Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Gingerbread Day

 I believe I made my first gingerbread house when Dean was 2. For the record, that's crazy; I think I was in that parenting phase of trying desperately hard to make up for working in a high-level corporate job full-time by trying to ultra do things with Dean, for Dean. I remember that he was sweet and super-patient and mostly watched and provided moral support which I dearly needed -- that house almost undid me and I do remember resorting to using straight pins to hold the panels together. He surprised me by asking me to make one again the following Christmas and our tradition was born.

 (In the photo above, Dean demonstrates a great trick; it is MUCH easier to at least partially decorate the panels (and then let them dry) BEFORE you construct the house. Of course this depends on the kind of decorating you want to do -- attaching big candies and stuff would be easier once it's up, but small, piped details are easier to do beforehand. He's also kind of demonstrating why it's much harder to construct on a small or raised plate; you cannot lie the pieces out flat, upside-down, in the way that it's best to start constructing [I tried to find a good online guide but had a hard time -- this one is not ideal, but at 1:59 she has the pieces laid out and begins putting them together in the same way I'm talking about.)

So you slowly put up each wall, as Dean is doing here, and use cans or other heavy, small objects to help support walls as you go. This shape that he's doing, with walls that flare out, is MUCH harder to do than houses with straight sides -- another important tip!

 So the mistake I made this year was that I randomly tried some new house shapes without really checking them first to make sure the patterns were correct. On this house that I'm in the midst of building, above, the roof panels were too short -- they wouldn't fit across the width of the house so that they would rest on those triangular roofline pieces. After puzzling for a few minutes, I decided to cut bamboo skewers to act as supports -- you can just see inside to the roof piece that's on, that I liberally applied royal icing to the bamboo and then used lots of icing to fill in the gap between the triangular roofline piece and the roof itself.  You can also just see, on the right, the odd kind of tower I had to build, using a drinking cup, a coaster, a towel, and a soup can in order to support the roof piece while it dried. If I had built this house on a regular board, as I usually do, it wouldn't have been so hard -- but this cake plate has raised edges and very little space left around the house to place supports. Poor planning on my part.

Dean chose to go with a very rustic, gnome-made in the woods look for his house; he likes to make things that look more real and less precious. I can feel the bitterly cold winds blowing around his little snow-speckled cabin....

This is my House 1, with the roof panels that had to be supported inside with bamboo. I made the wreath while it was down flat, and then attached it to the house once it dried.

 And this is my House 2. Another risky design -- roofs this large and this sloping are very difficult to attach. Plus I definitely pushed the dough too far and rolled too thinly in order to get 3 houses out of one batch; this was the first time I had several pieces crack and had to work around that issue. On this house, one of the roof panels cracked completely in half. I decided to use icing to just fuse it back together, and then *hid* it by using a roof design of kind of squiggly, uneven lines. I also pushed the envelope on the icing in that two batches would have been better -- we were a little tight coming down to the end or else I could have piped more details on the roof, for example, that would have even better hidden the cracks. But, I kind of love the more simple look, and the honesty.

 And here are our three little houses. Dean does not like to put lights in his. I used battery-operated, tiny LED lights and just tucked the battery backs at the back wall of the houses. Ta-da!

A photo a day over at Chicken Blog, too.

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