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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Gingerbread Lane 2016

It's not perfect, but it's mine. 
For three years, now, I've been called upon for my skills, here in lovely Kansas City, to construct a colossal confection of ginger and bread for the sake of charity. Holiday seasons are upon us and that means - you guessed it - giving to those less fortunate than you!

June 11th of this year my small bakery, Pistachio Bakehouse,  donated $600 of baked goods to No Kid Hungry as a part of a colossal undertaking to raise $100,000 collectively for the cause of ending childhood hunger in America. My dear friend, Charles Feruzza (formerly) of The Pitch, penned the details here. I was really proud to be a part of such an amazing event, even if my hands got tired from twisting about 200 soft pretzels! You can check out the full album here.

In addition to childhood food insecurity, one charity that's a favorite of mine is the CCVI, or Children's Center for the Visually Impaired, who - since 1952 - have served over 10,000 young children who are blind or visually impaired. The charity raises money to help keep the school running, and they look to the chefs of Kansas City to do so.

The Garney Mansion, 2014
I started out back in 2014 with recreating the Historic Garney Mansion, which had belonged to the Garneys, the family which owned/managed the restaurant I was the Executive Pastry Chef of, that had also tragically burned down earlier that year in March. I was so fortunate to have had the support of the family, who graciously and generously loaned me the blueprints to the original house, but also flat-out bought my gingerbread creation for the sake of the charity. I'll forever be grateful to them.

"Steve", 2015
Last year, I created a sort of Alpine A-Frame(named Steve) which was admittedly less complex, and therefore tragically less stable, mostly because of it's simple design and the fact that it was sitting under the hotter lights during its stay at Webster House, where the houses were on display. As the family that bought my house went out the door, the roof caved in. I came in as soon as I could, repairing what was possible, but alas, alack... I ended up buying a few plastic dinosaurs and putting pieces of roof and whatnot in their tiny plastic mouths in hopes that the people would have a sense of humor about it. (You know, because dinosaurs destroyed and ate their house. Get it? Funny, right? I'll see myself out.)

You can view this, in person, at Webster House! Vote for me for People's Choice!
This year, I added in my semi-newly acquired skills of pulled and poured sugar to the party and created the Winter Retreat house, complete with palladian windows and sugar columns and a lovely colored stone walkway to the lake, where you can enjoy a spot of ice skating.

This is a work-in-progress shot, but I sure do love the way the light comes in! 
I'll be the first to admit that the columns were not easy or quick. I'll also let you know that they burned the dickens out of my hand when I accidentally poured some of the 320 degree sugar syrup on myself. Yeah. 2nd degree burns. I'm typing this with a huge burn blister on my hand right now, because I'm a trooper. So. Consider that your PSA: be careful with hot sugar.

The walls were glued together with homemade marshmallow, and the colored stones and columns were glued together with super stiff royal icing. Do you like the rock path? You can get the chocolate rocks at It's Sugar! on the Plaza, right here in Kansas City. They're addictive, though, let me tell you... It did take some time to do, but anything worth doing is worth doing right, especially for charity. I will say this, though: I can't pipe with a severely burned hand. All of the piping done for the rocks was piped with my left hand, so it took twice the amount of work. Anybody that ends up buying my gingerbread house for the charity can rest knowing that I put some hard work into it, dag nabbit.

I won't bore you to death with all of the details on how to make this gingerbread house, but here's my favorite recipe on how to make your own building gingerbread dough.

Gingerbread House

  • 8 oz shortening
  • 7 oz sugar
  • 0.6 oz baking powder
  • 0.3 oz baking soda
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 8 fl oz molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 38 oz AP flour

This is a basic cookie method; simply cream the fat together with the sugars, add the eggs one at a time, and add in the dry ingredients in 3 additions. Chill the dough while your oven is heating up, and prepare your pattern. For precision, roll out in large sheets, cut your pieces, bake halfway through, then cut AGAIN to trim off the excess! This is how you get razor-sharp edges on your corners, perfectly pristine lines on your walls, etc.

This house took 4 batches of my gingerbread dough to make the entire thing complete!
Royal Icing
yields about a pound

  • 12 oz powdered sugar
  • 2 egg whites

Sift the sugar and set aside. Place the egg white and lemon juice in the standing mixer with the whisk attachment. Add about half the sugar and begin whisking on  medium low until incorporated. Increase the speed and check consistency. Add sugar as needed to correct it!

With this basic dough in hand, you can create any gingerbread house you set your mind to. There are about a billion gingerbread house patterns found on Pinterest, and you - yes, you - can create this, because if I can do it, anybody can.

If you'd like to help the CCVI and donate to the charity, come to Webster House at 1644 Wyandotte Street in Kansas City, MO during normal business hours and find us! You can walk around, visit the shop, and donate to the charity by bidding on the house or voting for People's Choice! Check it out from November 30th until December 3rd...but I can tell you that my own house is sitting there, in the Children's room, right now!

Tune in tomorrow on KCTV 5 in Kansas City to see me on the news, talking all about it!

Happy cooking and happy eating - oh, and a VERY Happy Holiday Season!

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