From these colorful beginnings, it's time to fire your creative after burners and enter the Windward Mall and KQMQ Gingerbread House Making Contest.
Criteria for the holiday competition include originality, or uniqueness of the structure and its ingredients; presentation, or Christmas ambience; creativity; and architectural soundness.
Patricia Mitchell, who teaches Fundamental Baking at Kapiolani Community College, offers these tips for gingerbread house makers:
Use a gingerbread recipe that makes a good, stiff dough.
In humid weather such as Hawaii's, it's a good idea to make gingerbread supports inside the house.
Have cardboard patterns for house walls, roof, etc., ready when the gingerbread comes out of the oven, so dough can be cut with smooth, even, square edges.
Achieve a manageable consistency in the icing used to glue the pieces together.
Decorate the house parts, such as walls and roof, before assembling the house.
Have common household items, such as canned goods, on hand to hold the roof together while it's drying.
The contest offers a $25 people's choice award and $100 prizes in a professional category and three amateur categories - children 13 and younger (a child 6 or under may be assisted by an adult); youths 14 to 17; and adults 18 and older. One entry is allowed per person, per category.
Houses must be no larger than 12 by 18 inches, and made mostly of edible materials. Coating houses with acrylic spray or hairspray is recommended.
Bring entries to the Windward Mall management office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 4. Judging is Dec. 8.
Necco recipes follow for icing "glue" and a gingerbread dough appropriate for 1 gingerbread house or for large, sturdy cookies and ornaments. Order a free Necco recipe booklet with these and other holiday treats by calling (800) 58-NECCO. Necco wafers, nonpareils and other candies are available in isle stores or call (800) 225-5508.
5-1/2 cups unsifted flourCream shortening and sugar. Beat in molasses, egg and vanilla until smooth. In another bowl, sift dry ingredients. Gradually stir dry ingredients into molasses mixture. When mixture becomes too stiff to stir with spoon, work dough with hands until completely blended. Separate dough into 4 balls. Wrap each in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour, up to 2 weeks.
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1-1/4 cups molasses
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
For baking and construction: You may build your house in stages over a few days' or a few weeks' time. Bake pieces one day, then add decorations at another time, and attach pieces for construction even later.
Place a disk of chilled dough directly on aluminum foil cut to fit your baking sheet. Cover dough with plastic wrap and roll to 1/4-inch thickness.
From waxed or parchment paper, cut patterns for 2 side walls, 7 inches wide by 4 inches high; 2 pointed end walls, 5-1/2 inches wide by 8 inches high at the point; 2 roof panels, 8-1/2 inches wide by 6 inches high.
Remove plastic wrap, place pattern pieces directly on dough, leaving at least a 1/2-inch border around pieces. Use a small, sharp knife to cut around pattern edges. Use fingers or small knife to remove scrap dough pieces, leaving cut pieces intact on foil. Cut out doors and windows. Remove paper pattern pieces and place foil directly on a flat baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 to 25 minutes, depending on size of pieces. Gingerbread will darken, especially around edges, and feel firm to the touch.
Cool gingerbread pieces on baking sheets. Gently peel gingerbread from foil. You may store pieces flat in a cool, dry place, or freeze in an appropriate container.
To construct house: Spread icing directly on a strong piece of cardboard, plywood or a flat, unbreakable tray to cover area where house will be built. Attach candy, cookies, nuts, etc., to the house or "grounds" using the icing as glue.
Spread or pipe icing on edges of each piece which will attach to one another. Press pieces firmly together and hold to form neat angles. You may release your hold when pieces are self-standing. (This should only take a minute or 2.) Store house in a cool, dry place for up to 4 weeks.
3 large egg whites at room temperature (see note)Place egg whites in bowl. Add cream of tartar. Sift sugar directly onto egg whites. Beat 4 minutes with electric mixer on high speed. The mixture will thicken as you beat it and when finished should be the consistency of mashed potatoes. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over icing while using, to prevent air from drying it. If storing for use at another time, store icing in an airtight plastic container in the refrigerator. If icing becomes too firm, simply beat a little water into it.
4-3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Use the icing as "cement" to put the house together, attach decorations and make icicles and decorative trim. Two 2 to 3 batches are needed to complete 1 house; make each batch separately.
Note: Any fat substance will inhibit the whites from beating, so separate the yolks carefully and keep all utensils grease-free.