Sunday, December 29, 2013

Gingerbuilders and Friends

Everywhere we go with our pieces, someone asks, "Do you sell those?" or "I wish someone would teach me how to build a gingerbread house."

Our friends, naturally, asked too.

Below are some photos of early instruction when we collaborated to build 1 house in an all-day start-to-finish venture that is messy and fun.

I first worked with my friend's daughter.  We made a suburban split level.

She was so nervous it would fall!  But our creation was a success under Gingerbuilder guidance.  I love the roof and fence!

Next, I created with a coworker. She wanted SNOW.  LOTS OF SNOW.  I don't know why we even bothered putting cereal on the roof. :-)

This one was so scary to deliver to her house.  It weighed a ton and we thought it would break!  But it held together; so much so that her family couldn't break it after the holidays with just their fists!

 Lots of creative candy-work in this house.  Check out the cute mailbox!

Gingerbread building is also a time-honored family tradition.  So I introduced it to my family too.  My niece, sister-in-law, and mother built this festive chalet.

Check out the mess on the table.  Gingerbread building can get very messy.

 I love the red and green theme going on here.

and that snowman just cracks me up.  Too cute!

Building a house can take several days or weeks if you go at it alone.  We find it's so much more fun (and time efficient) to work with friends and family.  It makes the time fly and makes your holidays memorable.

Gingerbuilders is currently working on a 2-3 hour Party Plan that offers each guest the chance to decorate a personal house and learn about the process without the mess and fuss of going at it all on your own.  Please contact us if you have ideas!

For better specifics on how to build a gingerbread house, please check out our other blog posts.

Also, don't forget to follow us via email or other method.  Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Gingerbread Destruction!

You spend hours days designing and creating your gingerbread masterpieces.

Now what?

Erin already told you how we feel about the edibility.  So, do you do it?  Do you eat it?  Do you give it away and let somebody else decide?

This Gingerbuilder (Stephanie) has 20-30 hungry third graders that delight in destroying and devouring our pieces every year.

Faces were blurred to protect the innocent, so please pardon the creepy children photos to follow.

So what do YOU do with your gingerbread creations?

Better yet, what can WE do?  If you have fun ideas on how we should lay our art to rest, let us know!  We want to make a video montage of gingerbread houses being destroyed.  That's the best way for holiday fun!

Share your ideas via comment or email!  and don't forget to subscribe for more gingerbread antics and general baking tutorials to come!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Comes to WhoVille

Now that competition season is over, I’m here to offer you an insight into the makings of our “Christmas Came to WhoVille” house.  My lovely partners had a hilarious night of “brainstorming” on the theme of our first competition: WhoVille.  I, unfortunately, left my phone at my sister’s the night before and missed every message regarding the “brainstorming” evening (mostly just drinking wine and eating cheeses).  SOOOO, the creative credit really must go to those two. They wanted an alternative to the boring, overdone though adorable, traditional scene from WhoVille, and came up with a play on words that I absolutely love. We split the houses for baking this year. Steph baked the “Who Dey” house using the humidity proof gingerbread recipe. 

Erin baked “The Who Chalet” using her traditional gingerbread recipe. 

I used the humidity proof recipe for the “Doctor Who’s T.A.R.D.I.S.” and about lost my mind doing so.  The dough was so dry that it would NOT come together. Stephanie had the same problem. We each added more honey and a small amount of water to make it work. I waited to do the curved pieces at Steph’s because they tend to break in transport when they aren’t assembled (Okay, I tend to break them! We’ve already covered that.)
The really cool thing is that we were able to use the baked pieces to curve the gingerbread exactly how it needed to be.
We even trimmed the gingerbread while it was still hot to the exact size we needed.
We bought all our baked pieces to Stephanie’s and proceeded to destroy her kitchen.  I made a batch of marshmallow fondant, a process that will get its own blog post later. We covered each house in fondant this year, a first for the Gingerbuilders. Steph and Erin took some cake decorating classes this fall and learned some useful tips; like mixing fondant with gumpaste to make it dry harder and wearing gloves while coloring fondant to prevent your hands from getting stained.
* Something we learned this year, if you cover the pieces in fondant, you need to allow for the extra thickness of the pieces. I would say it added about a ¼ inch to the thickness. This affected the T.A.R.D.I.S.  construction the most.
We wanted to make a snowy mountain behind the town. 
We went through 4 batches of Rice Krispy treats!
We wanted to use Rice Krispy treats for the Christmas tree in the town center, but we ran out.
 Necessity being the mother of all invention, we mixed shredded wheat with the marshmallow and voila: Christmas Tree!

You may remember the marshmallow in the microwave video we posted a few weeks back. That was from this gingerbuilding day.  We used a few new candies this year, the best and most delicious being Nerd Rope!
 We used Winterfresh gum on the windows of the T.A.R.D.I.S., which had a very intense fresh smell. 

  We made tiny Christmas trees by covering Bugles, of all things, with a leaf tip. It turns out they are not just for making scary fingers and snacking, anymore.

 We used the leaf tip on the big tree, as well. Then, we covered it with tiny candy canes and a melted yellow Starbust star. We used mint lifesavers to create wreathes for our town. 
We love adding little details;
 like a pile of undecorated wreathes and candy canes next to the tree as if the Who’s are still decorating,

 street signs to other towns, 
and a bow tie and fez to our Doctor "Who."

We are really proud of this year’s creation, I hope you enjoy it! If you have any questions about materials or methods we used, feel free to comment. Just because Christmas is almost here, doesn't mean we are done until next year. Make sure you subscribe to our blog to hear more of our antics and helpful tips.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Gingerbread Mecca--2013 Grove Park Inn National Gingerbread Competition

I had the pleasure of journeying to Asheville, NC this past weekend to visit the Biltmore at Christmas, sample some wines, and go to the Omni Grove Park Inn to see the displays from the National Gingerbread Competition.


The resort itself is breathtaking!  Go to the website to see pictures.  My little camera phone does not do it justice.

rear view:

Then, the talent and craft of ALL the gingerbread entries was amazing.

Should you go to see the entrants (which I HIGHLY recommend you do) as of 2013, here's what you need to know:
1. For the comfort of guests at the resort, houses are only open to the public Sunday-Thursday.  You pay $10 to park, and may enter the resort on these days.  (This is new!  I used to just be open Monday-Thursday.)
2.  Houses are on display on the 7th floor and lobby levels.  (Go to the 7th floor and follow the signs.)
3.  Houses are also on display at the Grove Arcade--an indoor mall in downtown Asheville.  If you love gingerbread like we do, you'll want to see as many houses as you can, so I would head over there too.

The 2013 judging year was the closest the judges have seen.  Houses that made it to the top ten were within tenths of points of each other.  All of the houses were made with such care and detail that I do not envy the position of a judge who has to rank them.  Here are some of my favorites: (I tried to include the names of the creator to give credit to where it is due. Not all of these are top 10.)

Griswold Christmas.  Love the camper!  

 Sue Coppley: Mall Santa

Even the piano keys are correct!

I love love love this!  Books in the shelves, wallpaper, so amazing!

Teen entry: The Island of Misfit Toys

 Should Have Taken the Sleigh!

I love me a good pun.  This was just too cute!

There was so much to see here!  Gorgeous!

Linda Carney is so talented.

Who doesn't appreciate this?!

I loved so many more, but don't want to make this post miles long.

The grand prize winner is was on tour in NY, so we saw a picture only.  Congratulations to all who entered!  Your work is amazing!

I already have ideas for when (yes--WHEN) The Gingerbuilders enter. :-)  Maybe 2015?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

To eat, or not to eat....The Great Gingerbread Debate.

It seems to be one of the more controversial topics amongst gingerbreaders... make it strong, or make it edible.

Personally, I'm of the mind that gingerbread houses should be both completely edible and completely delicious. They should smell like nutmeg and cinnamon and ginger. You should have to fight the temptation to break off a piece and surreptitiously pop it into your mouth. Edible on a technicality doesn't cut it for me.

But the competition circuit is a little different. I respect that it's different, and we'll play by the rules, but there is something so charming about a slightly lopsided, piled with icing and obnoxiously colored candy, spicy smelling gingerbread house.

Is it impressive that people can make such realistic creations using edible substances? Heck yeah it is! But is my 4 year old son going to want to eat a piece of salt dough held together with tylose? Probably not.

As a team, I'd say Ginger Builders strives to strike that perfect balance between beautiful and edible (see Stephanie's peppermint creation!) With the exception of a few elements in a few of our creations (wrought iron fencing made of dried pasta, for example) or creations have always been traditional gingerbread, perfectly edible, and perfectly charming.

So what do you think? Where do you stand on the Great Gingerbread Debate?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Peppermint Theme

Gingerbuilders had lots of peppermint candies, so I decided to put them to good use and decorate a house using only peppermint (and a smidgen of candy wafers.)

This gave us brilliant ideas for themed houses.  More on that to come.

I was fortunate enough to get a snow day from work on a Friday, so I occupied my day mixing dough, letting it rest, then later rolling and building.

Meanwhile, I set to work giving my house some siding.  I had all of the tools I needed...

In talking with the other Gingerbuilders, we decided to use candy windows from here out.  The surface of melted candy is smoother than cut gingerbread.  Plus, then the windows really glow!  I put a Christmas tree inside the windows of this house, but it's not easy to see.

The swirly peppermint Christmas Tree was a great find!  And the peppermint path made a LOT of noise in my blender, but I think it's quite welcoming.

Another seasonal candy win was the snowman who greets you at the door.

And here's the Peppermint Farmhouse!