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The Best Gingerbread House Recipe Book Ever + 1
It is that time of year again when everyone starts digging out the holiday recipes they have stored in the back of a drawer somewhere or start searching the net for new ideas. Christmas holidays were always a time of gingerbread-making in our family. The house took on an aroma of ginger, molasses, and sometimes burnt sugar. My two sons would start to bug me about building a new creation weeks before the season really started.
I really don’t remember when I first started creating gingerbread masterpieces but it must have been after 1991 since that was when my favorite gingerbread book was first published, according to the inside cover. The Gingerbread Book by Steven Stellingwerf is a beautifully illustrated how-to of this ancient art. I don’t know who I was trying to kid, myself or my two sons, when I first purchased it almost twenty years ago but it certainly gave our family years of enjoyment. The cover is a little misleading with its picture of the classic little house that most of us have built over the years during this season. However, when you check out the rest of the book, you soon realize that this author is very talented. The patterns and instructions included range from simple gingerbread cookies to a very intricate Victorian mansion complete with shuttered windows and snow-covered evergreen trees.
The chapters walk you through the history of gingerbread, provide details on several gingerbread recipes and give a brief introduction to decorating techniques before moving on to the actual constructions. The great thing about the book is it is not for Christmas only. There are also Easter baskets, Halloween haunted houses, a country church with stained glass windows and detailed instructions for over a dozen more intricate projects.
Every Christmas, for several years, my two sons convinced me to tackle one creation after another. I believe I started with the small country chapel, worked my way through the huge carousel, and finally gained enough confidence to build the very large Victorian mansion. For some reason, every new project was supposed to be a family event but somehow it always ended up being good old dad working away on his own, finishing up the constructions for several hours long after everyone else had disappeared. But they never had any qualms about eating my finished products and there were often noticeable gaps in the candy and frosting before the big day rolled around.
It is possible to preserve any gingerbread creations you make for the long-term by spraying with confectioner’s glaze. According to the author, these will keep for years, but I challenge any household with kids around to keep any of these projects a day past Christmas!
Another great book, according to my cooking friends, is The Gingerbread Book by Alan Bragdon. It seems to be fairly similar and is a favorite for many. Both are older texts and not always easy to come by, although it seems that Amazon has a few copies of each.
Well, time moves forward and this book has accompanied me from one country to the next. Last year, for a little nostalgia, I invited a few adult friends over for the afternoon to instruct them in this wonderful art and put together a few houses. I knew I still had this fabulous book for guidance and I remembered all the beautiful pieces I had made all those years ago. However, it didn’t take long to realize that 1) I was a little out of practice 2) I should have started them out on some easier projects and 3) it was a very bad idea to drink as much as we did during the process. We did manage to bake all the correct pieces but somewhere along the way we forgot which pieces were part of which sets! Suffice it to say that there was a lot of gingerbread construction that wasn’t worth taking home but enough to keep us in snacks for a couple of weeks!
Gingerbread making is old-fashioned, time-consuming, messy, and fattening. But it’s a great way to get the family together for a few hours of fun in the kitchen. Just be sure to wait until you have finished before you indulge in too much of your favorite holiday cheer.