Thursday, January 5, 2012


   Russian folk tales, campy '80s movies, classic Yuletide imagery. Each of these themes and more are represented in this stunning collection of gingerbread house creations chosen by Food & Wine editors. Bakers and confectionary designers from New York to Hawaii have been hard at work crafting these sweet-scented masterpieces, employing thousands of gallons of icing, as well as thousands of pounds of chocolate, gingerbread dough, fondant, and candy to capture the essence of the holiday season.

The Jumeirah Essex House

   The Jumeirah Essex House's 2010 Holiday Lobby Display (New York, NY)
Throughout December, the hotel's executive pastry chef, Deden Putra, is hosting Saturday morning classes that teach kids (and parents) how to construct and decorate gingerbread houses. Last year's display proves Putra's qualifications. He and his team built an exact scale replica of the Jumeirah Essex House that was 10 feet tall.
Life-Size Gingerbread Oasis
   Sea Island's 2011 Interactive Gingerbread House (Sea Island, GA)
The pastry crew at this Georgia resort baked 3,000 gingerbread bricks to construct a sweet-smelling house decorated with gingerbread people, gumdrops, candy canes, and chocolate Christmas trees. Not only is the house large enough for guests to enter, but they can also sit inside with a hot chocolate while eating gingerbread cookies!
Replica of the Central Park Boathouse
    Le Parker Meridien’s Gingerbread Wonderland 2011 (New York, NY)
To benefit the hunger-fighting nonprofit City Harvest, this hotel invites local restaurants and bakeries to submit beautiful gingerbread houses for a yearly contest. The public is welcome to view the display — which includes this impressive replica of the Central Park Boathouse — in the lobby's 56th Street atrium and can vote on a favorite by donating $1. Bonus: Hidden behind a curtain, the hotel's Burger Joint makes a great stop for a quick meal.
Baba Yaga Gingerbread House

    The New York Botanical Garden's 2009 Gingerbread Adventures (Bronx, NY)
Irina Brandler, a Russian immigrant and owner of Sugar and Spice Bake Shop in Bronx, NY, headed a team of four bakers to make a gingerbread house for Baba Yaga, a witch-like character from Russian folklore who lives in the forest in a hut that stands on chicken legs. Irina's version of the house stood more than two feet tall and featured a roof covered in shredded wheat cereal and Necco Wafers, pretzel fences and ladder, a trail formed with Boston Baked Beans candy, and Christmas trees made of frosted ice cream cones and pretzel rods. Three domes on the top of the house were all shaped out of fondant—one dome made of a Hershey's chocolate kiss melted and had to be replaced.

The English Cottage
   The Grove Park Inn & Spa's 2009 Gingerbread Competition (Asheville, NC)
Ten-year-old Lydia Gentry of Hendersonville, North Carolina, made creative use of edible materials to construct her prize-winning gingerbread house. Lydia thatched her cottage's roof with shredded wheat cereal, used chocolate rocks on the foundation and chimney, and poured hard candy to create the cottage windows. Outside, frosting-covered pasta formed porch supports while a chocolate candy and tapioca pearl walkway wound its way beneath a vine-covered trellis (gum paste, pasta and frosting), past rose bushes made of crushed cereal and marshmallow, and through a lawn made of frosting and speckled with coconut "snow."

Santa's German Gingerbread Village
   The Sheraton Princess Ka'iulani Hotel, 2010 (Honolulu, HI)
Hotel executive chef Ralf Bauer and a team of culinary architects spent over 660 hours designing and constructing a gingerbread village that paid homage to both Bauer's native Germany and to old Hawaii. Medieval churches, bell towers, train stations, a carousel and skating rink mingled with iconic Hawaiian structures like the Kawaiha'o mission church and the magnificent Iolani Palace. The winter wonderland stood more than 14 1/2 feet high and 24 feet wide and was made with 200 gallons of icing, 100 pounds of dark chocolate, 30 pounds of white chocolate, and 60 sheets of gingerbread.

Pied Piper Gingerbread House

   The New York Botanical Garden's 2009 Gingerbread Adventures (Bronx, NY)
The mother-daughter duo behind Ardsley, New York's Riviera Bake House took inspiration from daughter Liv Hansen's favorite childhood fairytale to create their 2-foot tall structure. No candy was used to decorate; Liv instead completed detail work using a pipeable, watered-down recipe for gingerbread. She sculpted all of the mice and the Pied Piper from marzipan, and constructed the roof from cereal. The team dedicated five days to the project, using approximately 10 pounds of gingerbread and 2 to 3 gallons of icing.

First Family Holiday House

    The Grove Park Inn & Spa's 2009 Gingerbread Competition (Asheville, NC)
Carolina Montoya and husband Fernado Puga spent 302 hours over the course of two months to create their gingerbread house. The traditionally designed structure featured President Barack Obama, who appeared to be climbing out the window and up onto the chimney with a bag full of toys. Montoya and Puga's all-edible entry was constructed of gingerbread, fondant, gum paste, coconut, Rice Krispies cereal, and breath strips for window panes.

A Christmas Story

    The Seattle Sheraton's 2009 Gingerbread Village (Seattle, WA)
Prompted by the theme "Reel Christmas," a team of Seattle Sheraton culinary staff and area architecture firm DLR Group created this cheeky homage to the 1983 Christmas comedy film classic A Christmas Story. Weighing around 200 pounds, the gingerbread structure featured edible reenactments of memorable movie scenes—including fondant versions of Ralphie and friend Flick by the flagpole in an amazingly detailed gingerbread neighborhood, and a recreation of the film’s iconic leg lamp sporting licorice "fringe."

Gingerbread Ranch

   The Grove Park Inn & Spa's 2009 Gingerbread Competition (Asheville, NC)
Rita and Monte Adams' scene tells the story of Santa getting ready to ride out of an old western town following dinner at the Jingle Café, gift shopping at the Rocky Mountain toy shop, and a night's rest at the Holly Tree Hotel. In the scene, Santa has saddled up a solid chocolate horse while elves have loaded his coach with Christmas toys. The couple used 15 pounds of flour, 22 1/2 pounds of fondant, 12 pounds of sugar, and dozens of other ingredients to make this gingerbread tableau.

Three Little Pigs Gingerbread House

   The New York Botanical Garden's 2009 Gingerbread Adventures (Bronx, NY)
For her fairy-tale-themed confection, Cake Power's Kate Sullivan constructed an 18-inch-tall gingerbread house featuring three little pigs and a wolf all made of fondant (the original versions, made of modeling chocolate, melted in the Botanical Garden's greenhouse). The house itself, constructed of embossed gingerbread, featured such incredible tiny details as a jellybean-covered fireplace, string licorice rag rug, gumball lamp and vase, windows made of poured blue-tinted hard sugar, and a whimsical hanging portrait of a Star Wars clone trooper drawn in food marker.

London Theatre: The Gingerbread Nutcracker

    The New York Botanical Garden's 2010 Gingerbread Adventures (Bronx, NY)
It took four full days, two bakers (Kate Sullivan of Cake Power and Patti Paige of Baked Ideas) and two interns to complete this theatrical project from beginning to end. Modeled on the stage of the London Coliseum opera house, the structure — measuring 18 inches tall — and characters were all made of gingerbread, while the red curtain above was covered in fondant. Everything except the red-and-white striped mint balls was either baked from scratch or rolled, cut, piped or painted in food color by hand.

Cathedral of the Angels

    The Grove Park Inn & Spa's 2009 Gingerbread Competition (Asheville, NC)
Inspired by the way light illuminates the Bernini sculpture, "Ecstasy of Saint Teresa," in Rome, Billie Mochow set out to construct a gingerbread recreation that also appeared to have light coming from it. She began her building from the inside out, forming the mother and child figures from gingerbread and "dressing" them in gumpaste. The faceless people surrounding were similarly constructed from hand-cut gingerbread cookies dressed to appear dimensional. Outside the architectural cathedral, Mochow stacked ice cream cones to form the snow-covered evergreen trees.


   This recipe comes from www.annies-eats.com .   Enjoy making these extra large cookies.  But, don't forget to share!  Enjoy!

Giant Double Chocolate Cookies

Now this, my friends, is a cookie. A whopper of a deep dark chocolate cookie, and it’s chock full of chocolate chips. It’s thick, chewy, and just sinful. The glass of milk is not just a prop – it’s a necessity in this case. These cookies definitely earn the title of “giant”, considering that 4 ounces of dough is used for each one. I’m not such a fan of quarter-pounder burgers, but quarter-pounder cookies? I’m totally on board. If you don’t have a kitchen scale yet (tsk tsk), here is the perfect excuse. How else will you know that each cookie is exactly 4 ounces? This is important business, people. Truth be told, I actually haven’t eaten an entire cookie at once. I keep eating half at lunchtime and half after dinner. Believe me, I could – I just like having dessert twice instead. I also froze half of the dough balls, and I know I’ll be thankful for that move when an emergency chocolate craving kicks in.
These cookies are a knock-off of the version sold at the popular Levain Bakery, whose claim to fame is…you guessed it, their giant cookies. This is a unique cookie dough. You start out mixing it just like any other cookie dough, but it is very thick and ends up requiring a brief hand kneading to be sure the ingredients are evenly distributed. It may seem a little strange but these cookies are worth it. These are definitely best enjoyed straight from the oven, but keep well in an airtight container. As with most cookies I make, I like to give the leftovers a 10 second warm up in the microwave before enjoying to make the chocolate chips all gooey and melty. Yum.

Giant Double Chocolate Cookies

Yield: 12 very large cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1¼ cup sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup dark cocoa powder
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. coarse salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Blend in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix in the cocoa powder until well blended. Add the flour, salt and baking powder to the bowl and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula. Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead briefly by hand to be sure the ingredients are well combined.
Divide the dough into 4 ounce portions (or divide into 12 equal pieces). Roll each portion of dough into a ball and flatten just slightly into a disc. Place on the prepared baking sheets, a few inches apart. Bake 16-20 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.


  1. You wish you had eaten less. This is one of the most common complaints after the holiday. Why did you stuff down that last huge piece of ham or turkey, or that second dessert? Now you've gained five or ten pounds and you'll have to spend January and February working it off.
  2. You wish you had done what you wanted. Every year during the holidays, many people find themselves being pulled in ten different directions. Grandma wants you at her house at noon for dinner, mom wants you to unwrap gifts at her house at 11. Your friends want to get together at 3 p.m., and then your aunt asks you to drop by at 2. After the day is over, you find you put more miles on your car in one day than you did during the whole month of December. You're exhausted, stressed out, and wish you had just stayed home in bed.
  3. The desire to go back and get people different Christmas gifts. Now that you see your brother didn't really need a new razor, but could have used a gift certificate, you start wishing you had actually asked your relatives what they wanted before you bought them gifts they can't use.
  4. The desire not to have bought gifts for anyone. Your realized that much of the spirit of the holiday season was lost by reducing the time you spent together to a gift exchange. You wish that you had just met to enjoy the time instead of going all over the town buying gifts to take up the whole holiday time.
  5. You wish you had had more time. The holidays pass so quickly, it's as it they passed in the glimpse of an eye. You wish there was some way to go back and not waste time arguing, or buying gifts, so that you could enjoy every single moment.
  6. You wish you had forgone that argument with a loved one. Chances are, you probably got in a huge argument with someone you really care about, it was about something stupid, and you wish you had just turned the other way instead of allowing a huge argument to ensue. Now, you and your mother aren't even talking.
  7. You wish you had realized how special the day was. Perhaps you went in with a "bah humbug " attitude, and just sat around moping the whole day. Now you wish you had thought for a minute about how nice it was that the family got together, so you would have appreciated it more.