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Gingerbread houses go pro in stunning holiday displays
BC-US--Travel-Not Your Mothers Gingerbread-ref
"The Sphinx," a gingerbread creation from North End Grill, is on display in the lobby area of Le Parker Meridien Hotel in New York. - photo by Associated Press

Graham Cracker Gingerbread House

10 whole graham crackers (8 for the house, 2 for the roof)

1 can of white frosting

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Candy to decorate your house like gumdrops, chocolate kisses, red licorice and hard candies

Large plate or tray

Spoon

Butter knife

Small plastic bag

Scissors

Start by preparing your frosting. Add 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar to about 1 cup of frosting. You can use homemade frosting or store-bought. Cream of tartar helps the frosting harden so your house can stand up.

Put your frosting mixture in a plastic bag and cut a hole in the corner, so you can squeeze the frosting out of it.

Using the frosting as "glue," glue four double graham crackers in the shape of a rectangle on a tray or plate. Then, glue two half-sized crackers to the sides to make a complete box.

You can prop the walls of the house up against something so the house dries straight.

Now put frosting on the corners of two more graham crackers. Place the crackers on either side to make a peak. This is the roof of the house.

Let your house dry for an hour.

Once the structure is dry, coat each side with frosting and use candy to decorate. Be sure to decorate one side at a time so the frosting doesn’t get hard before you can stick candy to it. When it’s dry, you can dig in.

Source: pbskids.org

 

NEW YORK— Out of the kitchen and into the hotel lobby: Gingerbread houses have gone from being a homemade project done with mom to professional exhibits designed by pastry chefs and sometimes even architects.And never mind the humble miniature: Some displays are life-size, while others depict entire villages. A few extravaganzas raise money for charity, while some include contests for home bakers. Many are part of larger Christmas celebrations at luxury hotels that also showcase decorated trees, Santa visits and holiday menus.

At The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation in Georgia, an entire train station has been recreated in gingerbread, sugar and candy, measuring 12 feet high (3.6 meters) and 16 feet (4.8 meters) wide. The creation depicts the depot for a train located on the resort property that takes guests on tours.

Susan Matheson, co-author of the book "The Gingerbread Architect: Recipes and Blueprints for Twelve Classic American Homes," says these types of professional gingerbread creations "are elaborately detailed, spellbinding constructions that must require an army of pastry chefs, historians, engineers and consulting experts. The results can elevate the craft to a high art form that transports the viewer into an ethereal miniature fairy world."

But Matheson doesn’t approve of glue guns or other non-edible components: "It’s 100 percent digestible or count me out."

For those who admire both homemade and high art gingerbread houses, here are details on a few extravagant displays around the country this holiday season.

For the fourth year, Le Parker Meridien hotel in midtown Manhattan is hosting a lobby display of gingerbread houses designed by New York City bakeries. The houses include replicas of landmarks like the Egyptian Sphinx, the Mexican temple Chichen Itza and the Lincoln Memorial. Customers of the hotel restaurant, Norma’s, can get a ticket to vote on their favorite house by adding $1 to their checks; the money goes to City Harvest, a local food bank.

The Mohegan Sun casino and resort in Uncasville, Conn., hosts a life-size gingerbread house that’s 28 feet high (8.5 meters) and 20,000 pounds (9,000 kilos), made from 6,000 gingerbread bricks. Visitors can walk through the home to see tiny rooms decorated for Christmas with a holiday tree, chocolate stockings and cookies for Santa.

In Hawaii, a Waikiki hotel has a miniature global village in gingerbread. The display at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani includes models of London’s Tower Bridge, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, a pagoda from Yakushiji Temple in the ancient Japanese capital of Nara, and Hawaii’s own Iolani Palace. Executive Chef Ralf Bauer started the tradition years ago to recreate scenery from his native Germany.

At the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C., a gingerbread contest that began as a local event 20 years ago is now a national competition with more than $7,500 in cash and prizes. This year’s 182 entries — including some from teens and young children — were judged by a panel that included pastry chefs, cookbook authors and a museum curator.

The Capital Hotel in Little Rock, Ark., has a 12-by-14-foot (3.6-by-4.2 meter) gingerbread village on display with an Arkansas countryside theme, including cows, horses, deer, rabbits and ducks along with a barn and an Ozark shack. Details include 100 handmade pine trees dotting a sugar-coated winter scene with a Polar Express train and snow forts.

David M. Schwarz Architects of Washington, D.C., sponsors the annual construction of "Gingertowns" by architects, engineers and others in Washington, Nashville and Dallas. The buildings stay up for a week, and are then disassembled and donated to charities along with cash contributions.

If these descriptions have you dreaming of gingerbread creations you can’t possibly make at home, Matheson, the "Gingerbread Architect" author, says there’s still a lot to be said for "the simple art — the smell of baking gingerbread, the rough cut, over-iced, slumped and out of plumb gingerbread house with the candy pieces that slid out of position before the icing dried and the little hand that created it."

Want to make a low-key version? Easy, old-fashioned recipes can be found in abundance on the Internet with a quick search. But this recipe from PBSKids.org can’t get much simpler.

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