It's not cold here on Christmas, isn't that AWFUL? No snow, no snowmen, no snow angels, no fires.. I don't celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, but that doesn't stop it being a huge day in my calendar. I love creating and picking out presents to make people smile.. I think my absolute favourite is actually watching people open their presents- it's just wonderful. Oh - and the carols! I got a 4 CD compilation of them this year! Anyway- as a special treat this year, Ralph and I had been planning to combine his interest in DIY and mine in baking and build gingerbread houses for his gorgeous nieces.
Even now, when I just look at it the photos again, I feel so as happy and excited. In a couple of years, I hope to make gingerbread houses again, this time getting the girls to decorate. But this year it was our fun (or if you ask Ralph, it was torture and we're never doing it again. Of course, he was in charge of the roof). I thought I would share some photos and tips (I just sort of squeezed these in at the end of rants :-) ) of the very complicated construction project. Tip #1: Make windows in your gingerbread walls using cookie cutters, and put lollipops in them (here I used Beacon Sparkles). They will melt in the oven and create stained windows for your house- just make sure to really fill the hole, they make less melted goo than you would think.
We had to make 2 houses, of course, because we were WAY too deep in a Christmas excitement frenzy to worry about figuring out who was going to eat them. Does that happen to you? It happens to me way too often.. What do you do for baking frenzy? Meditation? Medication? Or does it treat itself? Tip #2: To make gorgeous Christmas trees, buy ice cream cones and pipe icing onto the outside using a small floral tip (I used my Cuisinpro Cupcake Decorator- and I only could because they replaced a broken bit for me recently, so I really owe them a shout out!)
The hunt for the candy canes was long, tedious and didn't look good for a while.. I read about them on Bake Love Not War, and they just seemed perfect for the houses. I couldn't find any, so I sent my parents and Ralph looking while I baked. My parents (yup BOTH of them, scary neck brace and all!), I've been told, had everyone at the Woolworths in Brooklyn running around looking, unsuccessfully. Ralph, the hero, finally found one lonely one in Cresta while picking up my AWESOME Christmas present. Tip #3: Pipe icicles onto the edges of the roof using royal icing. It was Ralph's idea and it looks lovely. And finally- Tip #4: Spread the outside of the board of the house with plain butter icing, and sprinkle with icing sugar. It makes the ground look covered in snow. Of course, I sprinkled icing sugar everywhere else for the snow effect too.
On a personal note, I have been missing this blog quite a bit. It has been possibly the worst couple of months of my life. Usually cooking and baking is what gets me through tough times, but it's the one thing I haven't had a minute to do. I've been looking after my parents, and it's been trully wonderful. This is going to sound SO cliche, but I have to say it just because I really believe it: I've always found that when really awful things happen, good things come out of them eventually. It has definitely been the case here. I have never loved and appreciated my parents and Ralph more. I feel so grateful that they're in my life, and I can't figure out what I did to deserve them. I'll stop going on about it now (um- just give me one last sentence?), but I'm just so grateful for everyone that's wished my dad well, listened to my complaining about doctors (I did a LOT of that) and offered advice. Ane, you wonderful custard guzzling thing, I plan to make you a lot of cake..