Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Part II - Gingerbread City 2009, The Wizard of Oz, and L. Frank Baum's Love Affair with Coronado

For those of you who have just joined us, this is Part II in the creation of our gingerbread entry for The Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County, Gingerbread City 2009, competition (see our Introduction).  The gingerbread structures will be auctioned off at the Gala on December 1, 2009.  This year's theme is The Greatest Stories Ever Told. 

When we chose to create our version of The Wizard of Oz, I had no idea!  I'm referring to L. Frank Baum's love affair with Coronado, CA.   I've walked by this house dozens of times.  It's located on Star Park Circle, a few blocks from the Hotel Del Coronado.  I noticed the little "Wizard of Oz Ave" sign near the front door, but I never realized the connection.

As reported in The Coronado Historical Association and Museum of History & Art Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 2 Spring 2007, The Wizard of Oz House, as it has become known, is where author L. Frank Baum vacationed on his early visits to Coronado....

We also learned another interesting tidbit, after bumping into our friend Susan, who was chatting it up at the sushi bar with some of our other friends, Mike and Ruth Ann.  Susan, Director of Sales for the Hotel Del Coronado, and Ruth Ann, the broker for  Del Realty, told us Mr. Baum also stayed at the Hotel Del during some of his summer visits, and is credited with designing the crown chandeliers in the Crown Room. The room is considered an architectural marvel, distinguished by its 33-foot-high, self supported, vaulted Oregon sugar pine ceiling.

In doing a little research of my own, I stumbled upon San Diego State University's Library & Information Access newsletter, The Dome, Fall 2006 Volume XX Number 1, and these two featured articles:  The Wonderful Wizard of Coronado, and Coronado: The Queen of Fairyland.  I love the poem!

Coronado: The Queen of Fairyland
By L. Frank Baum (published in 1905)

Let Coronado wear her crown
As Empress of the Sea;
Nor need she fear her earthly peer
Will e'er discovered be.

We revel 'neath her tropic palms
And scent her brilliant flowers,
And fondly greet the song-birds sweet
That warble in her bowers.

And every day her loveliness
Shines pure, without a flaw;
New charms entrance our every glance
And fill our souls with awe!

To South the mountains rear their crests
Enveloped in a haze
Of shifting blues and violet hues
And rare and modest greys.

To Eastward San Diego's heights
Stretch downward to the bay
Which coyly laves her with the waves
Wherein the dolphins play.

To North bold Loma's rugged cliff
Leaps out in majesty
To where beside the rushing tide
Her beacon light we see.

The wonders of the setting sun
Confront us in the West
To glorify both sea and sky
And fire old OceanÕs breast.

And mortals whisper, wondering:
"Indeed, 'tis Fairyland!
For where is joy without alloy-
Enchantment strange and grand."

And tired eyes grow bright again,
And careworn faces smile;
And dreams are sweet and moments fleet,
And hearts are free from guile.

So wreathe fair Coronado's brow
With laurels nobly won-
The nation's pride, grim Ocean's bride,
High Priestess of the Sun!

Now, let's begin creating The Wizard of Oz out of gingerbread and other edibles.

The first step is to decide how large your structure will be and construct an appropriate base.  Since we are entered in the Grand category, with a limit of 4 x 4 feet for the base, we went with a wood base measuring 4 feet by 31 inches.  We had to make sure the base would fit through one of the doors in our house, and into  Big Ugly for transport to the Gala.

We've found it's much easier to move if we attach wooden knobs to the underside.

We needed some inspiration for a design and layout.  We rented the movie and bought a few books.

Our plan is to create the primary structure out of gingerbread: Munchkinland houses, Dorothy's house, Wicked Witch's Castle, Tin Woodman's Cabin, and Emerald City.  We then plan to use confectionery and other edible materials for the yellow brick road, forest, corn fields, farmlands, hills and cliffs, plants and flowers, characters, etc.

John arranged some glasses, bowls, bottles of liquor, and various other things from around to the house to help us envision our Land of Oz.  The cluster of glasses represent Munchkinland; the blue ice trays will be where Dorothy's house lands; the large bowl with plastic containers represent the cliff where the Wicked Witch Castle will be perched, hovering over Munchkinland; the smaller square container represents the Tin Woodsman's cabin; and the bottles and jar of pears represent Emerald City.  My desk has been taken over as our primary workspace.

John then sketched out our design on brown paper

We're going to need alot of gingerbread dough!  This year, I bought in bulk - 25 lb. bags of flour, powdered sugar, and brown sugar, and a jug of molasses.

We've experimented with a few different gingerbread recipes, and find this one to work best for us.  It doesn't spread or puff when cooking.

Gingerbread Dough Recipe
Christina's Gingerbread Dough
From Food Network Challenge, Gingerbread Championships
(1 batch will make a small structure measuring approximately 8" x 10")

5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup all-vegetable shortening
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup molasses
1/4 cup coffee, plus 2-3 tablespoons, cooled

Combine the flour, ginger, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl and set aside.  I measure out several batches of dry ingredients at once and store in large ziplock bags.

In a heavy duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the shortening, powdered sugar, dark brown sugar, and molasses.

Mix on low speed, just until smooth, trying not to incorporate too much air.

Add the flour mixture all at once, and mix on low to medium-low speed. As this begins to mix, add the 1/4 cup of cooled coffee. Watch closely as the dough begins to come together. If it looks and feels dry and crumbly, begin to add the remaining coffee, 1 tablespoon at a time as needed. The dough should be firm, but evenly moist.  This is what it looks like before the coffee is added.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a flattened round. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then place into an air-tight container or zip-top plastic bag. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours before rolling and cutting. The dough keeps for 4 days, refrigerated.

If dough has been chilled for longer than 1 to 2 hours, allow it to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment or a silpat baking mat.

Working with 1 piece of the chilled dough at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface to 3/8-inch thick (small, decorative pieces may be rolled thinner; pieces that will need to provide support may be rolled thicker). Transfer to prepared baking sheets, then cut to desired shapes using templates that have been lightly floured. Cut out desired shapes (use templates and lightly flour them before placing on the dough and cutting). If cutting windows, doors, etc., start by cutting them first, then cut the overall shape. This prevents distortion of the pieces. Keep similar sized pieces on each sheet for even baking. If you have the refrigerator space, a brief chilling at this point (15 minutes) will help the dough hold its shape in the oven.

Lightly brush or spray the surface with water and bake 15 minutes for medium to large pieces (7 to 10 minutes for smaller pieces). Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. With a sharp knife, carefully re-cut the hot gingerbread (using your templates) if any spreading occurred. Remove all scraps from the tray.

Return the baking sheet to the oven. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes more, even longer for very large or thick pieces, until dark brown, but not burned. You must bake gingerbread for houses much longer than you would bake cookies. It must be very dry throughout, and quite dark in color. The low oven temperature helps to keep the browning even, as opposed to dark around the edges. As oven temperatures will vary, check the pieces during the second baking frequently. If they are browning too quickly, lower the oven to 300 degrees F.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool 5 minutes on the baking sheet. Loosen the pieces from the tray with a thin spatula and continue to cool on the tray until firm. Remove the pieces from the tray and allow them to cool on a wire rack for several hours before assembling your house.

In the next post, I'll go over the templates we use and we'll start building the Tin Woodsman's Cabin.  Keep in mind, we're making most of this up as we go along!

1 comment:

Kai said...

Can't wait to see the progress!