Every year I make a gingerbread structure for Christmas. The first year I did this, it was a simple house, with the inspiration taken from a lovely one I saw on www.epicurious.com. (The recipe is here, although they don't have a picture anymore.) I liked the simplicity of the house - it has no candy stuck to it, merely pretty icing "gingerbread" piped along the roof, and windows and doors outlined in icing as well.
The next time I got a little more daring, and created a "Sweet Shop" - a cookie house with the windows stuffed with (again, piped royal icing) cakes, trays of cookies, and jars of candy. The back door had a sign reading "Tradesmen's entrance".
The following year was even better: "Drosselmeier's Toys". I really pulled out all the stops for this one. The windows displayed kites, tin soldiers, bicycles, model aeroplanes, marionettes, dolls, yo-yos, and more. I used my trusty number 2 tip to pipe a little dog's silhouette against the building, looking up at the windows. It was SO FUN to do this one, especially since I had learned from my last couple of attempts, and was turning out more delicately designed and better executed structures. I did take pictures of my houses, but they seem to all be lost - except one of the Sweet Shop, seen here:
I took a year or so off, when my daughters were too young to understand that they couldn't touch, eat, or, even more disastrously, help with the gingerbread house. The last structure I did, a year ago, was a U-Cut Christmas Tree Farm - more rustic, less pretty, but definitely faster and less work than the others. (Although, getting all those little gingerbread trees to stand up in little puddles of royal icing was fairly arduous - lots of propping and waiting involved.)
This year, I came up with a pretty good idea for my cookie art around the middle of October. I perused "Off the Beaten Path", at www.cookiecutter.com, and found the perfect set, which I ordered as soon as I saw it. It arrived in plenty of time, and last week I started mixing, chilling, rolling and baking. I didn't blog about the process, because I wanted to present it to you as a fait accompli, in all its cookie glory. So, forgive the multitude of pictures, but I hope you enjoy them anyhow.
Not much detail visible here, but you can see the scope of it better.
The caboose, with vintage Little People inside. See how happy they are?
Those little signals beside the tracks read "Caution" and "Falling Rock Candy".
The other sides of the cars have also been decorated. The caboose reads
North Pole Candyworks
PASSENGER SVC TO:
A more-or-less front view of the train. I tried to find a Playmobil engineer but there was none to be had. I had to settle for Madeline, sans hat. Note that she is standing on a piece of Turkish Delight - cargo overflow from the freight car just forward of the caboose. You can also see that the rear of the engine is filled with Panda Licorice "coal".
Above, a view of the coal, and the first two freight cars. One is stuffed with almond bark and peanut brittle, and the sign reads "Watch for loose or falling bark". (You can tell I am from BC, where dodging loose and falling bark is practically part of the drivers' test. It's all the old-growth logs we keep selling to the East and the South, shedding as they are transported.) The other simply reads "North Pole Candy - 1 - NPR" and is full of foil-wrapped chocolate twonies and loonies.
A close-up of the engine car, and a better shot of the stand of trees at the edge of the board. The signs read "Caution" and "SLOW - Chocolate Slide Ahead". Note the eerily rock-looking rock candy.
Here you can see the third freight car, full of Turkish Delight, and chocolate-covered blueberries and cherries.
And, a last view of the caboose, having just passed a well-marked street crossing.
Now, all I have to do is come up with a better one for next year.