There are few Christmas traditions I hold more dearly than gingerbread house projects with my friend Megan. If we’re in the same city for the holidays, we always get together and construct something grand.
We bake. We mix icing. We purchase far too many bags of assorted red and green candies. We sing and dance to Christmas music – Mariah Carey’s holiday album being our favourite – and we drink eggnog. Once we’re finished, we wrap ourselves in blankets and watch a Christmas movie on the couch, preferably with the fireplace blazing.
Some call it nerdy, we prefer “wholesome.”
Our gingerbread creations alway have themes; past projects include a Nutcracker stage, a scary house, and a decrepit old trapper’s cabin. That last one was my favourite – it even had an outhouse.
Craving tan tan noodles, I went to the Richmond Public Market for lunch. It didn’t take me long to find a bowl of tan tan at Noodles Daily, which offers all kinds of noodles, soup, dumplings, and wontons.
The man behind the counter spoke almost no English, but was SO welcoming to me. In trying to determine how spicy I’d like my noodles, he said said something along the lines of ‘chili,’ then opened up his fingers to mime big chilis and small ones. I mimed back that I’d like a small to medium-sized chili, and we were set. I’d go back to Noodles Daily just to say hi to this lovely man.
The noodles came in a bowl with sauce, chopped peanuts, and cilantro on top, and there was a separate bowl with a very strong, soy-based broth to pour over the noodles to loosen them up. This was just the kind of pre-Gingerbread food I was looking for – thick, nutty, toothsome, and a little bit spicy. The broth was rather strong, so I used very little of it, but the peanut sauce was just right. It came to under $7, which meant I had more than enough for dessert.
I picked up snacks for Megan and me at Pine House Bakery, which is on the first floor of the market. I chose various versions of cocktail and pineapple buns, and in doing so, FOUND MY FAVOURITE CHINESE BAKED GOOD OF ALL TIME.
It was basically just a cocktail bun FULL of coconut, with the crackly, buttery top of a pineapple bun. Seriously, I’m in love. I ate a whole one on the way home, and barely managed to keep Megan’s intact for her. I will be back for these things over, and over, and over again.
I also got the pastry with pumpkin, though the interior was a little too gelatinous for my liking, and the pineapple bun filled with BBQ pork. It was very sweet and saucy, and really just made me wish I had another pineapple/cocktail bun. If you’re a fan of butter, coconut, and carbs, you should absolutely, most definitely, positively go to Pine House and pick up a box.
Once I was home, we got to planting this year’s theme: a gingerbread forest. It was half fir / half spruce, in case you’re wondering.
Making gingerbread trees is really quite easy; we purchased a variety of star cookie cutters, and punched shapes out of this simple dough recipe.
We baked them, let them cool, and spread them with royal icing. Then we sprinkled on green sanding sugar, and stacked them up.
Globs of icing acted as the trunk, and once it dried, the trees were pretty darn sturdy.
Finally, we attempted to construct a small gingerbread cabin in the woods, leading to yet another Meg and Linds Holiday Tradition: our annual difficulty with A-frame roofs.
Each year we think we’ve got it, and each year – with the exception of that time we used a kit – we struggle. Yesterday we resorted to slapping a flat roof on our forest dwelling, and covering it with some peppermints. Due to its squat, pragmatic design, decided it can be Post-Apocalyptic Gingerbread Bunker. Look at that thing – it’s impenetrable.
Later in the early evening, thanks to several large handfuls of coconut, it snowed. Our creation complete, Meg and I retired to the living room, cozied up on the couch, and watched the timeless holiday classic, Home Alone.
Boy did we chuckle at Kev’s shenanigans. And Joe Pesci? What a foolish, gold-toothed robber.
I’m now full of eggnog, one too many leftover cookies, and am 100% in the Christmas spirit. Thanks to Noodles Daily for providing fuel for our forestry project; to the Pine House Bakery for the 5lbs I’ll gain from eating dozens of coconut/pineapple buns in the upcoming weeks, and to Megan for being the best gingerbread-making-partner I could ever ask for. Here’s to many more houses, cabins, forests, and ‘nog!
Vegetarian options available