Candy makes everyone feel like a kid again. Playing with it and making a mess? Even better. A gingerbread house building holiday party will put a playful new twist on your holiday gathering.
What is gingerbread?
Gingerbread first appeared in Europe in 992! Like most good things in the dark ages, the delicious tradition was preserved by monks, who handed down the recipe and method over the years.
Ginger — a new flavor from the Far East — had important health benefits. But gingerbread may have carried on over those years for a more interesting reason. Ginger kept the bread fresh longer. Good to know when you are trying to figure out what to do with leftovers!
In many place in Europe, they are called witches houses because of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. This story was the impetus for turning gingerbread from a tummy soothing biscuit into the colorful candy-coated houses we know and love today.
Get everyone psyched about the contest in your holiday party invite. Use an evite with a gingerbread design and explain the idea. At the party, everyone gets a block of “land” and “building materials” to create their own edible architectural masterpiece. Once everyone has made their house, arrange them around the room or on the dining table and hold a secret ballet. The winner can take home the extra candy!
Each of your guests should bring a bag or two of candy — nothing special, just jellies, candy canes, or non-pareils. (You can ask people to RSVP with what type of candy they are bringing if you are worried about balance.)
To make things really easy on yourself, you can just provide graham crackers to make the houses. But if you are feeling ambitious, by all means, make real gingerbread! There are many kits available and I’ll post by best friend’s gingerbread recipe later this week if you want to make your houses from scratch.
Your engineer friend may have a hidden talent for decoration even he isn’t aware of, while someone else’s daughter may be a clear structural engineer in the making with her gingerbread mansion!
Dry finger foods are ideal for a gingerbread making party. You don’t want to serve foods that will make a mess on guests workspace of get reside on their hands.
Honor gingerbread’s French origins with a simple charcuterie plate. You can get everything pre-made, making for a super simple soiree on your part.
- baguettes (one per three people)
- pate (duck with port is divine, pate de campagne is hearty)
- sliced spicy sausage (chorizo or soppresata)
- thinly sliced cured meat (prosciutto, culatello or mortadella)
- three cheeses (one hard, one brie or blue, one soft goat)
- whole grain mustard
- fig or apricot preserves
- cornichons (tiny french gherkin pickles)
Prepare your gingerbread house building area. Each guest will need a square or rectangle of cardboard covered with aluminum foil as the base of their house and a knife for frosting. Set out bowls for the candy your guests are bringing.
On another table, arrange the nibbles and drinks with little plates and party napkins. You can pre-slice the baguettes or set them out with a cutting board and bread knife. Arrange the pate, sliced meats, and cheeses on another cutting board and spoon the mustard, preserves, olives, and pickles into little bowls.
Set out some red wine with the food, anything from this year’s Beaujolais to a light Cotes de Rhone to a vintage Bordeaux. Keep some port in reserve to have with dessert (gingerbread cookies — mais oui!), for a perfect time-honored seasonal pairing.
I’ll be holding a gingerbread contest at my holiday party this year. If you have any tips to add, I’d love to hear them below.