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Gingerbread mania -- do you feel it?


Bill Yosses's White (Chocolate) House. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Petula Dvorak's fun profile today of a Chesterton family with a tradition of making elaborate gingerbread buildings had me almost — but not quite — pulling out my pastry bags and tweezers and rushing out to buy gel paste coloring, squirt bottles, dragees, ribbons and the like.


The gingerbread White House includes a rendition of the famous kitchen garden. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Instead, I decided to virtually admire other, more professional gingerbread houses, such as the stunning one White House pastry chef Bill Yosses made to resemble his workplace, the most famous house in America. This year's additions include a window into the state dining room (no Salahis in sight, thankfully); a take on the much-lauded kitchen garden (my favorite piece: the little carrot tops poking out of the "ground"); and, right in front, the first dog, Bo.

It's of course a lot easier — and less messy — to ogle other people's work from the safety of your office chair than to dive in and try to make one of these structures yourself. The Murrays that Dvorak wrote about, for instance, long ago realized that it would be best to do their architectural baking from the safety of a neighbor's kitchen. This year, it's an unoccupied rental. No worries about making their own cooking space unworkable while the project comes together. Smart.

If, unlike me, you are so inspired by the Murrays (or by this blog post) that you decide to start building this year, I do have some help for you. If you can get it in time, I highly recommend truly the coolest book on the topic I've ever seen: "The Gingerbread Architect: Recipes and Blueprints for Twelve Classic American Homes," by London-based architect Susan Matheson and professional baker Lauren Chattman. We perused this when it came through the office last year and marveled at the concept: instructions for a traditional Cape Cod house, urban brownstone, Santa Fe pueblo and more.


Raenne Hytone's snowflake ballroom from 2007. (Julia Ewan — The Washington Post)

If you'd rather start smaller, try one of the decorative gingerbread projects we've featured in our annual cookie issue over the past few years: last year's snowflake cookie wreath and sleigh from Heather Chittum, or 2007's gingerbread party couple and snowdust ballroom from Raeanne Hytone (scroll down below the cookie gallery), both with step-by-step instructions, recipe links and templates. Or look at this piece the Sunday Source had about a gingerbread house party a few years back, complete with recipes and sourcing tips.

Once you've made yours, send it in to our holiday spread photo gallery, so others can appreciate your handiwork. Or, if you're like me and mainly into ogling, head to Mount Vernon, where former White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier's gingerbread model of George Washington's home is on display until Jan. 6. If that doesn't inspire you to bake, nothing will. And that's perfectly okay.

— Joe Yonan

By Joe Yonan  |  December 29, 2009; 1:15 PM ET
 | Tags: Christmas, Joe Yonan, New Year's, cookbooks, cookies  
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