Today, Bernard S., manager for Hallmark’s photography studio, is sharing his love for gingerbread house ideas and the sweetest workshop your eyes ever did see. Be sure to watch the video and look for tips, tricks and recipes below. Read on and enjoy this sweet-treat of a post!
I love gingerbread.
There. I said it. (I may be partial to Gingers as well.) But as a baking obsession, I love gingerbread!
I was mesmerized as a child by this edible architecture. There was a bakery near my home growing up: Lucy Lynn’s Pastry & Party Shop in Fairway, Kansas. Starting in late November every year, I found every possible reason to get my mother or older siblings to take me there. When that failed I rode my bike, just to stand at the bakery window taking in every detail of the three-dimensional confectionary magic in front of me. (Imagine Robbie in A Christmas Story staring at his beloved “Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle.” That was me…at a bakery. Yes, I was teased—a lot.)
Now, I also wanted to play with my sister’s Barbie® Dreamhouse®, and while that was frowned upon in the 1970s, my father begrudgingly agreed that making a house out of cookies would somehow be okay. At eight years old, I decided it was time to make my own house. Mom bought me the Wilton Gingerbread House Kit from the craft store. It had dozens of templates and pieces and parts. Let’s just say there were some tears from me when the house collapsed several times—not to mention some frustration from my mother, who couldn’t bake to save her life, but who helped me hold the walls of the house until the icing set. The finished result wasn’t pretty, but it was mine.
In my teen years I had the pleasure of working for a chef who emigrated from what was then East Germany. He shared with me the tradition in his homeland to make the Lebkuchenhaus as it was in the fairy tale Hansel & Gretel—covered in candy, complete with a witch-shaped cookie lurking on the back. When he came to the U.S., his employer told him to make gingerbread houses for the shop, and my mentor complied—including the witch. Needless to say those houses did not sell—seems that reminding children of a cannibalistic witch was not a happy holiday thought in America. With his help I was able to further hone my gingerbread skills, sans witches.
Fast forward and today I have made hundreds of gingerbread houses. In September I made some for a photo shoot here at Hallmark. My kids groaned when the smell wafted through the house…“It’s too early for Christmas!” they echoed. (Sorry kids, it’s what pays the bills!) I must say here that, for my children, having a dad who is baker makes your senses immune to freshly baked anything. I feel some redemption when one of their friends visits the house on a baking day and says, “You are SO lucky to live here—it smells amazing!” I may or may not throw some shade at my children when that happens.
Recently I decided to share my passion with some artists here at Hallmark with a gingerbread workshop. The artists, illustrators and designers created various templates for their own dream house, I baked the house panels, and then we set out to make some confectionary magic of our own.
And boy, did they deliver. You can see from the video and photographs that my co-workers did an amazing job. I taught them some of the basics of construction, but they schooled me with new techniques and unconventional materials.
Not to play favorites, but the pretzel-covered cabin was pretty amazing.
Stylistically, I am partial to a more European-style house with a peaked roof and slanted sides. I call it a Gingerbread Chalet—not sure if that is architecturally correct, but saying chalet make me feel fancy. I love this shape of house because the roof panels are prominent and make a great canvas for decorating.
While incredibly large and intricate houses with gables, towers and turrets are fun to see constructed on the food channels this time of year, I prefer a more simple house and I insist on making it entirely edible—no toothpicks or cardboard supports for me! After all, at the end of the day (or at least the end of the holiday), a proper gingerbread house should be eaten and enjoyed!
If you’re looking for a gingerbread recipe, check out Bernard’s here, his icing recipe here, and a break-down of the steps for making a gingerbread house here. We’ve got you covered and we want to see your houses, so tag us online @think.make.share!
Photographer: Jane Kortright