Gingerbread houses of the world

You may remember my call to arms a few weeks ago, encouraging everyone to make their own gingerbread houses. Well a few people actually took me seriously. Here are the results.
I received a lovely email from @NordicNibbler attaching a photo of this beautiful gingerbread house with a very sweet story behind it. Can't believe a 4 year old made this - how clever! Nordic Nibbler says:
Greetings from a cold and snowy Norway!
What a great idea to have a global gingerbread house bake-off! Here in Norway, it's such a popular tradition, and all the shops sell ready made dough, making it even easier. In fact, I believe that Bergen, on the West Coast of Norway, is home to the world's largest gingerbread town!
I thought I'd send in a picture of a pepperkake (gingerbread) house that my eldest daughter (age 4) made from scratch with her grandmother. We're moving house soon, and my daughter has been a touch apprehensive about the move, so naturally her gingerbread house is modelled on our new house. She even picked out her room (top left).
The gingerbread house challenge kicked off with my gorgeous friends in Sydney getting together to create this amazing luxury village situated around a tennis court. Carrie, Lyndi & Elysia I am so proud! Here's Carrie's report: After a full day of gingerbread baking on Friday that went into the early hours of Saturday, then a quick baking session for extra panels on Saturday morning, plus a full day of construction and decorating on Sunday - we did it!!!!
We have the photos to prove we all successfully baked and constructed our very own gingerbread houses! (or in Elysia's case a mansion, modelled on the house from Home Alone).
We all agree that our houses reflect our personalities! Elysia: the practical design for the adult, Lynds: (despite a well supported sagging roof) a well organised practical and ordered homeand my slightly chaotic but girly candy house with accessories galore. My neighbours are jealous and I will be leading another session soon with them!!
In London, at the home of passionate foodie Can Be Bribed With Food, gingerbread baked, mulled wine was "sipped" and this amazing creation was the result. Complete with a pen full of chickens and rabbits out the back I'm told!

Not to be out done by her sister Lyndi in Sydney, Jen & her husband Richard in China took up the gingerbread challenge. I have no idea why, because once I read Jen's email about all the obstacles they faced, I know I would surely have given up - in fact I feel guilty for even encouraging them to do it! You must take a look at this incredible feat as told by Jen:
Well, firstly can I say that Rich and I were inspired by your blog and by all the participation in Sydney, and that's why we decided to join in the gingerbread challenge from Shanghai! I hope you had fun in London on the weekend. Let's just say we had some up's and down's and this was a much bigger challenge than I first thought it would be!
Rich and I have never made gingerbread houses before. We had a few additional hurdles that we didn't expect.
Challenge 1 - ingredients
Sourcing ingredients isn't as easy as first thought. There was no ground ginger, so we used fresh (finely chopped!). There was no SR flour, so we added ingredients to plain flour (which ultimately ruined our dough because it now tastes overly salty so we can't enjoy our tasty creations!). The icing sugar was rock hard (had clearly been exposed to something) which meant grating chunks of it with a cheese grater (below) and bashing it with a wooden spoon in the saucepan (above - the icing sugar was like a brick and was so hard it wouldn't bend!).
Challenge 2 - Our oven
In general, Chinese people don't do a lot of baking. Our apartment comes with a toaster oven (see photo below for size). We decided to bake about three times the amount required for one house (because Rich being Rich doesn't do things half heartedly and wanted to make sure there was enough dough for his China Pavillion!). He started the epic journey on Thursday at 2:30pm in between conference calls. 20 trays (10 batches in the oven) later, plus a break for dinner, the dough was cooked and cooled by 10:30pm.
Challenge 3 - decorating
The hard ingredients also meant any time we wanted to make the thick icing, we had to grate another packet. I think we went through a lot more than you might expect! When we went to buy things like toblerone and other typical chocolates we were faced with Chinese gummis and other sorts of things. We ended up going with Twizzlers (American), Pocky Sticks (Japanese) and some other random stuff!
All in all, we had a great time. Next year we might skip it, and when we get back to Sydney and Rich has his extra large oven and kitchen back, we will smash it!
We decided to make one house using your template and something Chinese. What better than the Chinese Pavilion from the world expo which recently visited Shanghai for 6 months! The Chinese characters say Zhong guo which is 'China'. The blue gumby looking thing is the expo mascot called Haibao. Rich doesn't do anything half heartedly - for New Years celebrations last year he spent 9hrs in the kitchen making his first Master Chef inspired crouq en bouche. [P.S. Jen, I showed someone this photo at our supper club and they instantly recognised the Chinese Pavilion AND mascot! Lex]
Happy browsing through the photos. Thanks for inspiring us to spend our weekend being creative! (we did get takeaway that night because we were NOT cooking!).
New York
My best friend Melissa, who lives in New York (and who wrote this guest post last year about her amazing Thanksgiving feast) made this gorgeous gingerbread lodge! Here is Mel's report:

I am exhausted? I seriously don?t know where you have the energy to do this all the time! I started constructing my house at 8:00pm last night and didn?t start decorating until 9:45pm. It took me two hours and two bags of Royal Icing to decorate the house! Am I really slow?
It was meant to be a New York, West Village Brownstone in winter?.but it turned out more like an Aspen log cabin! I had so much fun and kept thinking of better ideas as I was going? I can?t wait for gingerbread house 2011!

Thanks so much for all you lovely people who took part - honestly, receiving your emails and seeing your photos made me so chuffed!
It's not too late to make yours (instructions here) & send me a pic!

Stay tuned because I'll be posting about the two supper clubs we held which resulted in 26 beautiful gingerbread houses leaving our apartment, made by our lovely (and very proud) guests!

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