You’re going to need to make the gingerbread houses, invite a few people in advance, make some food, add wine, a few gifts and voilà! Joyeux Noël and try not to fall over and die from exhaustion.
For this year’s Lee Gingerbread House Party, we invited Kelly’s family, which included her, her husband, Min Hweh, and their son, Yoon Jae, whom my sister has nicknamed Genius Boy. “That word gets thrown around like a pair of rental ice skates,” you say. Tru-dat. So here’s an example: the boy can tell you the make and model of any car on the Gardner Expressway (the major freeway leading into downtown Toronto) as seen from the 23rd story window of his family condo; he’s three.
Now that in an of itself might not mean much–he’s go excellent skills of observation and recall–but it’s a brilliant (that’s another prostituted term but apt in this case) start. And plus he really likes me, my sister, and mom, which shows solid instincts and great taste in women.
So let’s get this party started. Here are three things to keep in mind. I’ve gathered these gems of advice after several years of Gingergread House Party throwing experience from my friend Laura’s and mine. I urge you to heed me well:
First, keep the party size small. Limit it to anywhere between 3 to 8 people. Anything more and you’ll need to make way too many houses, buy way too much candy, make way too much icing, and cook way too much food. And you will never want to do it again.
Second, serve some savory nibbles to nibble on. The small ocean of candy is a treat at first, but will soon become a cloying nuisance on the palette. You need a little salty. Keep the recipes for these savory apps simple, if you insist on making it yourself. Like I did for the most part. Since you put in so much effort making the houses, no one will fault you for heating up pre-made phyllo pastry apps from Trader Joe’s and setting out a pre-packaged crudités platter from Loblaws. But don’t get too much! Your guests will get caught up in creating their houses so there won’t nearly be as many trips to the apps buffet as you may expect during a typical cocktail party.
I made SAVEUR’s Artichoke Dip (forgot to take pictures), SAVEUR’s Swedish Dream Cookies, deviled eggs (again, forgot to take pics), and made-from-box Christmas cupcakes. I hate cupcakes on principle (they’re not that tasty, overpriced, over-hyped, and far too precious), but I thought the genius boy would love it (he didn’t really care one way or the other; I was impressed and a bit disappointed.) Turned out the dog loved it more–she ate nine of the dozen I iced, decorated, and set out on the cake platter before I caught on and put a stop to it. If you must know (and now you will cause I’m going to tell you) she pinched a bright green loaf the following day. I’m sure I’m not incorrect in attributing the color to the green icing that topped those cupcakes.
My mom insisted on something more substantial, so I also made a meat lasagna with a side of Asian style coleslaw. Turned out she was right about needing dinner. She’s always right. I only say those words in my head.
Third, make the gingerbread dough and houses in advance. And–this is important–make one batch at a time. For six houses you’ll have to make two batches of the gingerbread recipe and complete house making instructions, templates, and royal icing recipe.
I learned the hard way that trying to make two batches at once was a messy and nearly disastrous experience for me and my sister’s professional grade KitchenAid mixer. I started off hating that mixer until I learned to respect it’s limits. You can find the recipe and the gingerbread house pattern that I used here.
And that’s it! With the links to the recipes provided above and minding my advice culled from experience, you too can pull off a fabulous gingerbread house party.
Enjoy the rest of the holidays and, if you’re like my mom, start planning your candy decorations for your house and landscaping for 2012.
In the mean time, enjoy the Lee ladies’ gingerbread village. Houses by sis and mom; landscaping my yours truly.
For more photos, go to Flickr.