On December 13th I posted about our new tradition building gingerbread buses around the holidays. In that post, I mentioned that we would take on the project again this year. Like last year, we set our sights on making two buses, a bay window modeled after Moby and the pattern’s intended split window.
The project started out very smoothly; we used a little heavier paper for the patterns and I had more success using an exact-o knife rather than scissors when cutting them out. We decided to select a new gingerbread recipe because the one used last year produced very sticky dough and the cookies puffed a fair amount when baked. The search for the new recipe focused more on good construction qualities in the gingerbread rather than edibility and we found one that people extolled upon its superior house building capabilities. The dough turned out neither sticky nor crumbly and produced fantastic bus parts. Unfortunately, the pieces still puffed quite a bit when baked. I think this phenomenon is not very problematic when building houses but the puffing shrinks the small window openings and makes aligning the bus components challenging to say the least. I am tempted next year to just bake large squares of gingerbread and use a dremel tool to cut out bus parts, but I digress. To minimize the puffing, I tried rolling the dough very thin for the split window. With the dough rolled and pieces cut and baked, we took a week off to celebrate the holidays and do the required traveling to see our extended families.
Upon our return, we found the cookie bus parts a little softer than when they were fresh and now required very careful handling to prevent bending and breaking. We were very happy with the molten sugar glue we used last year and felt no need to change now. The sugar cools and hardens relatively quickly, bonds tightly, and turns an appropriate brown. The only issues with this glue are the little blisters it leaves when it comes in contact with skin and the need to work fairly quickly. The latter requires some forethought because once the sugar is melted, there are no coffee breaks! It is very easy to get parts reversed and I highly recommend leaving the paper patterns over the cookie parts so you know what is what. I also suggest cutting the sides of the bus as mirror images so the finished cookie side always faces out. The bay window bus went together quickly; the newly acquired flexibility compensated for the irregularities caused by the puffing. After constructing the body of the bus, we find it helpful to let the bus sit and the sugar cool completely before we start attaching wheels and pop tops. While the bay rested, we began work on the split window. At this point problems with the gingerbread began to surface. These parts were made thinner in order to reduce puffing during baking and, therefore, made these components more flexible than the bay’s. After completing three sides of the split window and maneuvering to attach the roof, she fell apart. After one attempt to reassemble we gave up, the thin gingerbread lacked the required structural integrity.
A little disappointed, we moved back to the bay window, quickly attaching the wheels, sliding door, and pop top. Deciding it best to take a rest, we left the newly constructed bus on the dining table to await decorations while we cleaned hardened sugar drops in the kitchen. That is when gravity took over. Turns out the thicker bay window cookie pieces were only slightly more stable than the split bus parts. While I will let the pictures speak for themselves, I must say that the self-destruction took place over the course of 7 hours or so. It reminded me of watching junked cars rot out in bone yards. Who knows, if we had snow, two sick kids, and cabin fever this year we just may have come up with a parts bus diorama but with no snow, two healthy kids, and too much to do, we simply put it in the crusher. Next year will be our year for success!