Home economics met construction this week in Emily Sims' culinary arts class at Skyview High School.
Students in the class celebrated Christmas and creativity, building completely edible gingerbread houses from scratch.
"This is kind of a fun Christmas project and still a culinary project," Sims said. "They can be so elaborate and express their creativity while having fun with food."
Sims provided the ingredients for the dough and frosting, as well as patterns for the houses, but asked the students to bring their own candy for decorations.
"If I did it, they'd eat it all," she said.
Then, she let students try their hand at putting together the pieces and creating original designs out of the houses.
On Monday, students were in all stages of production in Sims' classroom. Some rolled dough onto cookie sheets before putting it in the oven to fill the room with the scent of molasses and ginger.
Others were cutting out the sides of their buildings, while a few were squeezing frosting along the seams of the houses to stick pieces together.
On one side of the room, another group of students sat surrounded by bags of candy, trying to figure out how to decorate their creations.
"I have candy to put on the edges," said senior Angela Jones, staring at her house. "I just have to figure out where it goes."
Cole Hagedorn was spreading thick white frosting across the roof of his house to simulate snow. Nikki Flanders had pink frosting lining her windows, while Ashley Risch looped thin ropes of red licorice along her roof.
Jenny Carpenter used long pretzel sticks to make a log cabin, and several students had gingerbread trees standing in the "yard" outside their houses.
As an added touch, some students also melted Jolly Rancher candies in the windows of their gingerbread houses creating a stained glass effect.
In a corner of the kitchen, a finished house sported a peanut butter cup roof, a blue frosting lake with candy cane trim and a ground-candy road.
Then there was the house created by Jeremy Mercier, who opted for a different style, using a coffee can to curve the walls and roof of his house.
"Everyone else was doing the same thing. I wanted to do something different," he said. "I was originally going to do a castle, but it took too much dough."
And Nynke Salverda used rectangle-shaped chocolate cookies to add shingles to her roof.
"I think I'm going to mess it up," Salverda laughed. "I'm not creative at all, so it's pretty hard.
"It's so hard not to eat the candy."
Challenges aside, though, most students agreed that the project was a fun break.
"You get to do your own thing," said Becky Burger.
As an added bonus, the students will get to display their gingerbread houses at the Peninsula Center Mall through the holiday break.
Mall staff attempted to start an annual gingerbread house contest for area schools this year, hoping that each school would submit one house for the public to vote on through the holidays.
Sims was the only teacher to respond to the call, though, said organizer Sandra Bul-lock.
"I guess Skyview will get all the votes," Bullock said. "But we'll have at least 20 houses."
The public can view the houses -- and other gingerbread creations -- at the mall in Soldotna from Thursday through Dec. 31.
"Come back and check out the motocross track," challenged student Kevin McGrady.
5 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3 teaspoons ginger
1 cup sugar
1 cup shortening
1 cup molasses
Sift all dry ingredients in large bowl. Melt shortening and add molasses. Add to dry ingredients and mix well, using hands once the dough is stiff. Divide into three portions and roll out on ungreased cookie sheet about 1/4 inches thick. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes. Keep unused portion covered.
-- Recipes courtesy of Emily Sims
2 1/2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Sift sugar and cream of tartar. Add egg whites and vanilla and beat until holds shape. Use food coloring to create different hues.
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