Gingerbread Mansions

The housing market is still in the tank in many parts of the country, but only if you fail to take into account the gingerbread sector, where things have really been picking up lately.

For Exhibit A, look no further than the White House, where pastry chef Bill Yosses constructed a 400-plus-pound replica of the presidential abode out of gingerbread, marzipan and white chocolate. Another D.C. landmark, the Smithsonian Castle, got a similar treatment (with a mere 100 pounds of gingerbread and 50 pounds of icing) from Charles Froke, a Four Seasons pastry chef. Click here to see a video about this feat of confectionary construction on our sister blog, Around the Mall.

S.F. Weekly compiled a list of the most elaborate gingerbread houses in the country. Aside from the White House, it showcased several competition entries, and a couple of life-size versions—including one at a hotel at Disney World in Florida that took 400 hours to bake, 160 hours to decorate, and has its own bake shop inside.

Impressive, but personally, I find the classic Hansel-and-Gretel-style cottage covered with swirls of icing and gumdrop accents to be far more charming. In real-estate speak, they have curb appeal. King Arthur Flour has a helpful online instruction booklet for constructing the basic sugar dream home—one that's reassuringly within nearly everyone's reach and can't be foreclosed (it is susceptible to natural disasters, however, especially of the sweet-toothed-child variety).

At the opposite end of the spectrum from the White House, the cutest version of the gingerbread house has got to be these miniature ones by Not Martha, meant to be hung on the side of a mug of hot chocolate. Adorable.

My vote for most creative gingerbread house goes to the Australian food blogger (via the Atlantic Food Channel) who devised a replica of a cave from the set of the movie Where the Wild Things Are. Constructing a sphere from tiny gingerbread bricks turned out to be more of a project than the blogger had anticipated, but even the half-finished structure looked pretty cool. I applaud the effort. He includes instructions for those who dare to attempt a similar feat.

If you're the type who wants your pastry construction to be structurally sound enough to meet the local building code, check out the tool suggestions from This Old House. Rarely does the home chef find a need for a band saw or a Dremel rotary tool, but, as the article points out, how else are you going to carve an iceberg out of sugar?

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