The Making of a Gingerbread World

Dec 12, 2012

The Making of a Gingerbread World

How do you make an award-winning gingerbread house?

Mix lots of flour, ginger, and water. Use Necco Wafers for the rooftop and powdered sugar for the snow. Add the work of two culinary school instructors, five pastry students and a lot of imagination.

That recipe was a winner this year in Jacksonville, Fla. for Culinard, the Culinary Institute of Virginia College. The team participated in the 11th annual Gingerbread House Extravaganza, a charity event including a complete gingerbread village.

The Gingerbread House Extravaganza showcases gingerbread creations by chefs, architects, schools and residents recreating historical buildings and fairy tale creations.

The Making of a Gingerbread World

The Virginia College entry was a precisely baked gingerbread mini Victorian bakery with little chefs seen through its windows. The creation won the Most Traditional House award, and is a return engagement for pastry chef instructor Kimberly Walton, winner of last year's Best Village award.

This year she was joined by her Virginia College teaching colleague, chef instructor Christiana Barnett.

"A lot of the kids really liked the little baked goods in the windows," Chef Walton said about the gingerbread bakery. "The windows were made from sheets of gelatin and royal icing (egg whites and powdered sugar) covered the building."

The Gingerbread House Extravaganza is on display through the holidays at the Jacksonville Historical Society's Old St. Andrew's Church. The event raises funds for its children's programs.

A drafting class from her middle school years and a chef's sharp eye for detail were Ms. Walton's keys for the team's win this year. It also doesn't hurt that she has previously built gingerbread houses for displays in bakeries and at home with her kids.

"A lot of planning is needed for one of these little structures. The students worked with me on the basic design and blueprint of the building back in October. We tested recipes and did modeling with cardboard to figure out how we wanted it to look."

Leading up to installation of the gingerbread bakery, the team put in close to 40 hours of work. The five pastry students volunteered for the project and didn't receive a grade, but they did get plenty experience that will stick with them throughout their culinary and pastry careers.

"This was a great way to convey the importance of paying attention to details. With this kind of cooking assignment, close enough isn't good enough," said Chef Walton. "I think the students also learned that a big project takes time and patience. In the real world of baking, you're not working on the clock, but on a deadline."

Read an article and view a video about the Gingerbread House Extravaganza.

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