The majesty of holiday gingerbread displays

Resort at Squaw Creek features a life-sized Gingerbread Village every year. | Courtesy Resort at Squaw Creek

The scent of ginger, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon is unmistakable and nostalgic; the holiday season is here. Gingerbread is one of the desserts that remind me of this time of year. Gingerbread comes in many forms whether it’s a crispy ginger-snap cookie, a soft, moist loaf cake or a colorful holiday gingerbread house that delights children and adults alike. Gingerbread houses range from simple to outrageously elaborate. A number of gingerbread displays that stand out can be seen at the Resort at Squaw Creek in Olympic Valley, Harveys and Harrah’s Lake Tahoe in Stateline, Nev., and Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe in Incline Village, Nev.

Executive pastry chef Jeremy Moore at the Hyatt Regency created a unique, life-sized Advent calendar made of gingerbread for this year’s holiday season. The creation is 14 feet long and 10 feet tall complete with lights, ornaments, and Santa eating cookies by the fireplace. On Christmas Day, Mrs. Clause will make a visit. Moore started baking the gingerbread in mid-November.

“I use a lot of ginger, butter and molasses so that the house will smell really good. It is meant to last for a month. Brown sugar and molasses are both natural preservatives.”

— Jeremy Moore

“I use a lot of ginger, butter and molasses so that the house will smell really good. It is meant to last for a month. Brown sugar and molasses are both natural preservatives,” Moore says.

He mixed up 300 pounds of bread flour, 160 pounds of butter, 120 pounds of brown sugar and 15 gallons of molasses. The dough is then refrigerated for a couple of days. Moore and his team run the dough through a sheeter, which is an electric rolling pin.

“Once the dough is rolled out into giant sheets, we bake them,” he says.

He uses 3-inch-by-12-inch molds and bakes 700 pieces of cookie in a walk-in oven that holds 150 cookies at a time.

“I use an egg-white wash to give the sheets a crinkle look,” he says.

The next step is the assembly, which requires building a wooden support frame. The display takes weeks to put together. Instead of glue, Moore uses an egg white and powdered sugar mixture. He uses a thicker combination of these ingredients to pipe in the areas that need extra securing.

A fireplace is in the middle and there are 24 12-inch-by-12-inch doors that open. Behind each door there will be lights and ornaments.

“Every morning at 9 a.m. a person from the Hyatt leadership will open a door and give out prizes and gifts for the people that are there,” says Moore. “We wanted to create something that is nontraditional.

The life-sized display is an extravaganza not to be missed and will on display through the holidays.

The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe created a life-sized Advent Calendar for its gingerbread display this year. | Courtesy Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe

Another spectacular display is at the Resort at Squaw Creek with its annual Gingerbread Village featuring a running train and pictures. Santa will also be in the village. The display is part of the resort’s holiday celebrations Magical Memories with events throughout December.

Both Harveys and Harrah’s create elaborate gingerbread displays that depict scenes from the region. In the lobby of Harveys Lake Tahoe, you can see a gingerbread rendition of Emerald Bay, complete with Vikingsholm, the “M.S. Dixie” and surrounding mountains. In the lobby of Harrahs, the gingerbread display will feature a snowy, alpine village scene. |,,,


Make a Gingerbread House at home
From the kitchen of Executive Chef Jeremy Moore

1 lb. brown sugar
1 lb., 4 oz. butter (or shortening)
5 oz. water
½ oz. baking soda
1 quart molasses
1 ¼ oz. ground ginger
2 lbs., 8 oz. bread flour

Cream the brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl. Pour in the water and molasses and mix on a low speed for 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl. Pour in the bread flour, ground ginger and baking soda and mix on low speed for 5 minutes. Place onto a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Place dough in the refrigerator for 2 days minimum to allow the dough time to absorb the water and firm up.

Roll dough to 3 millimeters (.12 inches) in thickness. Cut shapes to fit your personal design (search for plans for gingerbread houses online). Brush with egg whites to get a crackled look or egg yolks for a shiny look. Bake dough until hard at 330 degrees. Large pieces will take 30-plus minutes; small pieces may only need 20 minutes.

Allow to cool and store at room temperature for at least one day. After baking, the gingerbread will last for months. Decorate to taste.