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Start a new holiday tradition with your family – build a gingerbread house

This year the 22nd Annual Gingerbread Wonderland is being held at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morris Township.  The annual event attracts more than 15,000 visitors each year who come to view over 200 creative, charming and inspiring gingerbread houses (not to mention completely edible but nibbling is not permitted).  Past entries have included houses inspired by Harry Potter, the White House and Santa’s Workshop.  If you have never visited the event, you are missing an enchanting afternoon.  However, do not just visit the Gingerbread House Wonderland – - start a new family tradition this year and build your very own gingerbread house with your family.  It is a great way to spend time together and celebrate the holidays.  Why not try it after Thanksgiving dinner when everyone is already home and looking for something fun to do.

To get you started, here are a few tips for building a gingerbread house:

  • Start small – You do not have to create a sky scrapper or a mansion your first time out.  Start with something small and then add buildings if you still feel creative.
  • Plan ahead – Look online for recipes for gingerbread and bake your pieces a few days in advance so that you have everything ready for construction day.  If you do not want to make the gingerbread pieces from scratch, you can find pre-made gingerbread kits and even gingerbread pieces in the store.
  • Use a variety of decorations – Piped icing is great but hard candies (in all shapes and sizes), liquorish, caramels, etc.  Visiting a “candy by the pound” store is a great way to find decorations for your gingerbread house.
  • Be careful with the roof – If you use heavy candies to decorate the roof, it may become too heavy for the walls to hold up.  Sometimes it is good to make the roof pieces a little thinner to decrease the weight but you must be careful there too as it could give way under the weight of heavy candies.
  • Make sure you have a good, sturdy base for the gingerbread house so that it is easy to move once you finish.

King Arthur Flour has a great online guide for baking, constructing and decorating gingerbread houses.  And, if you need some inspiration, visit the Gingerbread Wonderland on weekends beginning December 6 through December 15.  For more information, contact the Frelinghuysen Arboretum at 973-326-7601.

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