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David Ross

The Gingerbread House Topic

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We've shared our gingerbread houses over the years in holiday baking and cookie discussions.  But this year let's start a new tradition with a discussion topic dedicated just to the gingerbread house.  I'll start with a gingerbread house I worked on for a couple of years starting in 2016.  For two years I'd buy some new candies and add a little more, but then in 2018 tragedy.  I'd packed it in one of those large hard plastic tubs and closed the lid.  I kept it in a closet in the house thinking that would be a safe place.  Well it got some condensation in there and when I opened it last season it had collapsed and I couldn't re-build it.  It was a nice for an amateur attempt.

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I'm not yet graduated to making the gingerbread walls myself, so start with a pre-made house kit. I usually buy candies and decorations from a variety of stores-craft stores in the cake decorating section, the candy aisle at Walmart and Walgreen's.  Small little farm animals and figurines come from a toy section or a model railroad store.  And I've found the Dremel moto-tool works great for cutting candy canes and pretzels with a hard edge.

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I love them as I am a holiday village fanatic and adore the fantastical element. I've never used a kit. The first year I must have been 16 because I drove myself to the hospital to deliver to children's ward. I also made one for the neighbor's big Christmas party. Their theme was Japanese but they liked my fantasy more Euro house. This was all pre taking photos of everything so I have no images unfortunately.  I can still see them in my head. As I recll the dough needs to be slightly aged and very cold and firm. It truly would have been more fun to do in a group to afford a more extensive array of candy to decorate. I may ask a friend who has twin 6 year old great grand chidren if they want to give it a go this year. Oh the "glue" - I think Italian meringeis the preferred 'glue" .Oh and the rule i was raised on is that it all needs to be edible and then be eaten ;)  There s a Time Life Foods of the World with one on the cover. I am braving the hinterlands of the garage to try to find it.  "Ginger on"

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Gingerbread houses are a big theme on Hallmark. Here is just one. It speaks to the appeal of the concept  

 

 

 

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Our library used to have an annual gingerbread house competition but last year there were no submissions.  We required the gingerbread house pertain to literature.  There were three categories:  children, children helped by adults, and adults.

 

Some chose Harry Potter.  My all time favorite was a five year old's submission in the children category:  Emily Dickinson's Because I could not stop for Death...

 

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground – 
The Roof was scarcely visible – 
The Cornice – in the Ground 

 

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 braved it despite  dad parking mini tractor up against the storage crates - 911 was not callled

  Looking forward to images of your and yours efforts.

 

 

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Edited by heidih (log)
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Our family will never forget what happened one Christmas season.  My Father took care of an elderly family friend and we would bring her over for Christmas dinner.  Mother had bought a pre-made gingerbread house at a local bakery and put it on an end table next to the couch.  After dinner we went into the living room and there she sat, breaking off pieces and nibbling on that gingerbread house.  Mother was aghast and nobody knew what to say, if anything.  I suppose since it was locally made it was all good ingredients and wasn't going to harm her, but it was one of those uh-oh moments of the holidays.  Do you eat a gingerbread house or just use it as a showpiece.

 

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These are some of the candies and figures I've got in my toolbox, along with the house I started last year.  In addition to craft stores and big box stores for candy and decorations, model railroad shops are a great source for figures and animals.  These farm animals came from the toy section at Walmart. Since I'm not building to a scale like model railroaders, I don't mind using items that aren't in proportion.  The idea with my gingerbread is to just create a fantasy sort of look. I mentioned before I sort of cheat in terms of using hot glue for attaching some of the decorations and candy.  But I also use icing, usually store-bought in a small squeeze tube.

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The frosted mini-wheats for shingles are pure genius.

 

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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I used to run the pre-school story hours at the library.  During the holiday season, we had the kids make a easy version of gingerbread houses only using graham crackers.  It was easy to have them decorate the crackers flat before the house was assembled. The following week they put them together and finished decorating  them.  That way we could put them back together after the kids left and they never knew their projects had fallen apart.   To be honest, most of the finished projects were just boxes but it the eyes of the little creators, each one was a mansion.

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1 hour ago, kayb said:

The frosted mini-wheats for shingles are pure genius.

 

Thanks I've collected ideas from old food magazines for years and I saw regular mini-wheats but I thought "frosted!"

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I am in the minority "eat it" camp. Sort of Hansel & Gretel.  If you are going out of edible bounds - the railrod call is great. We have a big show every year at our botanic garden  and the miniature stuff they use is quite a "show".  image.jpeg.42d3694c2119b75254733f9aed613329.jpeg


Edited by heidih (log)
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The 2019 build is completed.  I got a good head start with the 2018 house I had started.  Overall I like the looks of it for an amateur attempt.  The competitions we see on television or locally have limitations I don't have to deal with.  At home I can use my glue gun and the Dremel moto-tool to cut candy canes and pretzels.  And I don't go by a time clock, I take as much time as I need.  From what I've seen on tv and locally, the gingerbread has to be made from scratch, no pre-made kits allowed.  You can only use some form of icing as your glue, and typically the figures have to be made from sugar or natural products. There are the first five photos of the build-

Front of the house showing log pretzels and icing used as the "boards." Candies glued on in sort of a Chalet type of look.  The shingles are frosted mini-wheats.  The door is pre-made and comes with windows on a sheet.  You can buy them at craft stores and usually in the section of gingerbread houses at Walmart. The ornaments by the door are tiny glass ornaments.  The little farm animals are from the toy section at a big box store.  You can also find them at a local hobby shop or model railroad store. The "snow" effect is just coconut. 

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Side of the house. Each corner has a soft peppermint log I found at Walmart.  I used the Dremel moto-tool to cut them 

to the right size. 

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The top of the roof is a pretzel log.  Those are large red hot candies with icing sugar as the base. 

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Hard candies along the roof line.  Closeup it shows my untidy glue lines, but at a glance, most people don't notice thankfully.  

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6 minutes ago, heidih said:

@David Ross  Nice and creative work. Where do you display it? I think it would be fun to try the stained glass cookie method for windows once. No plans this year unless god-daughter finds time in her over-scheduled life!.   https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/stained-glass-cookies-recipe-2109969

I display it on a table that's the same height as a normal dining table.  Kids would love it as it's more at their level.  Tommorrow I'll post the little ice rink I made using the same basic method for windows.  I just made a simple syrup and cooked it to hard crack stage.  Added 1 drop of blue food color to mimic ice on a lake.

 

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I made a big, elaborate gingerbread castle one year. Worked on it in secret so the girls wouldn't know and kept it hidden until Christmas morning when I got up really early, put it on the kitchen table and added a few last minute finishing touches so it would be ready when the girls got up. Me and the Mrs. were sitting on the couch drinking coffee and waiting when we heard a very discouraging sound. I jumped up and went to the kitchen and, yep, her big male cat, aptly named Crash, was stomping through the castle like Godzilla through Tokyo. The castle itself was ok but it looked like an army had breached part of the wall and taken out a couple guard towers. It's funny now, less so at the time.

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I've been cutting out gingerbread house ideas for years then packing them away with the Christmas decorations.  I'm old school and prefer a visual on a piece of paper, although an internet search is just as good for finding ideas.  Here are some great ideas and techniques for building a gingerbread house-

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Thanks David -- I like the gummy trees and wreath. Had not seen  that before.

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The ice cream cone thing was a trick I got when I did a castle cake for my sister eons ago - from Betty Crocker Boys and Girls Cookbook

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I help the ladies from St Luke's church with their bark before Christmas (I talked them into making it) - it helps raise funds for El Hogar in Honduras where a number of them travel every year to work as a service team. They have been making gingerbread houses for a bunch of years and the bark is a quick and dirty break from all the work they have to do on these. And they gave me one this year and last!

 

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I bought a kit, on a whim, from Target. We'll see how it goes.

 

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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