By Pamela Burke/December 20, 2012
Photos: George Blaszczynski
Along with snappy shoes and hats with flair, we have another favorite for Fun Stuff. This is no piece of clothing but something so deliciously special that it has to be saluted, especially during this holiday season. It’s a gingerbread house, but not just any candy-covered dwelling.
This special house spotted on the TODAY Show this week is green! Carefully crafted by Laura Morrissette of Arlington, MA, the tasty cottage took first place in the NBC program’s National Gingerbread Contest. After making it into the contest’s top three houses, final judgement went to famous chef and restauranteur Hans RÃ¶ckenwagner who declared it the national winner.
You ask how a gingerbread house could be eco-friendly? Laura was inspired when someone asked her why she didn’t put solar panels on her creations. That seemed like a great idea so she designed this one with licorice panels on the roof, a recycling bin in the front yard, candy bottles carefully sorted from stacks of paper made of Fruit Roll-Ups and, for public transportation, a gingerbread bike.
I couldn’t resist asking Laura who’s had over 25 years of gingerbread-making experience for advice to help frustrated builders like myself who can’t get gingerbread walls to stick together (don’t they always collapse?). She explained that it’s all about soup cans, egg whites, corn syrup and more.
“Plan on several days of a mess in the kitchen,” she says. If you’re doing something elaborate, her advice is to plan it out on posterboard first. Another tip…use flat cookie sheets lined with waxed paper when baking the dough so it won’t stick. If it turns out wobbly, as most pieces do, straighten them out with a wood file.
But most importantly, make Royal Icing. That’s what binds it all together. It’s a standard pastry shop item made up of egg whites, confectionery sugar and creme of tartar. You can find the recipe in any cookbook. And an even more important tip? Use soup cans on each side when building it. That way the walls won’t tumble over.
Laura’s generosity of heart shines through in this award-winning home. She made it as a raffle item for Erica Manalang, the former owner of the store which became the Artful Heart gallery in Arlington Center a year ago. She had become ill and the new owner, Carla Dorato, wanted to raise funds for her and her family. Laura pitched in and created this special house in 40-50 hours. It sits in the shop’s window to be auctioned off soon.
Laura reminded me that a gingerbread house doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be just a simple home with a flat roof. Even when hers were crooked, she thought they looked great. Or, maybe you want to go green this holiday season, but don’t forget the soup cans.
Thanks for all the tips, Laura. We’re about to mix up some Royal Icing!