Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Day 1: The Gingerbread Church

It's been a few years since I've built a gingerbread house and I've wanted to get my hands dirty with one for awhile now. So finally, after a seven year hiatus, I've sat down to do just that. One thing I've always wanted to try was creating a stained-glass effect in a gingerbread window, so this year, I'm making a gingerbread church. Or at least I'm going to try to. As I type this, the gingerbread church is still under construction and it could be a compete and utter failure, but--if it is--I'll document its glorious demise. A win-win for this blog, no matter how it turns out! =)

First, let me introduce you to the book I'm using--Gingerbread: Things To Make and Bake. It's the same book I've used for past gingerbread creations. One of the projects is a church, and that's the one I've decided to focus on. Mostly for the stained-glass windows, but it's a pretty little church too. =)

A new book in my collection (a gift from Amanda last year) is A Year of Gingerbread Houses. It has some really nice designs that I'd like to try someday, but it also has a lot of interesting ideas about how to construct gingerbread houses in general. It shows a ton of different ways to create trees, half a dozen ways to create lakes (or other water features), etc. Pick the effects you're looking for and it's here. The gingerbread church design doesn't really have much of a yard around it, so I plan to use ideas from this new book to decorate a small yard.

So now it's time to get some work done! The first step is among the most boring of steps: Tracing out the design of the project to tracing paper, then cutting out the design. Most of the pieces are largely squarish and quick to do, but the front and side walls were tediously slow due to the large number of windows they had. The stained-glass windows would be on the side walls, and it work by cutting out windows from the gingerbread--just like any other window--then the holes are filled with hard candies pieces like Lifesavers and melted into place.

Cutting out lots of individual windows is a very slow, tedious process, though.  And there were a lot of little windows.....

I have my books out and ready! =)
And after a few hours of work, I've traced out all of the patterns I'll need for the gingerbread church. Ideally, when I'm done, it should look something like the photo in the book. =)
Next step was to start creating the gingerbread! One thing I'll point out: My rule for gingerbread houses is that it has to be made up from only edible stuff. This does not mean it has to taste good--I don't plan to eat the finished creation nor do I expect anyone else to. So when it comes to recipes, it more important for the product to look nice and be structurally sound, but it doesn't have to taste good. The gingerbread recipe the books suggest aren't the tastiest options you can use, but the new book does have a "good tasting" recipe that's not ideal for construction purposes.

So, creating the gingerbread... First I mixed the dry ingredients, then cooked the wet ones in a pot and mixed them both individually, then together. It gets real thick, real fast, and eventually had to kneed the gingerbread with my hands to get them all mixed together.

The dry ingredients for the gingerbread is ready for mixing. (Flour, ginger, cinnamon and salt.)
The wet ingredients are ready for cooking and mixing. (Brown sugar, light corn syrup, and butter.)
It's coming along....
Almost ready!
Mixing the wet and dry ingredients together.
Mixing the gingerbread is a hands-on job!
It's almost ready!
Once the dough is ready, it's time to roll it out and cut out the pieces! (I'm done cutting out the pieces in this photo. I'm trying to clean up an edge that was a bit rough in this photo.) These pieces were relatively quick and easy to do!
This piece will be the back of the church. I left a large hole near the bottom of it so I can put in a light for the stained-glass windows later. The design in the book didn't have any holes for a light. Mine will, though. I've deviated from the official pattern here! I'm going rouge!
The side walls would be the most time-consuming part to create. The stained-glass windows are rather elaborate, and cutting them out took quite a long time. (I did two of these pieces--identically in every way, one for each side of the church.) The other pieces I put on parchment paper when I baked, but my book suggested aluminum foil for the stained-glass windows because the windows wouldn't stick to the foil.
In this photo, the side pieces are done being cut out. I'll bake them for 2/3rds of the required time, then fill the holes with hard candies and bake it the rest of the time it needs. Before I started baking, though, I pounded Lifesavers and Jolly Ranchers with a hammer and turned them into crushed bits that I could fit into the windows. Different colors depending on the color each window would be.
The first stained-glass windows are done! They look great! I put my crushed candies into color-coded cups then used a toothpick to put the colors I wanted in each of the window holes. This took a lot longer than I ever imagined! After I melted the candy, it flattened out and got too thin, so I had to add more candy on top of it a second time and bake it some more. This one wall, in all, probably took me three hours to create! (The other side wall took another three hours of work!)
The photo kind of sucks, but it was 2:00 in the morning when I finished and I couldn't get good lighting on it. On the left window, it's of stars and the moon. The middle window has a sunset. And the right window has a large tree.
And by 2:00 in the morning, I was exhausted and went to sleep. A good, productive first day on the job, though! =)

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