Monday, November 23, 2009

Visions of Gingerbread

By Pat Tanner

Every year I have the same fantasy: that I will finally make a perfect gingerbread house. This never happens. I’ve come to the conclusion that what it takes are equal parts baking expertise, artistic flair, and engineering acumen. I come up short on at least two of these.

If you’re like me, don’t despair! I’ve found the perfect solution. And if you’re not like me, I encourage you to show off your skills while competing for some pretty nifty prizes. First, the solution.

At last summer’s Fancy Food Show I came across Virginia-based Gingerhaus Baking Kits, which even I cannot mess up. The genius is that you bake the pieces on a cardboard template – an armature, if you will - that includes tabs. You mix the dough (included in the kit and developed with the King Arthur Flour people), cut out the flat panels, flip them over, and bake. The kits include royal icing mix and decorations, and you apply them to the baked flat panels, and then assemble via the tabs. I’m partial to the deluxe house, which resembles a Bavarian town hall, but the smaller chalet is awfully cute. The big kit comes with panels for trees and gingerbread boys and girls as well. Decorations include peppermint sticks, peppermints, and candy hearts, but you can be creative and add your own. (That much should be doable, right?)

An all-natural version of the chalet kit is carried by the Whole Foods chain. Standard Gingerhaus kits are available at and, but the best price I could find for the full-sized house is at [$19.95]

Once you’ve made your house - whether using a kit or your own ingenuity – you can enter it into the 5th annual contest taking place this Saturday (Nov. 28) at Grounds for Sculpture, as part of their Lights On! celebration. There are four categories: child, family, adult, and visitor’s choice. The gingerbread house drop-off period is up to 3 p.m. that day and winners will be announced at 4:30. The judges are Grounds for Sculpture staff and yours truly. Prizes include free memberships to Grounds for Sculpture (GFS), gift certificates to the museum shop, tickets to upcoming concerts, and GFS t-shirts, calendars, and mugs. Grounds for Sculpture is located at 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton. To view the official rules and for more information about all the other activities surrounding the Lights On! celebration, which runs from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. that day, visit

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