gingerbread

I was watching a documentary on the Food Network about a gingerbread “house” competition. They don’t make houses as much as scenes. The rule is that it has to be completely edible (with the exception of the base). Although, I’m not sure what constitutes being edible. One couple made a moving carousel that had some kind of round hard candy as bearings. The base of the carousel was essentially a thrust bearing. They also showed one contestant whose entry was destroyed during the flight.

Personally, I was watching this whole thing through the eyes of an engineer. I was just wondering if anyone had any ideas about how to inject some engineering into gingerbread structures. One thing I was toying with, but couldn’t figure out was corregated gingerbread. There has to be some way to increase the strength of gingerbread walls. The other idea I was toying with was trying to introduce some sort of fiber into the dough. Sort of like adding fiberglass to cement.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to develop the edible transistor.

Being “edible” and being “flavorful” are not the same. With that understood, you need to find a hard food item that will not soften when baked in a cake batter. That probably leaves pasta out, but cinnamon sticks are edible, though not very easily, and they probably would withstand the rigor of baking. Try those for the upright supports.

For lateral support consider some long coarsely shredded cocoanut. The shreds will add fiber to help strengthen between the cinnamon supports.

Finally, use the same “glue” most bakers do: EGGS. The protein in the eggs serves as a wonderful binder for many baked items. Make sure the gingerbread recipe has plenty of eggs to glue it all together.

I wouldn’t try to eat it, but it should be a good test to see what your next step should be.

Keep us posted on how it turns out! :smiley:
(Yes, “Good Eats” is on my Christmas list.)

I’ve always wanted a corndog with an edible stick. Hard pretzel maybe?

I started watching a bit of that this year, but didn’t want to ruin it by not watching the whole thing start to finish.

Last year I saw the same special, and loved it.

The problem with strengthening some of the scenes as you called them is just that. Some are cutaway views of house, and you have the thin walls on only 3 sides and maybe a half roof.

If you were to take an architectural approach as one contestant did last year and actually make houses, then you could include non decorational, but purely functional (for strength) inner cross members for construction.

As I am understanding from last year’s show, there are different categories they are ranked in, and one is strength. Some others are intriguing use of materials, and general audience appeal to the scene or house itself.

If you watch a TV program on gingerbread houses

and the first thing that comes to mind is “how could you increase the load strength of those pastry walls?”

then you might be an engineer! :^)

BTW, carmalized sugar is very strong (peanut brittle without the peanuts).

Ken’s got a point… carmelized sugar is what a lot of people use to ‘strengthen’ in contests like this, or even to decorate. I remember watching a Food Network special a while back that was done completely with sugar, with a Cirque de Soleil theme to it. Very cool, and crazy to see the kind of statues they could put together.

I’ve also seen people do this with peppermint sticks, cinnamon sticks, etc. It’s possible. I’ve also seen a graham cracker house with a cheesecake roof and chocolate shavings for shingles… needless to say it collapsed from weight, but was still delicious. :slight_smile:

Has anyone else ever put those little school lunch milk cartons inside a graham cracker house for support?

I saw that same special and I was amazed by the winning Gingerbread Scene.

All this speak of structural candy gave me an idea. Let’s say we have a highly viscous caramel. If we heat it up and drizzle it onto a piece of wax paper, we can make a mesh. Then, we take this mesh and sandwich it between two thin sheets of gingerbread. Rebake at low temperature for a little while and we have corregated gingerbread.

how about melting the hard candy into a mold and then using that?

What a fascinating topic…

From what I’ve seen on various cooking contests, sugar can be used for lots of things you never would have dreamed of, but of course you’d have to be a professional to attempt half of it.

sciguy125 had a good point. As long as you keep the gingerbread light, then you can be a lot more creative with the things you use for support. But then you have to make sure it’s not too thin… it’s like building a robot all over again!

If anyone tries anything like this, make sure to post pictures! I wish I knew more about cooking so I can try, too.

That gingerbread competition is held every year at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC. My wife’s family is from Asheville and it had been a family tradition to visit the Grove Park gingerbread displays every year at Christmas. Sadly, my wife’s last remaining grandparent passed away a two years ago so we haven’t made the trek to Asheville for the last two years. We really miss the gingerbread displays and if you are ever in Asheville this time of year a visit to the historic Grove Park Inn would be well worth your time. Now we look forward to the Food Network special each year. Unfortunately, as with most TV coverage they never give enough time to the truly outstanding entrees in the youth category. The kids have the best displays hands down. The adult categories are better built, more detailed, etc. but I much prefer the kids stuff. Don’t kid yourself, the adult category is very serious stuff. Some of those folks are just as passionate about their gingerbread as we are about FIRST. Some of those folks eat, breath, and sleep their gingerbread and do it 365 days a year. If there is a better way to make gingerbread more structurally sound they have found it. Did you see the guy that made the functioning carousel using the power tools on his gingerbread? I mean really! A belt sander and a scroll saw on gingerbread? From what I have seen over the years the big problem isn’t so much the gingerbread itself as it is the glue that holds all the parts together.

I wonder why nobodys tried elmers? It’s “edible” from what I understand. At least paste is.

you know what would be really awesome? Make a ginger bread house with one of those 12W light-bulb replacement florescent lights inside

and decorate it with jelly beans and gum drops and lolly pop windows, so that when you turn the light inside the house on, all the candy glows from the inside (like christmas lights)

with a florescent light it should not get warm enough to be a problem.