Whatever holiday traditions you uphold, the Museum of the City of New York in East Harlem has put together a crowdsourced gingerbread house extravaganza to unite Big Apple residents around candy, a competition of confectionery and the five boroughs themselves.
“Gingerbread NYC” opened on November 11 and will run through January 8, 2023, featuring seven winners of a “Winter in NYC” themed bake across the city. The idea took shape this summer and began in the fall, when the museum launched its open call.
Professional and amateur bakers from New York applied for the opportunity to compete. Six judges, including Magnolia Bakery CEO Bobbie Lloyd and restaurateur Melba Wilson, awarded two competitors from each district $500 to recreate sites in their neighborhoods with gingerbread.
From there, the judges chose winners in seven categories: Best Overall, Good Enough to Eat, Best District (Most Iconic), Most Complex, Sweetest, Grandest, Only in New York, and Toughest. All decorations had to be edible, and 75 percent of all structures had to be gingerbread.
John Kuehn, an architect who made the transition to food blogging during the pandemic, drafted plans for his first gingerbread house using AutoCAD software. He rigorously tested dough samples to determine the strongest structural recipe, which omits butter for molasses and spices to improve both strength and odor. Kuehn spent 160 hours assembling Madison Square Park, the Flatiron Building, and the Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower out of individual gingerbread bricks. His efforts won Biggest in the competition.
Staten Island won the Best District award, thanks to an expansive scene topped by its famous ferry, made by Bruno’s Bakery in Dongan Hills, operated for more than 40 years by the Settepani family. Sherry Kozlowski, an amateur baker from Astoria, Queens, who also appeared on Food Network’s Christmas Cookie Challenge in 2018 she won Best Overall for recreating her favorite neighborhood stores with fondant, gum paste, isomalt, and candy. Egidio Pastry Shop in Belmont represented the Bronx and won the Sweetest category.
It wouldn’t be New York without world-class art. Professional photographer and lifelong recreational baker Ida Kreutzer of Clinton Hill, Brooklyn won the Only In New York award for her gingerbread replica of a Fort Greene brownstone where she once lived, including artwork by Swoon art that adorned its exterior.
After “Gingerbread NYC” closes, bakers will get their creations back. The show is perhaps the last to be overseen by outgoing director Whitney Donhauser, who leaves this month to serve as deputy director and director of development at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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