GINGERBREAD HOUSE - St. Peter's Project is below!
Emily, Erin, and Sarah make gingerbread houses with Aunt Diane and Uncle Dave
on Saturday (all day!) December 17th
Immediately below is a project we're working on right now - December 2011 - as we make the biggest and most complicated structure we've ever attempted: a gingerbread rendition of St. Peter's Episcopal Church. So you can read about this project or skip past our little WIP (work in process) and see some of our past projects.
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MAKING ST. PETER'S CHURCH IN GINGERBREAD FOR THE CHESHIRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE, Sunday, December 18, 2011, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., 43 Church Drive in Cheshire Conn. 06410 Here are photos from the event and the follow up to St. Peter's Church
WE DID IT! Take a look at the past week we've had! Building a gingerbread house based on our interpretation of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Main Street, Cheshire.
We started last week, well, earlier if you count the time we spent planning this. But the actual baking started last weekend. When I wasn't at work or sleeping, this is what we were doing. We finished up early this afternoon.
We'd really like to thank the wonderful people at The Waterbury Republican-American for their coverage of our project in today's (Friday, December 16th) newspaper.
Thursday, December 15, 2011 - The Waterbury Republican-American had this on Page 2. And the article on Friday, December 16th was really outstanding.
AND SO WE BEGIN...
Thursday, December 8, 2011:
We are planning to do a gingerbread house for the centerpiece for the Cheshire Historical Society's Holiday Open House on December 18th (and you can come!). We wanted to do something special and something in keeping with a historic building in our town. We had been to a talk at the St. Peter's Episcopal Church and I thought, let's do it. Let's make a gingerbread house of this historic church built in 1840. We have ten days to do this. We started with the template that we made out of file folders. That took some concentration and some time to get the scale right:
The actual church is a bit more complicated than what we will do but I feel we have captured the essence of the structure with the large, square-plan flat-roofed 3-story bell tower on the right, the doors and windows with their large Gothic-arched openings, the ocular window above the front door. There is a wealth of architectural detail in this building! I'm hoping not too much so! We would plan to keep the front of the house more or less plain and unadorned as the color of the gingerbread cookie we'll use is so similar to what I'm seeing in this brick work. The back of the gingerbread house will be a riot of candy and color, to somewhat model the more recent (and modern) construction on the rear of the church.
In the photos above you can see the lights we'd plan to put into the structures. We will melt candy for the openings in the windows and having these lights will really make the windows pop. We'll use one of the white lights on the left in the left or larger part of the gingerbread house. We have to figure out how to create an opening to slide these in and out. The opening will need to be large enough to allow for the passage of this battery operated light but not so large that it creates a problem on a weight bearing wall. We'll likely have to attach a wire or string to be able to pull the light back out. We'll use the smaller halogen light for the bell tower and again, figure out some sort of string or guide to get this in and out of the bell tower when there is no need for a light to be on.
Note the corrugated cardboard base - 3 layers thick. I can actually stand on this platform so if it will hold my weight, it will hold up this house. I considered plywood for the base but I found this cardboard and was so impressed with it's integrity that I'm going to use it.
The structure is BIG and we have to decide if we'll put some internal supports into the house. We may have to. We'll try to roll the dough out as thin as possible to keep the weight down. This will especially need to be done for the roof - the large red roof area in these photos. This is kind of keeping me up at night right now because I'm just not sure how much faith I can put into the strength of these gingerbread walls.
So today is Thursday and we have the template ready to go. Saturday, December 10th, we're going to start baking the base and the pieces. We have a lot to consider, and in no particular order:
If you're reading this - say a few prayers - we're going to need it!
Friday, December 9, 2011:
I took the afternoon off from work and started mixing gingerbread. I took the basic recipe and made 6 batches. I probably could and should have done this maybe two batches at a time but I thought I could get away with doing 6 batches at once. I used this recipe:
1/2 cup of butter or vegetable shortening -- so 3 cups of shortening
1 cup of brown sugar ----------------------so 6 cups of brown sugar
3 eggs--------------------------------------so 18 eggs
1 cup of molasses--------------------------so 3 bottles of Molasses (they are 14 oz bottles I think, and it works out fine)
2 tablespoons of ginger---------------------used a whole bottle and then some
1 tablespoon of cinnamon-------------------used a whole bottle
1 tablespoon of nutmeg---------------------used a whole bottle
1 teaspoon of baking powder---------------easy - 6 teaspoons
1 tablespoon of baking soda----------------easy again - 6 tablespoons
5 1/2 cups of flour (and maybe a bit more) -- oh boy - this is where I said maybe 6 batches are too much - 33 cups of flour! which was like almost 15 pounds.
Note that you should try to buy the least expensive brands you can. Stores like SaveALot and Ocean State Job Lots have great prices on spices and sometimes have molasses. Buy the store brand of flour and brown sugar - and look for sales! I have heard that you could use maple syrup instead of the more expensive molasses. I haven't tried it. I managed to get this molasses on sale and with a coupon so I did all right.
I thought I'd use the bread hook on the mixer but I ended up using just the normal beater. And I started with the shortening and the brown sugar:
If you make any recipe that starts with shortening and sugar, really beat it well. The shortening should be room temperature. And you beat this until it is the consistency of creamy peanut butter. You'll be amazed at how you can improve any recipe just by doing this one step well.
You can see the shortening and sugar mixture above is well beaten. And here are a dozen and a half eggs ready to to in.
Molasses is next - and I've added all the spices here with the liquid ingredients. I think it incorporates better this way.
Now this is the part where I try to find children to mix this. I'm done with the Kitchen Aid mixer now. I have my huge bowls and I have my flour ready. There is a wooden spoon on the table - as it turns out, this was just for show. I used my hands.
Here is the moment where I have 33 cups of flour and 6 tablespoons of baking soda and 6 teaspoons of baking powder in the bowl. Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, it gets a bit messy.
One last thing, mix the baking soda and powder into the flour really well. I actually will run both of these leavening agents through a sieve to remove the lumps. I just hate biting into a cookie and getting that sour bit of baking powder or soda in my mouth! Ugh! So even though no one will eat this as a cookie, I'll still incorporate the baking powder and soda into the flour as well as I can.
Here it is - all that wet, molasses and ginger batter going into the flour.
And be sure to get every bit of it. I just got in there and mixed this with my hands. Kind of like working with pizza dough and just trying to get all the flour and all this molasses batter to bind into a nice dough.
See! It worked out! It probably took about 10 minutes to mix this dough to get it to this stage. Take your time. Relax. Think pleasant thoughts. Enjoy the moment. I've taken the dough and mushed it into a big Tupperware container and this will sit in the refrigerator until tomorrow. And then the baking will begin!
I realized that this was pretty easy to clean up. I can remember doing this as a teenager in my parents' kitchen on a narrow countertop without the fancy Kitchen Aid mixer or the big stainless bowls and all the other items that I've collected over the years and become accustomed to use. And I'm a lot tidier now than I was 40 years ago! I have to remember to call my parents and say in the most benign way possible that I love them -- and not bring up that the reason that I'm calling is that I must have left Mom's kitchen as a really bad mess (not intentionally!) and I don't recall that she ever said a word. I'm sure I tried but I'm sure I didn't clean as well as I could have or should have. My Mom is a saint!
OK - big day tomorrow. We start the baking. The whole day will be baking gingerbread. Our biggest challenge will be rolling out the dough as thin as possible to keep the overall weight down, but thick enough to support the weight of the structure and all the candy that will go on it. We'll have to pay close attention as we do the melted candy windows.
Wish us luck!
Saturday, December 10, 2011 - 6:45 a.m.:
These are the things we think about before we turn the oven on:
Right now, my father-in-law is getting ready to sit down to his breakfast. I've got the newspaper out for him. His tea is steeping. His oatmeal is cooking. And his little pastry treat is just waiting for him. He's a happy, happy guy. This is going to be the only normal part of his day today! Maybe the only normal part of his week if our kitchen is taken over by this gingerbread house building! Once Dave and I get going on this church construction we're going to bring total chaos with us!
Saturday, December 10, 2011 - 2:23 p.m.:
We started rolling out the dough and baking the gingerbread shapes. Seven hours have gone by and we have just finished the baking!
It all looks so tidy when you start out. We did decide to add a layer of plywood to the bottom of the base. You can just see that under the cardboard. I have my rolls of foil ready as I do not grease the pans. I use foil to line the pans instead. You'll see why. I optimistically included all the confectionery sugar thinking we would be assembling a house right now. Not really. We've had a day of just baking! And the paper template is set up as we need to be sure that it will fit into the pan we'd like to use for the base.
Here we have actually put the template into the pan to be sure that it WILL fit. And you can see that it will be tight on the length. We'll need to use the entire span of this baking pan.
This is the template for the bell tower and we'll need to do this in four separate pieces. Again, we're just sizing it out in the paper template which is so much easier to do than trying to make the cookie dough fit later (trust me, I know. I've tried it that way).
There is no cookie cutter for these! So we roll them out and cut them to size using the paper pattern and then cut out the windows. Note that we are working on the foil, not directly on the pan surface. You will see why.
This pan has already gone in the oven and it has cooked to the point where it would need maybe three more minutes of cooking. We've taken it out of the oven and we're putting hard candy into the spaces we cut out for the windows. Yes, this is why it's on the foil. Note that I have already unwrapped the candy ahead of taking this out of the oven. You want to go a bit quick here as you do not want the pan to lose a lot of temperature.
I'm really filling up the space with candy. I use these candies whole. I have broken candy up with nutcrackers, hammers, and so on. But I've found they melt just fine on their own without all the extra effort from me.
The candies are all in place. This goes back in the oven.
This has now been in the oven for maybe TWO MINUTES! The candy is starting to melt and lose it's shape. WATCH THE PAN VERY CAREFULLY here. Don't take a phone call. Don't step away. Don't watch the very interesting thing on the TV. PAY ATTENTION. If the candy starts to bubble, it is seconds away from burning and that is not good.
Here are the other pieces of the bell tower - partially baked, candy loaded into the windows, and this will now go back to the oven.
Again, here is the candy just starting to melt - this is about 1 minute into the cooking.
And here is the final product, out of the oven, melted.
Here is Dave scoring the windows and carefully cutting what will be the left side of the church.
And here is Domenic who came home at lunchtime and expected to find his usual hot Saturday lunch and instead it is peanut butter and jelly on the very edge of the table while all this production goes on around him. He was very patient about this. He said,"So you need to bring this to the Historical Society tomorrow?" And we said, no it would go next weekend. "So is this going to be on the table all week?" And we kind of just looked at each other. Maybe. Maybe it might be.Umm. If we can't figure out where else to put it. It might just be...
Here is the front of the church. We have cooked this cookie for about 10 minutes or so and have taken it out of the oven and put candies in the windows and door. We'll return this to the oven now.
And here it is with the candy melted. This is just the most amazing thing! AND IT MUST BE DONE ON FOIL!!! If you don't put the foil down first, this is going to melt on your pan and it will never come off.
The ocular window was done with a shot glass - which I find is a great size for anything round in the gingerbread houses. Obviously we used the shot glass when we first rolled it out but it is the perfect size and easy to work with.
Here are all the pieces - we are just about done!
WHAT YOU ARE SEEING IS VERY BAD!
DO NOT, ABSOLUTELY DO NOT GIVE IN TO THE TEMPTATION TO TOUCH THESE WINDOWS
WHEN THEY COME OUT OF THE OVEN. This melted candy is at the hardball stage -
so likely 350 degrees. YOU are 98 degrees. YOUR SKIN will not be happy to make
up the difference and you will have a very bad burn. You will not make anymore
gingerbread this day. You will go to the Emergency Room. And you will regret
this action. SO let this cool on its own.
DO NOT TOUCH IT!
So here we are. All the pieces are baked. We have everything ready to go to move on to the next step: the assembly. Our goal will be to put everything together except for the roof pieces. We'll let everything set up and dry out and harden up. And then we can start to decorate!
We may start some decoration on the flat pieces (for the front of the church and the front of the bell tower. We have to think about that.
Right now we have some clean up to do and a sink full of stuff to wash. And we did promise Domenic that he would have a nice supper before we started anything else on this!
Saturday, December 10, 2011 - 7:00 p.m.:
We accomplished a lot today. We rolled out dough, cut the dough to the shape of our pattern templates. We baked all the pieces and we melted candy into all the window openings. We wanted to start assembling tonight but we're beat.
In case you're interested: Domenic had a nice baked ziti casserole with garlic bread and a glass of prune juice. He asked me, suspiciously (or maybe hopefully), if that might be a glass of wine because he's not supposed to be drinking with all his meds. I said, "Alas, no it is not." And then I held my (rather larger) glass in the air, and said to him, "But this glass most certainly is!"
And to all a good night.
Monday evening, December 12, 2011 - 8:00 p.m.:
We started putting the gingerbread house together tonight and it was more challenging than we thought it would be. Yes, the house is completely taken over by gingerbread, at least the kitchen. And we have been talking about the lighting. We want lighting and the the battery operated lights we bought are too big and, we're afraid, will become too hot inside the piece (at least the little halogen light will be). We went to Home Depot and there are no lights! I mean, we looked on Saturday and there were lots of lights. And now, Monday, the shelves are bare. We bought a pack of LED icicle lights. We think they will work.
So we set up the table first with all of our non-cookie items:
We like the lights but there seem to be A LOT of lights. This is for the inside of the house and it looks like it will be very bright! Maybe that will be good. We were reminded that there still needs to be a dinnertime so we made way for Domenic who had tuna fish sandwich, butternut squash and prune juice. A very nice dinner.
Dom suggested we use his razor blade knife so he went out to the garage and got that for us. We cleared the table and set out all the cookie pieces.
We started to peel back the foil from the candy / cookie pieces. This has to be one of the best moments because the candy windows are so amazing!
And especially so for the big pieces. We talked to our friend Shane about this and he was disappointed that we didn't get more creative with the candy in the windows. Just the monochrome colors seems a bit boring to him, I think.
We also decided to frost the INSIDE of the house white to maximize the lighting. We figure the inside will really pop. So we carefully did the interior trying very hard not to overlap any of the candy windows. This is a royal icing - eggwhites (actually ok to eat as they are from a carton), cream of tarter, and confectionery sugar. We kind of made way too much as there seemed to be a lot more egg white than we needed but as it turned out, we used all the frosting we made (6 lbs. of confectionery sugar).
Dave is scoring the base to receive the bottoms of the candy sides. We like to do this channel as we believe it adds a lot of stability to the piece. We also realized that the base was too small.
More scoring for the front piece.
detail of the scoring. We're not going deep. We're making a 1/4" trough.
Here is the "correction" to extend the base. We had made another base piece. Just in case. You do this for a few years and you kind of like to have extras of things.
Here we put the Royal icing on the edge of the pieces. This makes a kind of cement to hold the corners together.
This little tool is something Dave made up. It's a drill bit the same size as the wooden toothpicks we use. He is carefully, with as little pressure as possible, turning this drill bit into the cookie dough. He will then, just as carefully, remove the drill bit and then insert a wooden toothpick. This is our trick to "nail" the house together and keep it together until that frosting sets up.
We have two sides up.
We are fitting in the other two sides and marking where we will create the channels.
Diane dressed this up with a little walkway into the church. We didn't go too far with this because the lighting will overpower what you can see inside this doorway - and we actually have door panels to put up as well.
Three sides up.
Fourth side going up. Notice the hole in that far wall - that will receive the lights that go into the bell tower.
We ran into a couple of issues here with the bell tower. First of all, this piece was very cake like. Ideally, you want the gingerbread to be stiff as a board, kind of dry and hard. Instead, this piece was kind of wobbly. The cover of frosting will tighten it up, as will exposure to the air. Dave is inserting a number of toothpicks into the walls along with a layer of icing between the walls. But we need to let this set up. We feel that if we do the whole bell tower right now tonight, the structure will not make it. Also, the base is short, so we need to extend the base on this side. The base also slopes down so now this piece of the bell tower is too high for the other pieces. And it is too cake-like for us to make a lot of modifications and we realized all of this after we secured this piece to the rest of the house.
Here we are extending and building up the base to support the bell tower.
My grandmother had a saying, "Like never was nothing." And that's my hope here - that the extended and higher base will support the bell tower. The Royal Icing will tighten up nicely and create a solid support.
Here is the evening's efforts. The main part of the church is assembled. One side of the bell tower is up. The base is reinforced and raised. The three remaining bell tower pieces have interior icing. We have a couple of door panels waiting to go on at the end. And the two white pieces are the interior side of the main structure of the roof. Note the triangular cut out to let in light for the ocular window. Hopefully that will allow enough light or we can put one of those fancy lights up into that space. We'll see how that goes.
Domenic comes by for the building inspection. So far he likes it.
And there is one thing that my father-in-law likes about our buiding these candy houses: THE CANDY!
Tuesday afternoon we're going to try to get that bell tower up and maybe the front roof piece.
And Aunt Nini offered to make us dinner tomorrow night because our kitchen has been taken over. She'll make an old fashioned Italian dinner: roasted chicken and potatoes. Dom will enjoy that! Actually, we all will! After that we have to see Emily sing at Middlebury Elementary School for her Holiday presentation. Another busy day in a very busy season! But the sides of the house are up. That's a big, big accomplishment! If we can get the bell tower and part of the roof up, we'll have another day for this to set up. Wednesday we can work out the lighting and then begin the more formal (and careful) decorating.
Tuesday Evening, December 13, 2011 - 8:30 p.m.
We wanted to get the bell tower standing and of all the things that could happen, one of the pieces cracked in half. Oh boy.
We started by just dry fitting the three remaining pieces together. And it all looked good. The Royal Icing gave the pieces a lot more stability. Or so we thought. Note that that is Blue Dog (Miss Color Me Blue) who likes gingerbread and can't figure out why she can't have this whole big cookie. And note that we are now on our third set up lights - these are larger bulbs, LED, and only 25 lights. The other set of icicle lights were just too big.
And we're going along on our merry way. Dave has cut the channels and is now piping in some icing to receive the new pieces. Everything is going nice nice until Dave picks up one of the bell tower walls and it just snaps!
Oops. Snaps like you read about. And a few bad words were said at this moment. Now this is where the years of experience do kick in. We took the Royal Icing and put some on either end of the cracked pieces, we worked in toothpicks as if they were dowels and we repaired the wall.
We got it up and it's standing. You can see the crack. You don't see the six vertical toothpicks.
We have now three of the four walls in and we're putting in the lights. We would have liked to get a set that had white wiring but there just isn't much to choose from this time of year. Dave went to about three places and finally found these at a Lowes.
We had cut an exit hole out the back of the house. And you can see the fourth wall is now in place. See how many toothpick "nails" are put into place for this!
View looking down at the house - you can see the lights. We still need to move them around a bit but we want the bell tower to set up more.
This is what we accomplished today. You're probably thinking this is kind of ugly. And at this point, it is. But just wait. Once the decorations are on it, all the candy and the icing. You'll see how it dresses right up.
And here is a preview - without a roof on it, of how the lights will look. Even Domenic was impressed. And speaking of who, Dom said, "We need to go now to Aunt Nini's where I am going to have my first hot meal in many, many days!"
Oh and it was good. Domenic had a great dinner and then said to his sister-in-law, "That pan can stay right here." Uncle Fran is helping Dom out. After a week of sandwiches, this was like Heaven!
Aunt Nini is wearing the blue outfit in the back. She made the dinner and it was GREAT! This is Aunt Mary explaining a few things to her brother-in-law Dom and her brother Fran (you can learn all about Italian-Americans just from watching the body language!). Note that Domenic has found the box of chocolate covered cherries. And it's Uncle Fran's birthday!
Domenic has not let up on the chocolates... Mr. Sweet Tooth.
And here is Emily (white shirt, blond hair, front row left), playing at Middlebury Elementary School - 12 weeks of her violin coursework has paid off! My niece! What a treasure this young lady is!
OK, so that was the fun and games for today. For Wednesday, we will get the roofs on. We'll start to decorate the front of the candy house, carefully. This decorating is the part where you really need to put on the breaks and think things through. You can have a great structure, and then make it look sloppy with too much frosting or being too quick in putting a design down. We want this house to really look spectacular and we're going to have to be very careful in our design approach.
Wednesday Evening, December 14, 2011 - 9:00 p.m.
We had a bit of a set back - one of the roof pieces split in half (read below) so Thursday night will be us baking a whole new roof. We put the roof up and it was there for about three minutes and then it just collapsed. Back to the drawing board for us. But the decorating has started. Take a look below at what we've been doing with our Wednesday afternoon and evening.
This is the roof piece and I'm so excited that the cocoa krispies look as nice as they do!
We've added a walk way to the front of the church, choosing red candy to kind of go with the red door. This doesn't look too festive just yet, does it? Just wait.
Put a bit of white frosting on there and it starts to take on some dimension!
I'm starting to work on the "front lawn" of the church. I want to keep it pretty simple in the front. And then have the back be a whole splash of color and candy.
the house and the "front lawn" look great but the roof had just collapsed and this was huge. We tried to repair it but it just won't work out.
Nothing's going to fix this - although we tried to use our toothpick method and extra frosting - as this is a roof piece, we just can't take the chance. This will go to Domenic for his next "tea and cookies."
This is what we accomplished today. The green "front lawn" looks great and I like the white around the windows but I'm discouraged by the roof. We'll have to work on that tomorrow night. I was really hoping to have that part done and then just concentrate on the decorating.
Ahhh but what is under those plastic bins on the left? Glad you asked! This is what Dave was working on:
And... Ta Dah....
That guy of mine! I tell you - he was using tweezers to put on the red ornaments! And his dad was putting the M&M toppers on the trees.
So tomorrow I have to fire up the oven again. Make a little dough. Bake up a few roof cookies... Might as well plan a casserole too. Dom will be pleased to have a hot supper!
Thursday Evening, December 15, 2011 - 7:30 p.m.
This was a good day. A day where things worked and came together and we made a lot of progress on this gingerbread house. We're so used to seeing the house now that it looks kind of banal to us. Should we have made it bigger, different, and so on. But then my father-in-law comes in and he is so impressed and excited, I figure that guy can't be wrong!
We had some discussion about the weight of the house. Dave said it weighs about 10 pounds. I said it was more like 50 pounds. Truth be told: 30 lb. without the roof.
So we got that bit of business out of the way. We talked a lot about transport. Should we call the Cheshire Police and have an escort? Is Dave prepared to drive down Route 10 in Cheshire in second gear with the flashers on? I'm going to be biting my nails (haven't done that in 35 years) or start smoking again (haven't done that in 27 years). But in a way, this is better than last night where we had a collapsed roof and weren't sure what would happen next.
Dave spent the day making more dough and baking roof pieces. He is dry fitting right now and he's going back and forth, doing some trimming and then back to the dry fit.
He's happy with the piece so I'm covering it with chocolate icing and then pressing Cocoa Krispies into that frosting. I'm doing this as carefully as I can with a firm and gentle pressure as the last thing I want to do is snap that piece (been there, done that).
All the while I have some company at my feet. This is Miss Blue Dog. We have three big dogs and it they were all under or around the table. So everywhere we stepped was a dog, dog paw, dog snout.
The front roof is on. Dave put a rim of the Royal Icing around the edges and he's easing the roof into place.
And here is the back piece.
Notice that this bell tower is a bit ugly with the lighting and wires. We talked about a dozen different possibilities to cover this space and we finally decided to do some filigree work with the Royal Icing.
Hopefully this will work. Otherwise we'll have to come up with a quick Plan B.
Dave went a bit far with the toothpick, but these really form the "nails" of the house. We've already decided to keep them in place during the transport - which may be tomorrow!
We had to do it - we plugged it in and took a look at it. Amazing!
We're at a point where we really need the roof to set up and get hard. So we have to stop.
Here is the house compared to the original paper template. The cookie house kind of puffed up in size!
and this is the back of the house with all the candy. I thought about starting it but Dave said we've already lost one roof. So the house will stay as it is tonight and tomorrow morning (I took a day off from work), I'll sit and -- I hope -- quietly finish this up so we can bring it to the Historical Society later on Friday.
Well, Inspector Domenic came in to check things out. We've tried to create a barricade around the house (the dogs... just in case) but Inspector D. says he approves.
Did I tell you my baby sister called and said she wants her daughter Erin to come up on Saturday to make a gingerbread house. Donna says she can remember when I did this with her and she wants her daughter to have The Gingerbread Experience. Oh boy. No rest for the wicked, right?
Friday Evening, December 16, 2011 - 8:30 p.m.
Let's start with the morning. We began at 8 a.m. with the top of the bell tower. This was the filigreed frosting piece that I had done last night. This was surprisingly easy and it looks great:
Once that was in place, the decorating started in earnest.
Well, for some of us, breakfast and the newspaper is always the first item on the agenda. My father-in-law, Domenic, has "his usual."
And then it was done. Or we had to stop anyway. I cleaned up the table and dressed up the space a bit. Here is the church:
Now the big car ride.
Dave got this out to the car and I have to admit, this was the part I was dreading. Really. Lost some sleep over this last night. But the ride was completely uneventful.
Dave bringing a 50lb gingerbread house creation into the backdoor of the Cheshire Historical Society.
We got this in the building and on the table. And then we went to the new Waverly Inn for lunch. Domenic had the baked stuffed shrimp - "very good!" - and that was that.
Saturday the Suburban Garden Club will be decorating the house for the Christmas Party on Sunday so we'll have to see what they do around our creation. But for now, we're really happy. The house came out well. Mary Ellen Kania, the Curator of the Historical Society, was so pleased! And as I said to her, if she is happy then I am doubly happy! Sunday, Dave and I will be at the Cheshire Historical Society at 2:00 to see our creation on display. I hope if you are in the area and your schedule allows that you can stop by. We'd love to show off our "baby" in person!
Cheers! Thanks for reading along! And maybe try making a gingerbread house on your own. The pattern I started with is below - a Cape Cod style. You can do it! Really!
Diane and Dave
######## This is the end of the St. Peter's Project ########
Welcome to Gingerbread! Why Not Give It A Try?
Diane and Dave made this gingerbread house for the Cheshire Historical Society in 2008.
There is a lot of information on building gingerbread houses in this webpage. Making a gingerbread house is fun activity for people of all ages. It's a great holiday tradition. The cookie part is fairly easy to bake using a straight forward gingerbread cookie recipe (below). Patterns can be made using paper templates. Frosting is also simple (confectionery sugar, shortening, and water). Mastering a pastry tube is not all that tough for this process. Building the house takes a bit of time and patience. And decorating with candy is just plain fun - I don't care how old or young you are!
Please take a look at some of the information below and have some fun! Try it!
If you've never done this before, then please start SMALL. The house in the photo above probably has 15 cookie pieces to assemble. If this is your first house, you would be a lot happier to start with a house that needs only six pieces - a piece for the front of the house, for the back of the house, for the two sides and two pieces for the roof. Simple. And for a first house - still very challenging. Work up to the bigger, more complex patterns. Remember, we always like to walk before we roller blade.
Start With The Cookie Recipe
If you are going to eat this great creation immediately then by all means use the best ingredients you can. If you are planning on having this as a table top display for a few weeks, really don't eat this. It will be hard as a rock and very stale. Not to mention that the icing will be rancid, etc. And use cheaper ingredients. And use twice as much spice as the strong gingerbread smell is really wonderful.
GINGERBREAD COOKIE RECIPE TO MAKE A GINGERBREAD HOUSE
The Recipe for the Gingerbread House
1/2 cup of butter or vegetable shortening
Cream shortening and sugar together until it is like peanut butter. Add the eggs and molasses (if you coat the inside of your measuring cup with a little vegetable oil, you can measure the molasses much easier). Mix well. Add all the dry ingredients. Mix well. You are probably using your hands to mix at this point. I know I do (and if you rub a bit of the shortening on your hands first you will be so much happier because the dough won't be quite so sticky). Chill for three hours.
You need to make a base, four house sides, and two roof pieces. You will need to sketch out a house - just like making a log cabin kind of arrangement. You can make a pattern out of cardboard and then cut the dough along these lines. With the dough that's left over, you are going to make a base which looks really like a big pizza pie rolled out on a big cookie sheet.
Here is a fairly simple pattern you can work out. I use cardboard or a manilla file folder (any stiff cardstock will be fine for this). Work out the dimensions and then cut them out in the cardstock and hold them together to see if they fit -- as a paper pattern. This is a whole lot easier to work out problems with your pattern when its still paper. It's a whole lot harder and very frustrating to do this with actual cookie pieces.
If you are ready for something complicated, try this one. Really, start with simple patterns first. Get the hang of it and then work on this big, complicated pattern.
Here is a pattern for a really fancy Victorian Gingerbread House.
There are a lot of gingerbread house patterns available at your library in cookbook and craft books. And you can find some other ideas and patterns if you google "Gingerbread House Patterns"
This site has some nice gingerbread tips and recipes: celebratingchristmas This is the Royal Icing recipe from this site:
From: Celebrating Christmas, Ideas for a Creative Christmas
Royal Icing Cement (NOT EDIBLE) For Gingerbread Houses
This Recipe is NON-EDIBLE... Ingredients: 3 egg whites 1-1/2 pounds powered sugar Food color (optional)
Directions: Because it uses raw eggs - it should not be eaten. Beat egg whites until frothy. Gradually beat in sugar until icing reaches the desired consistency. The more you whip the icing the fluffier it gets. Icing that is less fluffy is best for piping out details, such as siding, roof or window designs; fluffier icing makes good glue for holding the pieces of the house together. Add food coloring. Immediately wrap and refrigerate leftovers.
The pattern above is from a book at the Cheshire Library and I apologize because I can't recall the name of the book. But there are so many good books now with great gingerbread house recipes and patterns. There are a lot of tiny pieces - the finials and the gables and so on. Make them if you want. Every once in a while I will do all these little doodads but it takes a lot of time and patience. For the gingerbread house at the top of the page I squared off the windows. I think I like that even better than the oval tops.
I'm repeating this: A simple log cabin or Cape Cod style house would be the best to start with.
Make a cardboard or paper template and see how this all fits together first - in it's paper form - and then work it in cookie dough. Please don't do all your baking and then realize that your roof is two inches too short or your side walls are too wide or too high. Try it in paper first. I use manilla file folders. They are a good consistency for this. And don't go humungus on your first attempts. A modest dwelling that might be six inches tall is a really great start. If you attempt something 18" high and you crash and burn with this so called fun project, you will never do this again and who needs to be that frustrated!
Tips: Always line your cookie trays with foil - easier to get the cookie pieces out and they won't break on you.
Once your pieces are baked, again, hold them up to each other to be sure they will all fit. Trim them a bit with a sharp knife (this is not the part that the kids do).
Get a sturdy base - a firm serving tray or a piece of plywood - and cover this with two or three layers of foil. This can be taped on the bottom to hold it in place.
Put a big spoon of chocolate icing (recipe is below) on the foil-lined base and put your big cookie base on the top of that. You can see this in the photo below - where assembly has begun. Ahhh... and you see those windows, too, I bet. Go to the end of this page and I'll tell you how to make the candy stained glass windows without starting a house fire.
For icing I use confectionery sugar, shortening and water.
I'll add hot chocolate mix or cocoa powder for the chocolate icing.
The house is being assembled. Chocolate icing works really well for this part. Notice that the windows are made of melted candy (see the note below about how to do this so no one has to call the Fire Dept.). Toothpicks hold the structure together. Always let the gingerbread house sit overnight before you put the rest of the white/decorative icing and the candy. Otherwise there is so much extra weight from the candy that the whole house will just come apart. If you don't wait, there is this heartbreaking moment where you watch the roof slide off the house and the sides collapse and children cry. So this really is a two day project. (Actually I do it in 3 days - the first day I make the dough and put that in the refrigerator. The second day I cut and bake the pieces, let them cool down completely, and then assemble the house. The third day is the most fun because that is the decorating and putting candy on the house).
Just getting started -- it doesn't look like much at this point. Note the detail on the inside floor. As we put the sides in, we cut a small trough in the base - a shallow little channel - to receive the bottom of the cookie piece. Chocolate frosting is the "cement" here.
Use toothpicks to hold the roof on. We use a small drill bit (clean) to start a "pilot hole" for the toothpick.
It's not a very pretty thing at this point but be patient. Once the white icing goes on and the candy is put on, it's quite fabulous.
And the frosting is put on with a pastry tube - you can use a tip or not. You're smushing in so much candy, that you'll wonder why you bothered with a tip.
Here are some types of candy you can use - but really you can use anything you like or have on hand:
M&Ms, Kisses, Starlight Mints, peppermint sticks, candy canes, really any small candy. I like to put wrapped small candies all around the base so those people who must pick at the candy can do so without pulling candy off the house, at least initially.
Below is a photo from a workshop we did.
Here is Sarah with her Gingerbread House creation. Bigger than she is, almost.
This is a candy dream! You likely can't see this but the inside of the house has candy tiled floors. Why not!
The house is finished and candy covers it. The white frosting and all the colors really dress up the gingerbread house!
This is a photo of the back of the house. If you look carefully at the front photo above and this photo you can figure out how the pattern pieces (the Victorian pattern above) come together. Making a gingerbread house is a lot of fun. The first time you do this - especially a pattern as complicated as this one - it may be a bit lopsided or perhaps not turn out exactly like you planned. But just go with it and have fun.
STAINED GLASS CANDY WINDOWS FOR YOUR GINGERBREAD HOUSE
Years ago, there was a TV show on WGBH called "ZOOM" and one day they did a segment on making Stained Glass Cookies. At that time, I was in high school (I said it was a million years ago) and I was making Gingerbread Houses to sell at holiday time as a little side business. And I looked at those Stained Glass Cookies and I thought, hmmmm.... That's when I started to make stained glass windows in my Gingerbread Houses. Very cool!
Start your cookies - roll them out and cut your pattern. Carefully place the cookie dough on a foil lined cookie tray. Bake until the cookies start to poof up but are not turning brown. Remove the tray from the oven and be very careful - the tray is hot. This is about 2 or 3 minutes before they are done. Take unwrapped (remove the plastic wrapper) from any hard candy. Sour balls are very good for this. Put a few in each space where a window should be - filling the space well but not having the candy piled up in the space. Put the tray back in the oven and watch carefully. The candy will start to melt and sink down onto the foil. It will start to bubble and then it will burn and be nasty. SO you want to remove the tray just as the bubbling begins or even a bit sooner. DO NOT TOUCH THE CANDY. As tempting as it looks, as much as you want to put that finger of yours on that shiny surface DO NOT DO THIS. The candy is HOT - 350 degrees HOT! You are 96 degrees. Do the math. This is not good. You will get a very bad burn. Wait patiently for the cookie to cool to room temperature - about 10 minutes at least. And then very carefully peel the foil away from the back of the cookie and be as gentle as you can so you don't break the cookie. If the cookie is bending - it is too warm to handle and let it cool longer.
The Zoom TV show did a very simple version of these cookies - they had the kids roll dough into snakes and then connect these into circles - for a cookie that was about 3" in diameter. Again - this was on foil lined cookie trays. I don't use parchment paper (recall the Ray Bradbury book, Fahrenheit 451- paper will be burning in another 100 degrees and why go there?). And these candy filled cookies were hung up as tree ornaments.
I have melted sugar to the hard crack stage and poured this on foil to make windows. It's OK - kind of dangerous and messy. It works in a pinch. I would not do this with children around. And I'd have a bowl of ice at hand because I always burn myself. Stick with the sour balls and minimize the risks.
Need more information? Are you in Connecticut and might want to have Dave and Diane work with you on your event or workshop?
We are available for a demonstration in front of your group. We will ask for members of your group to help us with assembly and decoration. The finished gingerbread house is yours and can be a centerpiece for your event or raffled off at your fundraiser.
We can also do a workshop where each person or group of people (family members, same department, etc.) can make their own gingerbread house. Participants can bake the cookie pieces ahead of time and bring their own candy; or, we can bring everything.
Please contact me if you might be interested in this. We have a very limited booking time and have some standing reservations that we do year to year so please don't hesitate. Of course, December isn't the only time of year for a gingerbread house. We've done other seasonal houses (Valentines Day! St. Patrick's Day!) and we've done this for birthday parties.
And if you want just some general advice or have questions on making your own gingerbread house, go ahead and e-mail me. I'll be happy to answer your questions.
And take a look at H.U. Taylor's website - I was amazed at this gingerbread house! And I need to send her an e-mail to say thanks for linking back to me.
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