There was a time in my life when, had you even hinted I'd one day own a candy cane cookie cutter, I would have snapped, "Is your brain made of candy canes? This is me."
But me is a mom, and moms metamorphose into all manner of things they pledged they'd never be. Like bakers of gingerbread for homemade houses.
Two years ago, I made homemade gingerbread houses for the first time ever in my entirely long life. (I think I have Magical Mrs. M. to thank for this new tradition though I use the concept of "thanks" loosely.) I got Gingerbread Back, remember? That year, I used paper templates like these and cut the pieces out by hand, thereby mangling them upon transfer to the cookie sheet until they mutated into something like this:
(Photo of the Krzywy Domek, thanks to Wikipedia.)
Moving on to 2011: I can honestly say this is actually getting easy ... or, um, -er, anyway. Easier. Time consuming, yes, but no longer excruciating. (I'm sorry, beloved daughters-o-mine, it's true -- the first year was excruciating. Excruciating but fun? Yeah, that works.)
Last week we baked two houses and froze the pieces, and this week we baked one more, along with a couple of pans of gingerbread men (but no candy canes ... I cannot find my candy cane cookie cutter. There. I said it again.)
Ramona originally agreed to to do a graham cracker house, along with several of the other younger kids in our homeschool group. But then she asked if she could do a gingerbread church to add to our gingerbread village, and how could I say no to a church? It seemed like something I'd have to go to confession for. ("So then, Father, I told her no to the church, and she started to cry ... ")
So we baked a church. And more gingerbread men. And a noticeable lack of gingerbread candy canes. (But if anyone mutters so much as a word I'm going to resign my post.)
Other helpful links I should mention:
Here's a great photo-filled how-to for constructing graham cracker houses. (Scroll down for photos of completed projects ... I love the four-year-old's house. Perfectly cute and gloppy.)
Royal icing (aka sweet cement) recipe.
Alton Brown (nothing to do with gingerbread houses, just long-standing