Behind the scenes: Gingerbread in the Baking Education Center

DSC01200

[Ed. note: This is the debut blog post for Amber Eisler, a veteran of our King Arthur Flour Bakery and currently an instructor in our Baking Education Center. Welcome, Amber!]

It’s no secret, we have gingerbread on our minds here at King Arthur Flour. From our demo kitchen to our baker’s hotline, construction gingerbread and royal icing are the buzz words. And, the Baking Education Center is no exception! So what exactly happens in a 2-day gingerbread class? Let’s look and see.

The stage is set for our guest instructor, Susan Purdy, and her daughter  Cassandra (who have been making gingerbread houses together for almost 40 years!). They traveled from Connecticut to teach in our recently renovated Baking Education Center.

The students arrive, don their aprons, and gather around the instructor’s bench as Susan demonstrates step one: mixing the gingerbread dough.

Look at that dough!

Now, it’s the students’ turn. Measure carefully. Mix. Roll. Cut. Bake!

Building a gingerbread house is a perfect family activity, and in this class we have five parent/child pairs working together. The youngest student in this class is 9. Isn’t it great to see young budding bakers!

While the gingerbread cools, let’s look at the loot and get our creative juices flowing. Everyone draws up decorating plans, and that wraps up day one.

Dream sweet dreams. We’ll see you in the morning!

Day two: A light dusting of snow overnight adds to the Christmas-y ambiance. Inside it’s warm and bright, and time to make the royal icing. Here we’re making a thick version of royal icing using meringue powder. This will be the glue that holds everything together.

Assembling the houses takes teamwork and steady hands.

Thanks to our quick-drying royal icing “mortar,” soon after construction is complete the house is sturdy enough to decorate. Now the fun really begins!

Beautiful piping! Notice the technique: squeeze with right hand, gently guide the pastry bag with the left hand. These kids are amazing!

Father and son executing their design.

This is hard work!

Ready for a break? Let’s do lunch. Everyone enjoys soup and salads prepared by the King Arthur Café, and good conversation. But, not for too long. The houses are really coming together now and everyone is anxious to finish.

Susan and Cassandra circulate the classroom assisting the students. Expert advice certainly elevates these works of art. But, what impresses me the most about this weekend was the teamwork and creativity that each family brought to the baking bench. Every house was a unique, festive masterpiece.

Thank you, Susan and Cassandra Purdy, and all of the families, for making this weekend a success. And, thanks to our BEC assistant, Karen, for doing all of the cleanup!

Oh, one last thing, I have to tell you about the de-construction tradition in the Purdy household. At the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, all the children gather ’round the gingerbread house. With a hammer…  And everyone takes a bite or two, to start the new year on a sweet note! What are your family’s gingerbread traditions?

Interested in attending classes here at our Norwich, Vermont campus? From novice to pro, we have a class for you. Check out our course calendar for more information.

Amber Eisler
About

Amber Eisler was born and raised in Washington, DC. She is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and started her time at King Arthur Flour in the production bakery. Amber now works full-time in the Baking Education Center, and enjoys sharing her passion ...

comments

  1. eleyana

    Oh wow, you guys have self control waiting ’til New Year’s! We had our gingerbread house party on the 8th, ours are about half that size. Of the three houses and sundry trees that stayed here, we are down to one house. Everything else has been gobbled up and the kids are making noises about that last house. :D
    Too funny, you made me laugh out loud! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  2. lyna

    Never made a gingerbread house, but I always wondered what people did with them after the holiday! Would the birds like them?

    The candy might make the birds sick, so I would advise admiring it few a few weeks but then carefully discarding it in the garbage. Unfortunately, the sugar might not be great for the critters outdoors! Best, Kim@KAF

    Reply
  3. Margy

    My niece’s birthday is in December. When she was about 4, she asked for a gingerbread house kit for her birthday, which I bought and made with her. 16 years later, it’s an annual tradition, (first thing she asked when she came home for college break was if I had gotten her gingerbread house). It gets smashed and eaten on New Years day (although one year she refused to have it destroyed and it stayed until Lent started!).
    We use frosted mini wheats on the roof for a snowy thatched look. One year when my sister was a young mother, she decided to make her own. She called me at work in tears because the walls and roof kept falling apart. I had to explain to her to use LOTS of icing and to prop everything with soup cans until it dried. Poor little house looked like an abandoned shack under a stiff wind.
    Thanks for sharing. Hope you have lots of photos to document all the great houses! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  4. carol3284

    Amber, I love this, your first post, so please write more! (And I FONDLY remember your wonderful instruction when I took a class you taught. Looking forward to a return trip to the baking education center!)
    Hi Carol, Thank you for the encouragement! I hope to see you in another class soon. Happy baking and a very Happy New Year! ~ Amber

    Reply
  5. maggiedevlin

    We have a fun tradition with our gingerbread houses. We stuff little treats, wrapped candies, or even gift cards into the house while we are constructing it, as a surprise. Then we save our house to “break open”, kind of like a pinata, to celebrate the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day on Jan. 6th. We use a small hammer and take turns tapping the house, until it starts to crack, reveal what’s inside.
    Not only do the kids look forward to breaking the house and enjoying the gingerbread and the candy, but also finding the treats inside.

    Reply

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *