Nothing says holiday merriment like forced fun, team building and competitive gingerbread making, amirite?
Here at The Incline, we — and by we, I mean Editor Lexi Belculfine — were delighted to see Nova Place, home to our coworking space in Alloy 26, was hosting a gingerbread house competition.
“Let’s enter,” we said. “It will be great,” we said.
It was fine! Maybe even better than fine, if we win prizes at the Nova Place holiday party on Dec. 13! In the meantime, here’s what our team learned about trying to make an iconic Pittsburgh hillside out of gingerbread and other treats.
1. Engineering classes would have been very helpful.
Or any math skills, presumably. We used a free kit from Nova Place as the building anchoring the track. The patterns for the hills, track and inclines were cut from cardboard in a most unceremonious and unscientific manner. There were a lot of angles involved! And yet, no measurements were taken, and everything worked out just fine thanks to this great Food Network recipe.
2. Melted white chocolate and rice cakes reign supreme.
A special shout out goes to Chloe Belculfine, who expertly helped her sister navigate Giant Eagle’s candy and baking aisles. Shaved coconut? Check. Mini Sno Caps? A must. After a brief perusal of Google’s recommendations for building great gingerbread houses, melted white chocolate became piping to hold everything together.
At the last minute, we also stuffed iced rice cakes between the two hill sides for reinforcement. The hills, we should add, were two gingerbread sheets “glued together” with white chocolate.
3. Use all parts of the buffalo.
With no time to run to the store again and supplies running low, we got savvy. The Incline’s Sales and Events Manager Lindsey Van der Veer melted down our remaining mini marshmallows to adhere the hillsides to the rice cake innards. Then she used shaved coconut “snow” to cover all of our sins. (Also, the cardboard base is from the box that delivered our Who’s Next: Politics plaques.)
4. Steady hands are essential.
Of course, our entry came in just minutes under the wire, entering at about 1:20 p.m., as journalists adhere strictly to deadlines. Ten other houses, office scenes, and winter wonderlands were also entered in the competition. Our steepest rival, it seems, is this colossus from “Brad.” Will both Inclines stay attached to the base? Will The Incline defeat “Brad”? Stay tuned.
5. Do not eat the supplies.
You will get sick. Related: Enjoy Reporter/Curator Colin Deppen’s lovingly assembled food review of basically all of the parts of our gingerbread incline.
Extreme Junk Food, Gingerbread House edition
Gingerbread / inclines and hills
A close cousin to the gingerbread man, the walls of a ginger bread house are equally tasty. They also have the same vicarious thrill of eating something shaped like something else. Sweet and aromatic meets home demolition.
Rice cakes / stabilizers
As dry and bland as ever, but I kept eating them for some reason. Maybe because they remind me of summer camp and brown bag lunches and the ‘80s, when I was a child and people thought this was food. Surprisingly effective oral desiccant — “Gonna need more water. A lot more water.”
Mini triscuits / shingles
Looks like cereal, tastes like salty bread. (Question: “Is that what they mean by umami?” Answer: “No, no it isn’t.”) Toothsome, and I mean very toothsome. I caught the edge of one in the gums and now my incisor is loose. Nosh with caution.
Mini fillo shells / we didn’t actually use these, but we had them in the office from a free media kit ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Great texture. Uber flaky. And that’s about it, aside from a weird oily aftertaste. On their own, fillo shells prove that they should never be on their own.
Black licorice / tracks
Medicinal and unpleasant and perfumy. More fillo shells, please.
Mini Sno Caps / incline roof and house roof … gutters?
Good stuff but individually tiny – something like 40 pieces per serving — and a definite choking hazard. But they’re delish, so roll the dice.
Mini gumdrops / fence and hidden stabilizers under the inclines that may or may not fall off the hill, because we used zero math creating this
Sweetened coconut flakes / snow, of course
Not sure how this hasn’t caught on yet. This stuff is good. It’s got about as much sugar in it as a wedding cake and tastes like a tropical breeze. But it’s a mess and requires handling in pinches like Skoal — pinches that predictably spill everywhere.
White chocolate melts / piping
So smooth. So damn smooth.
Frosting / snow and piping
Texturally challenging on its own and — dare I say — too sweet. Not unlike eating a jar of vanilla wood putty. By this point my teeth are starting to ache.
Ghirardelli dark chocolate squares / house door
Yum. Sweet and bitter and brittle. Milk chocolate is officially dead to me.
Peppermints / bricks on the house
Bank lobby, workaday candy. Tastes like toothpaste, but my breath smells great — any newly formed cavities notwithstanding.