My mom and I made gingerbread houses all the time when I was a kid. She got books from the library to teach herself how to do it (no wonder she’s a librarian). I took to it rather quickly and immediately started making plans and designing my own houses, this was probably a big influence on me becoming an architect. My mom has long since abandoned the process and of course now – I CAN’T STOP. I feel the need to carry on the tradition by myself.
My gingerbread houses are big, elaborate, and always always require plans and elevations. This year I decided to make a Mochi Factory in honor of The Food Librarian since she and I both love mochi. After all, we just made 150 pounds of it for goodness sakes.
Someday she and I are going to quit our jobs and open our own mochi store. Someday. You all will be our customers, right? Because our store will be just like this and be totally edible.
To start this mochi factory I worked on tons of design sketches. This is just one of many that I did, where I’m trying to figure out dimensions:
I like to work my design around shapes sizes, proportion to candy – etc. Much like actual construction, there comes a time when you have to move from rough design to working drawings. So when I finally got a design that seemed doable, I printed out the plans/pieces to scale:
Then I built a paper model. Yes, I know. It’s stupidly extreme, but I get a good sense of what will work and what won’t. I found a few flaws in my design that I ended up having to change.
Then I mixed up the gingerbread dough, and using the paper model (broken apart) as a template, I cut out the walls. I’m not sure why those Star Wars action figures are looking on over by the orange bowl…
Once the walls are cut out they are baked then left to cool on a wire rack. I leave them to dry overnight. You heard me. I like to make sure these walls are rock solid.
Ok, are you interested in construction? Here’s how it works. First I make up a batch of fairly stiff royal icing, and place it in a piping bag. If you don’t have an extra pair of hands, which I never do – use a glass to help you stand up the first wall, and ‘glue’ it into place.
Here’s the trick, use candy sticks or candy canes to hold up the interiors of your walls. Just like in real construction, the added weight of the facade i.e. candy will be hefty and you don’t want these suckers to fall down:
Complete the construction of all the walls and the roof. Now since this is an atypical gingerbread ‘house’, there is no slanted roof to help support itself. The flatness of the roof is a PAIN and required a lot of candy stick trickery, etc. Remember that kids, flat roofs are lame.
At the last second I decided to make the conveyor belt continue up the side of the house. I thought it would make the house more ‘factory-like’ and not so boxy. I tried out my idea of using little half cut mini marshmallows as ‘mochi’…
Now that the shell is assembled…I let it dry overnight. YES AGAIN. Stick with me folks, I promise it’s worth it….
I’m going to be honest with you. I usually use about TWICE as much candy, but this year my budget is, well, non-existent and I had to make do. My goal is always to make sure that NO gingerbread is showing. I like to cover these things entirely in candy AND make the whole thing edible no matter what. It’s a tough feat, believe it or not.
I decided to go with a simple facade that wrapped around the building. ‘Simple’ is relative in terms of candy. I always frame all the openings, windows and doors, to give it a more finished look, candy sticks and licorice are always good for this job.
For the tall roof I laid out chocolate licorice, and the shorter roof was made of grape nerds. The factory smoke stacks didn’t turn out as planned, but let’s give me a break by saying that it was storming while I was building this thing and the weather was REALLY uncooperative. There was actually cotton candy ‘smoke’ that was also supposed to come out of those smokestacks. Amd what’s a mochi factory without a goldfish pond, right?
Right at the end I added a ‘banner’ made out of a fruit roll up and I hand piped the words “MOCHI FACTORY”.
All in all I was pretty pleased with the outcome of this factory. There are things I definitely would have done differently, but I really liked the conveyor belt concept the best. I’ll have to incorporate that into something else…maybe next year’s? What am I thinking. Yikes.
**for WAY better pictures, go to the Food Librarian’s website, HERE.