Every once in a while, especially around Christmas, I get the urge to switch gears from the virtual world of digital art and animation that I live in every day, to the tactile world of the physical crafts. For the past three years I have adopted one of my favorite American traditions - the making of a gingerbread house. From the ground up! It's a very fun process of creativity and problem solving, especially the latter, the more you run wild with the former.
My house begins as a paper model, cut and taped together to test the design and architecture.
Next comes the dough, mixed together from the basic ingredients - flour, sugar, molasses, ginger root, lots and lots of butter, and so on. The paper model comes in handy as a guide for the cutouts:
After the pieces are baked and have cooled and hardened enough, construction can begin. It's a delicate process, requiring steady hands and a certain order of events - what gets cemented with royal icing when and where, so the house doesn't collapse as you pile the pieces on. The most fun part is picking out the candy to decorate the house with - what can serve as shingles, what can be a door, etc. And then, adding the final touches with colored frosting, squeezed out from a ziploc baggie with one corner of it cut.
I usually add an extra element text to the house - a Christmas tree, or, this year, a snowman. The snowman was the biggest challenge, as his main body parts are jawbreakers - very unyielding things! Heavy and smooth, they kept rolling off of each other before the royal icing cement could harden to keep them in place. So I called in the heavy artillery - the drill. I drilled holes in the jawbreakers where two of them would meet, grated the meeting surfaces flat so the candy would sit on top of each other (and the base) without rolling of, and inserted a partial toothpick through the holes at the meeting point, to serve as an axis that connects the jawbreakers and keeps them together.
Now that the basic structure was staying in place, I cemented everything together with royal icing, and added a few details with colored icing squeezed out of the ziploc bag.
Everything used in this process is edible - the candy pebbles, the chocolate door, the sour ribbons for curtains and the snowman's scarf, the icing, etc. Another house, another challenge, another day of fun! (you can see my houses of Christmases past here and here)
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everybody!
Didi Hatcher (Lead Animator at FableVision)