Friday, December 7, 2012

The sweetest block in all Brooklyn

Last night, I participated in the great Gingerbread Block Project of 2012. In case you didn't realize that was a thing until you saw those words capitalized together, rest assured that it is. A Brooklyn pastry chef, Renee, who runs this blog built a brownstone out of gingerbread last year. Not satisfied with the labor intensiveness of that project, she decided this year to create a whole block of brownstones. When she advertised for volunteers, I immediately signed up to participate. I was really interested to see behind the scenes of such an undertaking, to learn a few tips, and to participate in whatever small way.

I didn't get any photos of our progress (or I did, but it was on my phone and is barely recognizable), but here's a shot of her single brownstone of last year. 
I took the Thursday night shift because it was the only night I had free, but I was also glad to be fairly late in the process (the block will be finished for display on Sunday) because it was fun to be a part of some of the later stage detail work. I participated in putting window frames made out of dead dough (a basic dough recipe used for's the consistency of pasta dough). They were attached with royal icing and sometimes with a corn starch based glue. Renee explained that for the project everything had to be edible, but generally speaking none of it would be especially tasty. (Case in point, the building dough for the structure had ginger and molasses in it, so it smelled tantalizing and gingerbready, but the high flour content needed to give it a stiff enough structure makes it less appetizing that your typical cookie). After the window frames dried, I also helped paint them using a mixture of food coloring diluted with water. I also made a few custom window and door frames out of dead dough.

It was a lot of fun to participate, but it was also just amazing to see the level of organization and time that goes into such a project. Also, nice: I finally learned how to make a cornet. Perhaps I'll dispense with using ziplocs as pastry bags now! Renee had clearly been putting a lot of thought into this and getting ideas during jaunts through Park Slope. She even had truly ingenious ideas for how to make a little fruit stand out of different herbs (red peppercorns could so easily be apples!) and little dough window air conditioning grates. It's these little details that make projects like this so cool.

The brownstone block is being unveiled on Sunday at 61 Local in Boerum Hill. It will also be on display through December 21st, so if you're in the Brooklyn area, you should come by and see it! After that, the brownstones are being individually auctioned off to raise money for Citi Harvest. Make sure to take note of the meticulously applied and painted window treatments while there.


  1. We want pictures! You must visit the completed project or send info about how to view it. It sounds like just your kind of thing.

  2. Will definitely update with pictures of the completed project! In the meantime, you can see some pictures she posted: Of course, that's work day 1, and I was work day 5 or 6, so progress was much farther.

  3. Sounds like a lot of work! Most impressive. I will check out the link posted above.

  4. So cute! The tips will definitely help me make 10 houses this week, thanks!