Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

12.01.2009

Walking in a Winter Wonderland


Why is Jonah smiling so broadly? He is getting ready for a family tradition: gingerbread houses! What began many, many years ago (when I was younger than he) as graham cracker lean-tos has now morphed into a fantastical two-day construction of gingerbread mansions and trains complete with landscaping. Saturday and Sunday, Melanie began the project by whipping up the gingerbread dough and baking it all in our assortment of cast iron and stone forms. After picking out a small amount of nearly every inspiring candy at the store (gum drops, M&Ms, caramel, licorice, candy canes, and chocolate santas are consistent favorites), we had only the icing to make before getting started.


Now, icing is vital to a successful gingerbread mansion. In fact, we do not actually make icing; what we make is an all-natural, edible version of liquid nails, plaster, caulk, paint, and wet cement rolled into one. It really is a remarkable product that I fully intend to market one day and earn my millions. Until then, however, you can find the recipe at the end of this post. Guard it carefully! It is the secret to a sturdy castle.



Once the icing is made, assembly begins upon a foil-covered cardboard square (acreage is a plus). We carefully shave each side to make all corners precise and level. Then a generous heaping of icing is smoothed on the base and one side. The two walls are fitted together, and then we wait, wait, wait. Fit the next wall on, and wait, wait, wait. Call everyone over to heave the final wall up (gingerbread is heavy stuff!), and then wait...and wait...and wait. Your house must be dry before attempting to put on the roof if you value your sanity (believe you me when I say that collapsing an entire house because of a prematurely placed roof will not only produce tears but will also endanger your soundness of mind). Ever so carefully slather the cement on all four sides of the roof (we cracked ours in half and ended up having to stabilize it with a popsicle stick) and stick it on. Lauren, Melanie, and my house had dormer windows (I told you it was a mansion!), so that required extra precision, patience, and persistence.

When your house is thoroughly and solidly dry (these things take time!), the best part begins--candy! We use all sorts of crazy things (in addition to candy, of course)...melted hard candies...cereal...pretzels...and toothpicks. Creativity and variety is a must--perfection is not allowed.

This year, Micah and Susanna collaborated on a one-story abode; Lauren, Mel, and I made a two-story house; and Jonah ably created a train with an engine, boxcar, flatbed, and caboose. You can see Micah and Susanna's house in those two lower right pictures in this collage. Theirs is a fine specimen of the plaster and paint variety as some residents tend to feel that gingerbread is beneath them. Thus their gingerbread is slathered with brightly colored paint (err...icing). Although this method allows the house to last for years with very little upkeep, our residents decided to embrace their inner gingerbread. So, as you can see, much of Lauren, Mel, and my house is bare gingerbread (which of course requires a good scrubbing and sealing every year to protect it from the elements).







All finished! Standing in front of their respective creations are Jonah, Mikaela, Melanie, Lauren, Susanna, and Micah. Ice-skating rinks, benches, snowmen, santas, roads, stoplights, fences, and trees adorn the landscapes. According to tradition, the houses and trains will be dissassembled on New Year's Eve and enjoyed (the gingerbread and icing are rock hard by then, however, requiring hammers and hard teeth).



Mikaela's Famous Cement
4 cups powdered sugar
3 egg whites*
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Place all ingredients in a medium, nonplastic mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat at a low speed 5-7 minutes or until icing is glossy and holds peaks. The icing dries very quickly; cover with a damp towel when not being used. To store for later use, place in an airtight container and refrigerate. Mix thoroughly before using. Icing may be tinted using food coloring (liquid, paste, or powder), if desired.
Yield: 2 cups (enough to assemble and decorate one house)
*3 tablespoons meringue powder (pasteurized egg whites and cream of tartar), available at craft or retail stores, can be substituted for egg whites. Add to the powdered sugar along with 6 tablespoons warm water. Omit cream of tartar.

5 comments:

  1. Those are Awesome gingerbread houses. My mom tried it last year, and didn't wait for the house to dry to put the roof on. The roof caved, but everyone had fun.

    I've never made one. I've used Graham crackers in Elementary School, but that's it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Looks beautee-full-ee delicious! :) We decorated our gingerbread houses Thanksgiving morning (our family's tradition), but having two four-year-olds and a five-year-old around endagers the delectable decorations. As a result, the only candy remaining are two licorice path liners on one (1) house! Maybe we should make some more... :p

    ReplyDelete
  3. Awww, that's so much fun! :) We made one last year and it was so much fun...only problem was that the roof burned and the icing/glue tasted horrid! But other than that it was great!
    We had a bunch of people over after Christmas caroling, and ate it with them...that was so fun!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Everyone has a sad gingerbread story, don't they? Last year, I was too stressed out to be in the gingerbread-house-making mood, so I rushed through it.I knew better, but I didn't let it dry, and--like your Mom, Tyler--it collapsed on me.
    This year was much better. You should try it again, Katie--my icing tastes pretty good, if I do say so myself. ;-) And burnt gingerbread is always more sturdy--we try to get ours on the "well-done" side, because soft might taste better, but it certainly doesn't hold up as well.

    ReplyDelete

We love comments like we love sunshine and chocolate and chubby babies!

Blog Widget by LinkWithin