gingerbread in da house
When I was young, my mother and I made a gingerbread house together every year. And by "together," I mean that she had to mix, cut, bake, assemble and frost the house while I undertook the arduous tasks of putting M&Ms on the chimney, dusting the top with powdered sugar and taking all the credit.
I've always wanted to make one on my own, but the task seemed too daunting. This year, I decided to give it a go, Mom by my side. Read on for the making of the house shown above.
I used Mom's gingerbread recipe and pre-cut house pattern. It was all in Swedish, meaning we had to make some metric conversions and wing it a little (darn you, dessertsked, for being somewhere between a teaspoon and a tablespoon).
At this point I looked at the pieces I had painstakingly cut out according to the pattern ... and was unsure whether this was all going to come together.
But when the pieces came out of the oven, they were suntanned and nicely crispy, and my confidence returned. That is, until I remembered that next up was the hard part: putting the pieces together using sugar melted into a syrup that would dry strong enough to hold it all up.
The sugar was scalding and prone to dripping on my hands. There were a few moments when I had to stifle swear words and pause to suck on a burnt, blistered finger — which is exactly what my mom used to do all those years ago. It was a nice bonding moment.
After we applied the sugar, we had to hold the pieces in place as it hardened. We stood there for a few minutes, each gingerly holding a wall or a door at the correct angle. Time slowed to a crawl. Sugar refused to harden.
"Now what?" I asked my mom. "I just held it and waited patiently," she answered, because she's a nice, patient woman. I am not. Instead, I grabbed all the mini vodka and akvavit bottles I could find (as a good Swede, I have several) and used those to prop up the walls so we could keep building.
While the bottles did have a certain charm to them, they were no substitute for the candy decorations we were about to use to bling out the house.
We sorted M&Ms by color (thanks for the help, Dad!), I piped on the royal icing, and we all affixed M&Ms, peppermints and Christmas-colored jellybeans wherever we could.
Gingerbread steps leading to the house, green M&M grass, some tree-shaped cutout cookies and a generous dusting of powdered sugar "snow" was all that was left to complete the scene you saw at the top of this post.
Yes, my first foray into gingerbreadland looks a bit drippy and rustic. But that's what makes it unmistakeably homemade.
You can feel free to spend $4,320 on this fancypants gingerbread replica of Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House if you like, but I'll choose three days of quality time with my parents, the satisfaction of trying something new and a home filled with the warm, spicy scent of gingerbread over that any day.
Posted by Eva on December 11, 2008 in Food and Drink