 lbs. Isomalt
  • LOTS of candy
  • 50+ hours of baking & assembly
  • 6-7 hours of decorating2014-11-21 20.42.21

First we see various stages of construction. The coffee cups and chopsticks are there to provide support while the royal icing dries. Assembling a gingerbread house is like assembling a house of cards, except if it falls down your wall breaks, and you have to roll out, cut, and bake another one. Don’t have any spare dough? YOU’RE SCREWED.

Have spare dough.2014-11-21 22.07.26

We always assemble the house the night before decorating. This gives the house 12-14 hours to dry before people start poking and prodding it.

There were a total of seven people involved in the decorating: my wife, my step-daughter, my sister, my brother-in-law, my niece, my mother, and myself. We had a variety of colors of modeling chocolate*, so some people concentrated on making decorations to put on the little town square area we built. I found the candy equivalent of googly e2014-11-22 14.55.23yes, so those got to put to disturbing use by my brother-in-law in making some of the little gingerbread men and penguins cyclopses.

We were inspired by one of our gingerbread books into taking ice cream sugar cones and piping green icing on them to make Christmas trees. My step-daughter spent a couple of hours decorating them, and then we set them aside to dry.2014-11-22 15.32.17

Meanwhile, I was running around being a gopher (and trying not to be grumpy; it was a long night and I wasn’t feeling the gingerbread house this early in the season; I felt it best if I avoided interpersonal contact). However, I did make a Minion! It was later pointed out that I should have put pants on the Minion. What can I say? Making him the way he is stretched my sculpting skills to the max.2014-11-22 15.13.52

Don’t judge. Maybe the Minion just ran from the shower to open the door only to find out he was being pranked… it could happen!

2014-11-22 15.50.22No gingerbread village is complete without a candy path. We also used yogurt-pretzels for rooftop embellishments. We also played with Isomalt and make a skating pond and fountain. It melts beautifully and is perfectly edible, though unless you’re constipated, you might want to restrict how much of it you eat, if you know what I mean. OK, if you don’t: the body treats Isomalt like insoluable fiber, even though it’s a sugar alcohol. You can develop a resistance over time, but most people generally have a reaction similar to eating WAY too much fiber the first several times they eat a sufficient quantity.2014-11-22 17.24.54

Not clear enough: IT MAKES YOU POOP A LOT.

Ahem.2014-11-22 18.12.51

You might see a little sugar craft TARDIS on the roof, and also a big TARDIS in the background. That’s because we’re awesome. Also, “Flatline” of Series 8 of the current run of Doctor Who showed the TARDIS can actually change size. You may spy some crystalline Daleks, too. you are welcome.mp3

And finally, we decided Crow T. Robot dropped in from the Satellite of Love (if you don’t know MST3K… I don’t want to know you) to oversee the town square from his rooftop bistro complete with a jammin’ snowboard.2014-11-22 17.28.48 2014-11-22 18.25.32Here’s the big secret… the snowboard is there just to prop up the umbrella ’cause the umbrella stand we made wasn’t strong enough.

It’s clever tricks like that that really bring the magic to the whole thing.

Well, it’s a thing, anyway.

Here’s a closeup of the fountain!2014-11-22 18.25.40 You can see the Daleks in the background on the path, and a couple of the snowmen my mother made.

And here, you can get a closeup of Crow T. Robot and his rooftop bistro.2014-11-22 18.26.01

If you’re thinking “What fine photos you have. Where I can get a camera that takes such fine pictures?” Then I would reply: “HA! Those are just from my iPhone. It does OK.” All pictures are copyright ME, 2014, etc. etc. Any resemblance to any people, animals, cyborgs, or robots, are purely coincidental, or covered under fair use since we aren’t making any money off of this. Please don’t sue us BBC or the Estate of Terry Nation… and I’m pretty sure Crow’s design isn’t copyright and Bill Corbett already saw it and favorited my tweet.

* Technically, it wasn’t chocolate since the “melting candy disks” contained neither cocoa solids nor cocoa butter. “Modeling chocolate” is easier than saying “modeling chocolate substitute candy substance” and more accurate than “modeling clay.” … work with me here!

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