Gingerbread houses showcase student talent
Dec. 20, 2010
The white team winner for 2010 was titled "Christmas Fairy Tale."
Reminder Publications photo by Debbie Gardner
By Debbie Gardner, Assistant Managing Editor
Click here for our gingerbread slideshow
EAST LONGMEADOW -- It was a sweet dilemma for the students and faculty of East Longmeadow High School, who were charged with judging the senior culinary arts class' annual gingerbread house contest last Wednesday.
But in the end, it was an ornate mansion from each of the red and white teams that captured the first prize bragging rights, with the red team's "Club Penguin" igloo and the white team's "Snowy Victory" football stadium capturing their team's respective second prizes.
The two teams of bakers crafted a total of nine structures for this year's contest, ranging in design from stately mansions to snug cabins to a beach cabana and lighthouse, a snowy white igloo surrounded by seals and a model of a football stadium complete with TV cameraman crafted as an homage to the Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans.
Many of the students, instructor Mary Jane McMahon explained to Reminder Pub-lications, had started thinking about their designs when they were freshmen. Others, she said, drew their inspiration from photos of past contest entries, magazines and cookbooks.
Each design was submitted for her approval before construction began.
The structures, McMahon explained to each group of students as they entered the classroom to view the houses and vote, were all completely edible, "there's no glue, no staples, no toothpicks .the structures must stand on their own."
She pointed out embellishments such as stained glass windows made of crushed candies heated in the oven, pretzels rods cut to create window panes, roofs crafted of round candy buttons and house shingles cut from cookies as the students viewed the structures.
The gingerbread base, McMahon explained, is not a traditional cookie "it's a real thick dough, there's no sugar, no leavening agent, no eggs" used in the batter.
The designers, she said, rolled out their building material and cut the pieces of their structures from templates they created based on each group's approved design.
In total, each group spent at least seven class days creating their entry.
Royal icing a mixture of meringue powder and confectioner's sugar, was used to glue the structures together, with marzipan a German candy made of almond paste, confectioner's sugar and corn syrup, was the material called upon to construct accents such as figures, motorcycles, beach beauties and cameraman.
"I had students in here after school working on their houses, students working on their lunch hours, some were very committed to this project," she said.
In some cases, students' original design concepts didn't work out and they had to regroup and come up with a new plan.
"I'm really impressed, I think they are getting better every year," English teacher Mark Bail said as he stopped by the classroom to judge this year's entries. "It's nice to see the creativity come out, but it's the [culinary] skills that are improving every year."