A local couple has showcased their knack for designing an outstanding gingerbread house - and it’s all for a terrific cause
Local financial institutions got together and staff from each decided to take part in holding a gingerbread village-making contest this holiday season.
“For five dollars, you can donate for who you think is the best, and the winning bank gets to choose which charity (the proceeds) go to,” explained Jesse Ritter, a Servus Credit Union employee who, along with Julie Cook, has constructed the Flat Iron Building for his contest entry.
“Julie and I decided we would try to make something from scratch,” he said.
Cook agreed, noting in the past they had utilized boxed ingredients to do similar projects over past holiday seasons. “We’ve baked homemade gingerbread cookies from scratch - things like that - but this (project) was entirely from scratch.”
To begin with, they cut out cardboard pieces to build a cardboard ‘version’ of the Flat Iron Building. “Then, you just cut out the shapes, bake it, and then if any touch-ups are needed you do those quickly while (the pieces) are still soft,” explained Ritter.
Cook said the icing was all homemade as well.
“Putting it all together was probably the hardest part - but because we had the moulds, all you had to do was roll the dough to the thickness that you wanted, and set up those cardboard cut-outs.
“Flouring your surface is very important so that it doesn’t stick. Another hard part was transferring the pieces to the baking sheet and trying to keep the pieces the shape that they were. You have to do that very quickly.”
That’s because, as mentioned, the pieces tend to crack quite easily, but can be repaired if it’s done in a very timely manner.
Ritter said when it came to choosing a particular building to fashion a gingerbread house from, a few ideas were floated around from the local Servus branch to the Lacombe train station.
“But we thought the Flat Iron would be really fun to do, so I went with that.”
The couple had also visited New York City this past summer, where there are several similar kinds of grand historic buildings.
“We really liked the architectural style of those buildings, so that also could have led to (our choice),” added Cook.
Ritter noted how that in New York City, there is actually a Flat Iron district. “There are only 17 Flat Irons in Canada, so it’s a very unique building for sure.”
Therefore, it proved the ideal choice for the contest. And the finished results - a colourful, intricately-crafted and delicious-looking creation - speaks for itself.
According to PBS.org, “Gingerbread houses originated in Germany during the 16th century. The elaborate cookie-walled houses, decorated with foil in addition to gold leaf, became associated with Christmas tradition.
“Their popularity rose when the Brothers Grimm wrote the story of Hansel and Gretel, in which the main characters stumble upon a house made entirely of treats deep in the forest. It is unclear whether or not gingerbread houses were a result of the popular fairy tale, or vice versa.”
Whatever the case, they’ve proven a huge holiday hit ever since - including here at home. The Lacombe Museum also held a gingerbread house contest recently as well in connection with Light Up Lacombe.
“I liked doing something that was a little more challenging than just working with a boxed gingerbread house,” said Cook. “Taking on something like this - which was a bigger challenge - was just super fun to do. It was also fun to spend time with Jesse doing this - something fun to do around Christmas.”
Ritter agreed. “I kept running out of chocolate bars, so that was a bit of a problem,” he added with a laugh.
”I like how it turned out! It was a good challenge. And it’s easier than you might think. I’m not saying it’s easy - at one point I was getting a little frustrated.
“But after completing it, you think, ‘I wonder what else I could make with gingerbread, or what else could I come up with in the kitchen?”