Who could blame Hansel and Gretel for taking a big bite out of the gingerbread house they stumbled across in the woods? Sure, there’s a mean-tempered witch inside, waiting to take her own big bite out of the children, but come on — look at those chocolate chips! That peanut brittle! Those sparkly, colorful gumdrops! It’s impossible to resist.
Rest assured, there are no wicked witches at Pairings in Maine’s first Gingerbread House Competition, set for 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, at the restaurant and cooking school on Route 1 in downtown Winterport. In-house educator and chef Laurie Turner, along with Montes International Catering pastry guru Carmen Montes, spent November holding gingerbread-house-making classes for kids and adults, some of whose work will be entered into the competition.
“We’ve already got some really amazing submissions for the competition,” said Turner. “People have used everything from shredded wheat to ribbon candy. And bowl after bowl of royal icing. That’s the cement.”
The $20 entry fee for the competition goes straight to Manna Ministries, to help with its holiday food drives, as does the cost of the ticket to the actual event ($15 for individuals, $25 for couples, $40 for families of four or more). Houses can be entered in five categories: traditional, fantasy, historical, a category for professional bakers and a category for bakers under age 17. All houses will be raffled off after the winners have been selected.
Turner hopes the competition becomes an annual event.
“A lot of people are really interested in it, not just because it’s something the family can do together, but because it’s for a good cause,” she said.
The history of the edible holiday construction goes back to the 17th century, with Germany being the hub for the fine art of gingerbread architecture. The city of Nuremberg became famous for Lebkuchen, one of the first forms of what we traditionally know as gingerbread. Highly intricate houses, as well as wreaths, hearts and angels were sold at markets during Christmastime. The idea of the “Hexenhaeusle,” or “Witches’ House” stems from this tradition — hence its role in the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale.
In the competition at Pairings, participants have made various kinds of houses, as well as a few replicas of Maine landmarks.
“We’ve got chalets, barns, inns. We’ve got the West Quoddy Lighthouse. People have gotten really creative,” said Turner.
Pairings’ Gingerbread House Competition takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, at the restaurant at 279 Main St. (Route 1) in Winterport. To sign up for the event, call 223-0990. For more information, visit www.pairingsinmaine.com.