Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What's Christmas without a Gingerbread house?

Rule number 417 from the "good mother rule book" in my head says that all moms should bake gingerbread houses with their children each year.  I don't know where I got this one -- I didn't know anyone who made them when I was growing up, but they seem to be everywhere in NY.  I've tried variations on the theme over the years -- the first couple of years I bought a pre-assembled kit, and we only had to stick the candy on the house.  Kate and Dash would each get half of a roof to decorate.  It was always easy to tell who did which side -- Dash is all about "more is better" and when Kate was in her "I want to be a pastry chef" days she would practically measure where each candy went on her side.

When the kids were younger, it was apparent that Santa and his reindeer had nibbled at the houses...and left a trail of crumbs across the floor.  Now it's just Dash who likes to nibble.

I found a cookie cutter kit one year, which made it easier to bake the gingerbread pieces so they'd be exact, and we only had a slightly lopsided house.

Then the kids announced that they wanted to do their OWN houses, and not share a roof, so last year I signed up for a class at the Institute of Culinary Education.  Kate and Dash each baked and decorated a house during the three-hour course (the roof was cardboard, but they baked the rest of the house.)  There was a huge snowstorm that night, and when we came out of the class carrying our carefully packaged houses we were thrilled to catch a cab. I was holding one of the houses on my lap, and whenever the cab slid in the snow, I could hear pieces of candy sliding off the roof -- plop.  We had to do some rearranging when we got home, but it was worth it not having to clean up colored sugars and other candy from my kitchen.
Kate's Gingerbread House -- from ICE
Dash's Gingerbread House
This year, I found a kit from Williams Sonoma -- the house was pre-baked but unassembled. I figured it was sort a of a nice compromise, so we set out to assemble and decorate them the same night.  It wasn't exactly a disaster, but we ended up with one that looked like it had been hit by an earthquake, and another one with a sliding roof -- and there were many tears shed over that roof.  I saved the day by "gluing" the roof on to a piece of paper and letting Dash decorate it while it was flat, drying it overnight, then assembling it the next day.

Dash's house -- we saved the roof!
Kate's house -- barely survived an "earthquake"

A friend of mine is a magazine editor, and I was commenting on how beautiful the houses always look, and she let me in on a little secret -- the houses are assembled using a hot glue gun, instead of icing.  Hmmm...sounds like a neat trick to try next year!

Ho ho ho...