I’ve never been a huge fan of gingerbread. Growing up in a Mennonite household, I think I got a bit spoiled around Christmas time; not with the quantity of gifts – those were never excessive. But I became very accustomed to the traditional holiday treats and, let me tell you, homemade German peppernuts (known as Pfeffernüsse in the native tongue) could blow gingerbread out of the water any day of the week.
That, however, doesn’t preclude me from enjoying the tradition of decorating a gingerbread house. The girls and I tackled this project today – with the help of my good friend, Stefania Moffatt, her daughters and a pre-made ‘Gingerbread House Kit’ compliments of Loblaws (retail value a bargain at just $9.99!).
While I enjoy baking, the prospect of making the components of a gingerbread house from scratch is quite daunting. Anyone who has ever assembled a gingerbread house knows just how strong the natural force of gravity can be when resurrecting the walls and ‘cementing’ the roof in place; combine that challenge with some amateur-hour, not-quite-even cookie edges and you’re destined for trouble. Plus, I don’t even like eating the stuff – so I take the easy way out with the kit.
Ironically, I am a close friend of Catherine Beddall – owner of Catherine’s Cakery and a woman who is quite possibly the best baker in the world (she is in my world, anyway!). She also happens to be the grand prize winner – two years in a row – of an annual gingerbread house competition here in Ottawa, hosted by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Cath’s prize-winning creation last year was a completely edible, Victorian-style dollhouse. If the photo doesn’t impress you that much, you should also know that it was fully furnished – right down to a grand piano in the living room and a Monet-style painting hanging over the roaring fireplace (with all details being handcrafted and edible, of course).
Luckily for me, Cath is a very non-judgemental friend; though I can’t say I’d blame her for chuckling (at least a little) at our efforts today. While Cathy spent a mind-boggling 100 hours on making her work of art, we spent about an hour putting our puny little house together.
But the fun is definitely in the process, even if it doesn’t yield the prettiest result. The girls had a lot of fun picking from the collection of candy; the kit provided a modest amount, but I also had my girls “donate” some extras from their Halloween loot. Of course, there is a whole lot of “quality assurance testing” that goes on… I’m not sure where the bigger quantity of candy ended up – on the actual house or in their tummies.
After much finger-licking and giggling, the girls finally lost interest and ran off to play. Our finished project won’t win any awards – and I’ll probably be picking tiny candies off my kitchen floor for a week – but it made for some sweet memories with friends.