If you’ve been following the 641 Project series The Gingerbread House Project, the talk about gingerbread and house building is making you think maybe about building your own house for the holidays. I say, go for it!
Gingerbread house ideas, instructions and printable templates can be found easily on the web. There are even videos that demonstrate different phases of construction. If hard print is more your speed, the Clayton County Library System has a few books devoted to the art of the gingerbread house. You may consult one or all of them to make a house or other goodies to show off your baking and decorating skills:
Carrie, Benny and Sam receive a gingerbread house from their grandfather. When they eat it up before Christmas, they follow grandfather’s instructions for building a new house.
The story is an introduction to an excellent book for young readers/bakers. With uncomplicated writing, kids should have no problem understanding the recipe and building instructions for baking and building a basic, seven inch tall house. Like any recipe for any type of cooking, the recipe and instructions need to be read and studied thoroughly before beginning the project to achieve the best results. The book suggests grown up assistance, especially when it comes to handling sharp knives and going into hot ovens. Pictures show the tools, ingredients and assembly processes that should come in handy.
Go ahead, say authors Morgan and Gilchrist, make a gingerbread house: It’s good, messy fun! Appealing to tactile, visual and olfactory senses, and even communal spirit, Morgan and Gilchrist convince the reader not to be intimidated by a seeming complex project, but to dive in and enjoy what is actually quite easy. Step by step, they explain the basic house building process from mixing the dough to how to pipe icing. From there on, your imagination’s the limit.
After the basics comes a full color gallery of gingerbread structure and tableaus. The purpose is to inspire your own creations and/or how to achieve different effects (Patterns aren’t given for all of these houses, and in some cases not entire patterns). The patterns given are not full sized: You’ll need to enlarge many by two hundred percent on a photocopier.
New to the Clayton County Libraries collection, The Gingerbread Book is a reprint of a 1984 book, and doesn’t appear to be revised: the photos and print appear as they did nearly thirty years ago. No matter really, because the ideas and most techniques have not changed significantly.
Bragdon’s premise is that gingerbread and gingerbread houses aren’t just for Christmastime. To prove his point, he gives patterns for other holiday creations, ideas for party treats and centerpieces, and even some storybook scenarios. He lists several different recipes for ginger cookies and cake – as well as for a building dough – and recounts an extensive history of gingerbread from the Middle Ages to the 1980s.
Author Jann Johnson believes as Allen Bragdon: Decorated ginger cookies aren’t just a Christmas thing. She too takes gingerbread around the calendar with the traditional holiday houses and décor pieces – such as a train, stockings, and Santa with sleigh and reindeer – as well as patterns for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Gingerbread men and women can be decorated for all seasons and occasions.
Johnson offers thorough but concise techniques for baking and building, with several different recipes for dough and icings for variety. Color pictures and pointers accompany each project. Attention must be given to copying patterns, as many overlap or must be pieced together from separate pieces.
This title is the one that I own and am using for my project (though I have gleaned tips and ideas from the other books listed). It’s not in the CCLS collection, but can be requested through PINES; it’s also available from online book vendors.
Click the titles above to see the PINES catalog record for call number and availability. Ask the staff at your nearest library for assistance.
Except for Making Great Gingerbread, these books direct the reader to trace the patterns from its pages. I recommend photocopying instead to preserve the book; plus, it’s easier to make extra copies of templates. If you must trace, lay a sheet of clear plastic over the page, then lay your tracing paper on top of the plastic and trace away.
Follow my baking adventure on The Gingerbread House Project blog. Click here.