'Tis the season! In this special holiday edition of Blue Ribbon Hunter, we traveled to Asheville, NC for the National Gingerbread House Competition at the Grove Park Inn. But there was a lot more on display than just gingerbread houses. Works of gingerbread art came in all shapes and sizes, from toy chests, to sleighs, to people! In order to qualify, each creation had to be 100% edible, and 75% gingerbread. Judges walked from exhibit to exhibit with flashlights so that they could look inside each of the houses to see if they were furnished, and even used drills to test that the core of the piece was indeed gingerbread. The winner was Ashley Howard who made a replica of the shoe from the classic nursery rhyme, "There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe". The entire boot was made out of one seamless piece of gingerbread, and every room inside the shoe was fully furnished. There was even an edible bubble bath on the top floor! It's no wonder that this is the third time Ashley has won this competition.
If you love gingerbread but don't have the time to make a house, here is a great (and simple!) recipe to make gingerbread men! Or, if you are feeling ambitious, you can use this same recipe to bake the gingerbread squares you would need to make a house.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (optional)
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and molasses and mix thoroughly until combined, about 1 minute.
2. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and ginger. Whisk together until incorporated. Add the flour mixture and mix on slow speed until incorporated.
3. Divide dough into two disks. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate until it's firm enough to roll, at least 45 minutes and up to four days.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to ¼ inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to create shapes in the dough, and peel away the excess. [Note: You can refrigerate the dough scraps and reroll]. Place cookies 2 inches apart on baking sheets and bake for 12 minutes. Cool on wire racks.
5. Put powdered sugar in a large plastic bag. Add cooled gingerbread cookies to the sugar, a few at a time, and coat. Tap off excess sugar and serve. Gingerbread cookies will keep in an airtight container for 1 week.
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