Gingerbread ~ 2011 National Gingerbread Competition
When we first moved to the mountains, my father and his wife started taking our boys to Asheville. They always came home, just babies those first years, rambling on about seeing “the gingerbread houses”. Dad would tell me other years that he was going to take them to the mall to ride the train and to see “the gingerbread houses” again. I always assumed that these gingerbread houses were life-sized plastic set-ups at the mall or maybe an outdoor village with lights. I was unfamiliar with Asheville, with the exception of having seen the entrance to Biltmore and the downtown area once or twice, so had no clue that they were all talking about real gingerbread houses and the National Gingerbread Competition at the Grove Park Inn. One year, my dad asked that we meet him at the Grove Park Inn so we could see the gingerbread houses together and since my sister and her boys would be in town, as well, we could share the event with them. I still didn’t understand the scope of this event or the quality of the gingerbread house entries that we would see.
“The gingerbread houses” are now a part of our holiday season. This year’s competition was just as amazing as the others we’ve seen if a little lackluster for our inability to find the table displaying the winning gingerbread entry. It was this competition that inspired the boys and me to make a gingerbread house every year. It is our amateur attempts to even get one standing each season that makes the competition houses even more impressive. The most mind boggling aspect is that the entrants must make their display entirely of edible materials, but for the base, and 75% of the materials must be gingerbread. I honestly don’t know how they do it. We use straight pins to “nail” our houses together and we still have mishaps. Getting the gingerbread to bake consistently is another problem. But ours is fun to make, there’s no pressure on perfection, and we have no qualms about eating the finished product. An added bonus is, though this year’s was only decorated in royal icing, we can use all the hard candies, lollipops, and Double Bubble leftover from Halloween to decorate our houses. It’s very easy to melt down the hard candies and lollipops to make stained glass.
The recipe we use for gingerbread comes from a large ornament that we hang in the kitchen every year. It is not the best. In fact, we have to add several cups of flour just to make the dough workable, but part of our tradition is using that recipe so we just fight with it until we get it right. This is probably why our dough would never make competition quality gingerbread.
Here he is, our gingerbread man and his recipe:
For school this year, the boys are studying the medieval times. We just happened to be learning about castle construction when the time came to make our gingerbread house this year so, of course, they wanted to make a castle. I was so nervous to attempt it, but in a few minutes we had the dough whipped up and rolled and I found myself cutting out a very basic castle design. They were happy with it even though it was small and wanted more than a castle to have the majority of the dough to make their own structures. This made us all happy. I love making the gingerbread house, get frustrated the years it seems like a task and nothing is going well, so was more than happy with this plan. The older boy decided on a pyramid, the little guy wanted to make a Roblox character. We never could get the Roblox guy to stand up. There were just too many pieces and he collapsed. The pyramid was difficult so ended up only three sided. The castle, made from a bit thicker, softer dough, barely stood, but we were able to work together to keep it from sliding apart when the back portion cracked. Again…I have no idea how these creative geniuses make these competition worthy displays. Even the houses in the children’s category are all better than the ones we make at home. It’s something to behold.
Here is our gingerbread castle. The dough for the back piece bubbled up, inexplicably, making various sized, round lumps in the finished gingerbread, which gave the boys the idea for making the surface look like stone. We circled them with icing that I make from confectioner’s sugar, meringue powder, and water. The back looked great, the “stones” on the front and sides looked messy because the icing ran with no bumps to hold it in place. We just had to a put a knight with an “outrageous accent” standing along the front wall to taunt all who dare to approach.
And my son’s pyramid.
The natural coffee filter below it is to simulate sand. He did a fabulous job on the stonework which he scored into the dough with a paring knife.
Here is a house we made two years ago using melted hard candies for stained glass and lots of leftover Halloween candy.
And here are some of our favorite displays from the 2011 National Gingerbread Competition.
These were in the children and teen categories.
We liked the water on this one and others. So cool to use lots of melted, blue sugar!
Here are some from the adult category.
This one is amazing! Here’s the front…
This one is so cool because the gingerbread looks like real wood. I’m assuming the “lacquer” is melted sugar, painted on. So many of them had glossy finishes.
The displays are open to the viewing public Sunday through Thursdays until January first. Go see them if you get the chance.