Take notes.

By Perri Ormont Blumberg
October 26, 2020
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Credit: The Omni Grove Park Inn

This year, we've got more downtime at home than we may be used to in saner, simpler times. There's been a whole lot of Dolly and a whole lot of knitting. Too much Zooming and perhaps not enough YouTube Zumba-ing. But now that the holiday season is fast approaching, we've got one fun activity we're antsing to add to our at-home activities list: Gingerbread house-making.

Credit: The Omni Grove Park Inn

For those of you looking for expert guidance as you embark on the culinary craft, we've got just the gingerbread guru for you—Carla Hall. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Asheville's Omni Grove Park Inn is revamping the 28th National Gingerbread House Competition. For one of the events, the Nashville native and celebrity chef, who is also serving as one of the resort's gingerbread house competition judges, will co-host their "Baking Spirits Bright: Gingerbread Making Class Series," a series of three pre-recorded video classes you can watch at your leisure through January 21. A portion of the $29 ticket for the tutorials—which you can buy here—goes to the American Culinary Federation's ACFEF’s Chef & Child Initiative.

Credit: The Omni Grove Park Inn

In preparation for all this festive baking and decorating, we asked Hall for her top tips in the fine art of building and baking your very own gingerbread house.

  1. Prep smart for baking. "To make sure your pieces stay flat when baking, sandwich your pieces between two baking sheets. Of course line the dough with a silicone mat to avoid sticking to the sheet," says Hall, noting that the added weight keeps the dough from rising too much to create an even surface.
  2. Position your roof wisely. "My co-host for episode one of The Omni Grove Park Inn’s 'Baking Spirits Bright: A Gingerbread Making Class Series,' Chef Geoff Blount, is an absolute expert at the structural design and blueprint of gingerbread houses. He taught me that you always want the roof to overhang the house a little so you have more options for decorations and that you want to use a cookie cutter to punch out your windows and doors for the cleanest lines possible," explains Hall.
  3. Don't forget to make extra dough for decorations. "When making gingerbread dough, always make extra for decorative elements on the house like shutters on the windows. Geoff also taught me if you run out of dough, consider saving the pieces you remove from the windows—cutting these in half creates easy shutters that you can bake along with the bigger pieces," shares Hall.
  4. Use a Ziploc bag for piping. "During the class I also ran out of piping bags but Geoff recommended I use a Ziploc bag for attaching the walls—snipping the end of the Ziploc makes for easy piping," offers Hall. The celeb chef also is a fan of covering her icing bowl with a clean, damp kitchen towel so that it doesn’t dry out before she needs to refill the piping or Ziploc bag.

We don't know about you, but all of these smart strategies have us more exicted than ever to get baking. You can download The Omni Grove Park Inn's gingerbread recipe cards here and their gingerbread digital toolkit here.

WATCH: Old Fashioned Gingerbread

Share with us: Are you big on decorating gingerbread houses every holiday season? If so, do you have a must-follow piece of advice to share?