By Sarah Wright
Photo courtesy Amy Knapp
They call her “Gingerbread Amy” due to her passion for building gingerbread houses. Actually, Amy Knapp’s husband started calling her that when their home became overrun by the sweet constructions. Looking around at all those gingerbread houses gave Amy and her husband an idea. Amy’s husband, Geordy Hutchinson, has been a member of the Friends of Abenaki for years, so they put their heads together and decided to share the beautiful gingerbread creations with a larger audience while raising money for the organization. (Friends of Abenaki helps maintain the local ski hill and trail network.) The holiday season is fast-approaching, and an event to celebrate gingerbread houses would be a wonderful addition to Wolfeboro’s Christmas festivities.
Amy will create dozens of holiday gingerbread houses to put on display at the Gingerbread House Jubilee on Friday, December 8 from 6 pm to 8 pm in the General Wolfe Barn on 518 South Main Street in Wolfeboro. Anyone is welcome to bring their own gingerbread house creation that afternoon to add to the display. The event is free, but there will be a silent auction of the houses to benefit Friends of Abenaki. An event for the whole family, kids can enjoy photo ops with Santa and local favorite from the town’s Christmas Parade—Winni Bear. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy the season than to be surrounded by holiday music and gingerbread houses while enjoying coffee, hot cocoa, and desserts. There’s even going to be a chocolate fountain!
What started Amy’s love for all things gingerbread? Amy remembers building her first gingerbread house when she was about eight years old, with her mother. “My mother was born on Christmas Day,” says Amy, “and making gingerbread houses together was something we began doing every year.” As Amy grew older, she “fell away from it for a while,” until years later when she started making gingerbread houses again with her own daughters. Now she makes the houses year-round. Her mother lives with her for part of the year, and still enjoys seeing Amy carry on the tradition.
“During the last 12 months, I’ve made tons of houses,” says Amy. “I give them away as gifts to friends and family, or to businesses for their holiday displays.” She’s shipped them all around the country as well. Since Amy makes them throughout the year, she’s started incorporating seasonal themes, making houses for spring, summer, and fall. “I recently made a birthday gingerbread house for a cousin,” says Amy. I asked Amy how she preserves her creations, and while she sometimes uses a spray lacquer, she says that just keeping it in an airtight container works well.
Amy has also started offering workshops to teach others about the art of gingerbread house building. Class size is limited for these fun classes, and locations vary. I struggle with my own gingerbread houses, so I asked Amy for her best tips on house construction, and here is what she’s learned over the years. “Bake the gingerbread thoroughly, so it’s not too soft,” she says, “Even if it’s a little burned on the edges, that’s better than having it fall apart.” Amy has an inexpensive, easy-to-memorize recipe for her own gingerbread, that doesn’t involve eggs. “I find that it creates a better gingerbread for making houses,” says Amy. Another important tip that makes sense is to decorate the pieces while they’re flat. That way, you won’t have anything sliding down as it dries. But most of all, Amy says, “Have fun! Love what you create!”
The rules for the Jubilee are simple. Houses must be constructed on a 10-inch round, not extending beyond that diameter. There will be two divisions of gingerbread house. In the traditional or “just gingerbread” division, houses must be made using only gingerbread and royal icing. (Powdered sugar and granulated sugar may be used for decorating.) In the open division, houses can be decorated with candy. Amy will allow other adhesives besides royal icing to be used in the open division, but the rest of the house must be edible. Houses can be dropped off at the Barn between 3 pm and 5 pm on December 8. Amy is hoping for close to 100 houses in total!
Amy also has a special house planned to place in the window of Yankee Pedlar Realtors at 12 North Main Street in Wolfeboro sometime after Thanksgiving, so keep your eyes out for it! (Yankee Pedlar is sponsoring the Jubilee.) For further information about the Gingerbread House Jubilee, or to check Amy’s upcoming schedule of gingerbread workshops, visit www.gingerbreadamy.com which connects to her Facebook page. Amy’s husband Geordy jokes that she’ll be teaching Gingerbread 101 at Dartmouth someday. I would probably take that course, as my gingerbread house skills are lacking! Perhaps I’ll try my hand at it again this holiday season, after finding some inspiration at the Gingerbread House Jubilee.