Gingerbread bonanza

My first proper post on baking has to be of gingerbread. Christmas is very special to me. I have always loved it and cannot wait for it to come every year, and Chrismas is synonymous with baking. I remember baking with my mother. We baked lots and lots of Christmas treats and cakes. In Norway, the old tradition calls for you to bake seven different Christmas cakes, and there is an abundance to choose from. My mother, being Cypriot, never had this really strong relation to Christmas, as in Cyprus Easter is the largest religious holiday of the year. But she was quickly adapted to the Norwegian customs.

Of the most memorable baking traditions is gingerbread. Of all the varieties of cookies, all Norwegian homes will have gingerbread cookies for Christmas. Even more memorable is the traditional gingerbread house. The baking of the gingerbread house is something most families with young children will make, and will stop making when the children grow up. The assembling and decoration of the gingerbread houses are mostly a familial thing, where adults and children are gathered in making Christmas memories together. I have some of my fondest memories of Christmas doing this.

This is one of the traditional houses I baked last with my parents. It's actually not a house, but a barn. This is quite under decorated compared to what we would usually make as children, where we would "glue" smarties and the likes everywhere with royal icing. This particular gingerbread I made from scratch, which is a really large ordeal. It takes very long, but is very tasty. I will append the recipe once I find it (it has apparently decided to hide).

After moving away from home, I started creating my own gingerbread house traditions. I am a pretty geeky person when it comes to some things; sci-fi is one of them. I love science fiction: books, movies, games, anything really! So, I started creating gingerbread sci-fi homages to some of my favourite sci-fi tales. It all started with Star Wars, of course. And not the new, high-tech Star Wars, but the good ol' ones. I've loved Star Wars since I was little, especially R2-D2, how can you NOT love that droid? Even when my parents redid their bathrooms, I chose the faucets only because they looked a little like R2-D2 (my parents agreeing and liking the choice, might enlighten you to why I love sci-fi so much).  Thus the first alternative gingerbread christmas tradition was created. I created a Star Wars show plate out of gingerbread:

Star Wars Gingerbread display, 2D
Star Wars Gingerbread Display, 2D, with Firefly and Enterprise
The display features Yoda, R2-D2, and C3-PO. This is also one of the first times I really used colour consciously to portray details. Yoda is definitely my favourite from this piece. Creating a display was not enough, we also needed cookies to eat during Christmas. And all the cookies were equally geeky. Above you see the Starship Enterprise from Star Trek in the foreground, and the front end of the Firefly from the series of the same name. In one picture, you have all my favourite sci-fi series and movies... in gingerbread format!

The urge to eat C3-PO's head was hard to fight. But you might be glad that I did manage to constrain myself. These, and the consecutive years, I used gingerbread dough from IKEA. Don't bash me, their dough is really very good. It tastes great and is very pliable. It also saves almost 15 hours of creating dough. 

After that was the year of the Potter. The first half of the last Harry Potter movie was released. I, having read all the books a numerous times in two languages, was feeling nostalgic. It was almost the end of an era. Even though the saga had been finished since I had read the books, I had the movies to look forward to, and this was ending. So, I did the only sane thing I could do, I created Hogwarts. It was large, and tok about 3 kilos of gingerbread dough to make, about 1 kilo of powdered sugar and an immense amount of candies. After days in the kitchen I could show my largest achievement in gingerbread ever:

It looks best in the dark, Hogwarts always did. I had so assemble it without much spacing between the buildings, as we just didn't have enough space in the apartment to actually place it the way I really wanted  to. I also wanted to place them on different platforms, but again, space issues.

It is easier to see in the light how much decoration is actually there. This is more similar to what most families will do to their gingerbread houses. To begin with I wanted to decorate it with only white royal icing, but decided that a gingerbread house is a gingerbread house, and it needs to be flashy. Especially when it is a magical gingerbread house!

I was so happy with Hogwarts that I didn't know how I could possibly do something better than that for next Christmas. Then I saw the pictures a friend of mine made of a Firefly spaceship. It was amazing and in 3D. That is when I realized, my sci-fi display was a mockery of the awesomeness of How could someone so in love with sci-fi think so straight forward. I needed to upscale what I had been doing. So I reverted back to making another Star Wars piece the next year. Only bigger and more majestic this time. I wanted to make an R2-D2 in 3D, about 30cm high. So I planned. I created templates to cut the ginger bread correctly and almost made blue prints. It needed to be perfect.

Gingerbread R2-D2 in the making, Star Wars
Gingerbread R2-D2 in the making, Star Wars

The dome on the top was particularly difficult. I contains exactly the right types of triangles to make this shape. The calculating took longer than I want to admit, and unfortunately I didn't take the dough expanding while baking into consideration. Well, not enough anyway. So the dome didn't turn out as perfect as I wanted, but it did suffice. I could anyway decorate it with icing, so it wasn't too visible.

Finished Gingerbread R2-D2 from Star Wars

The end result was a happy one. I loved my gingerbread R2-D2 so much. I had so much fun baking it.The round shape of the body I made with three rectangles. After baking them (one by one) I would immediately transfer them on top of a round cookie box I had. This way they would cool and become round. Then I assembled them with hard crack.

I have not figured out what this years project will be. But I am unsure whether I will ever be able to surpass R2-D2.

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