Gingerbread Houses

A really, really long time ago, at least twenty-five years, I took a class on how to make a gingerbread house, the elaborate kind that you see on magazine covers.  The class was held at the Methodist church in Manchester, Michigan, where I grew up.  My aunt, who is often my partner in crime, attended with me. 

The instructor walked us through how to make the spicy gingerbread (and I’ve never tasted better!), the royal icing (the glue that holds the house together), and the buttercream frosting that you use to decorate the house and any surrounding area.  Unfortunately, it was back in the day before there were cell phones or digital cameras or social media and even though I looked through all my old pictures, I couldn’t find a single one that commemorated the house I made in class or that I created in subsequent years. 

Making a creation of this caliber was quite an undertaking.  The dough (which required 15 cups of flour) had to be stirred by hand (I didn’t have a big ol’ Kitchen Aid mixer in those days) and refrigerated, then rolled out so that each sheet was exactly the same thickness, each section of the house meticulously cut and transferred to the baking sheet in the hope that it would retain it’s perfect shape for easier assembly once it was time to start putting it all together.  The royal icing (aka, cement) had to be mixed and covered with a towel lest it harden prematurely. 

As the kids got older, I stopped the tradition, unless I met someone who had never made a gingerbread house and wanted to share the full experience with them.  The last time was at least ten years ago and it turned into a competition between the men and the women and there were some who resorted to artificial means to get their house to stay together instead of following the proper process and letting the royal icing do all the work.  That’s all I’ll say about that.

This past weekend, several of my family members got together to make gingerbread houses – not the genuine, time consuming kind, but the kid friendly kind made out of graham crackers and a vast array of confections.  The little ones had such a great time, adding so many embellishments to their homes and yards that I’m sure each one weighed well over a pound by the time they were finished. 

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All the embellishments a gingerbread house could ever need

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A blank slate

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Start with a solid foundation

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Hmm, what goes next?

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There’s a lot going on at this house!

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Pink, definitely lots of pink

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A snowy house with a paddock

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When in doubt, use ALL the candy!

As I’ve worked to simplify my life over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed two things – I’ve quit doing things that I’ve decided are too complicated and sometimes I make things a lot more complicated than they need to be.  The point of making a gingerbread house from scratch is not to create a Pinterest worthy snapshot of a moment in time, the point is to make a gingerbread house with family or friends, laugh at the imperfections and things that go wrong, eat way too much candy and cookies, and enjoy the experience.

Do you ever make things more complicated than they need to be?  Have you missed out on simply enjoying something because of it?  Please let me know by clicking on the comment link above or by leaving a comment on Facebook.

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