Finding Christmas candy after the holidays was a challenge. It took a bit of leg work, but I was able to get just about every candy I was looking for. I had quite a pile of goodies when I actually started assembling the house, yet I was constantly running for more (or should I say, sending my poor husband for more).
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I had to figure out walls and dimensions. For an elaborate gingerbread house with intersecting roof lines, angles, and walls - this could be very tricky. Making everything fit gets much more complicated than it looks and I was just eyeballing a magazine picture! One really big thing was working in my favor: I had taken model building in my interior design coursework in college.
I needed to build a mat board model to make sure all the walls and roofs would fit together - then the model could be taken apart and used for pattern pieces. I didn't take very many pictures of the process back in 1990, but here is a shot of the model in early stages.
Once the candy was purchased and the model built, it was time to start baking. But there was one problem left... or should I say two... a curious five-year-old named Lars and a hungry three-year-old named Nathan. Mommy needed some serious concentration time to create this thing, so I decided to call in reinforcements. My niece, Amy, was 12 years old and an excellent baby sitter. She happily agreed to keep the boys busy and I promised to buy her the "Guess" outfit of her dreams if I won. As if.
Let the baking begin. I cut out my gingerbread dough along the lines of my mat board pattern pieces with a knife. Crushed Lollydrops (by Brach's, of course) were sprinkled into the window openings. They melted into colorful stained glass windows while the dough baked.
My dining room table wasn't big enough for all the gingerbread walls and roof sections. It took many rounds of rolling, cutting and baking. This was going to be a big house. Propped against the wall in the background, you can see my 32" x 42" drafting table top covered with foil waiting to be used for a building base. When complete, the house measured approximately 24" x 36" and stood 24" tall. That's a lot of gingerbread.
I spent approximately 60 hours over the course of two weeks to bake and build my contest entry. By the time it was over, empty pink Brach's candy bags were everywhere. If I had to lick one more drop of royal frosting off my fingers, I'm sure my arteries would turn to rock. The smell of gingerbread actually became... is nauseating too strong of a word? Every nonpareil shingle was smooshed onto the roof, each nougat gel brick was holding its place in the chimney, the toffee logs were stacked by the front door and every Milk Maid caramel was dentil trimming the turret. Making the gingerbread house had taken much longer than I'd planned. I even stayed up all night the last night to complete the decorating. It was finished.
The entry was due January 31st and it was now January 30th. The race was on.