Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

27° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Gingerbread Construction Made Easy At Library Workshop

By Danny YadronContributing Writer

Snoopy sits calmly at the door of his arctic doghouse.

Donald Duck hangs ten as a polar bear swims below.

All the while, legions of elves and their North Pole brethren stand frozen in a frosted fantasy land.

“It’s a gingerbread house,” said pastry chef Michael Niksic, who offered a free workshop on gingerbread house building Sunday afternoon at the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave. “It’s not supposed to make sense.”

But Niksic did try to make some sense of building a gingerbread house at the event – designed to jump start the holiday season – in front of a group of 60 people.

“I thought it was adorable,” said Evanston resident Kathryn Bauer. “It psyched me up to make a gingerbread house this year.”

Niksic stressed that the foundation for any successful creation is a styrofoam base.

Such a base makes it easier to support the walls of a creation, and can allow one to have some room for interesting landscapes, Niksic said.

For instance, in Niksic’s Halloween house – his personal favorite house, which he recreates annually – he was able to sculpt a complete graveyard.

“I try and do things that as many people as possible can identify with,” he said.

The next step: a solid frame.

Niksic passed out templates to his attentive audience and explained that a decent frame can be built in only 90 seconds. The freelance chef also discussed different frosting recipes, which can make the difference between an elaborate dessert and a crusty centerpiece that can last for up to five years.

After that, anything goes.

Niksic suggested scavenging through the seasonal sections of stores from Michael’s Crafts to Whole Foods to find the finishing touches for an aspiring architect’s winter wonderland.

“It’s not supposed to be serious,” Niksic said. “That’s why I’m not standing here with a tall paper hat on.”

Niksic has been whipping up his patented gingerbread houses for more than 30 years now. His work has been featured on WLS, WGN and the local Fox affiliate.

And while some of his custom builds can sell for more than $250, many of his projects are donated to charities such as Abused Woman’s Coalition or Children’s Memorial Hospital.

“Something like this can actually take someone’s mood and change it for the whole season,” he said.

For proof, Niksic needed only to look at the faces of children who seemed confused as to whether they wanted to play with the magical houses in front of them or simply eat them.

Niksic ended the session by raffling away a pre-made gingerbread house to an audience member.

“It tastes great,” said the raffle winner Padma Rao after stealing a taste of the frosting. “I can’t believe that it’s within my skill level to make one.”

Niksic’s visit at the Evanston Public Library is the first stop on his holiday season tour of the Chicago area, with future workshops scheduled in Streamwood, Vernon Hills and other public libraries.

Reach Danny Yadron at [email protected].

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Gingerbread Construction Made Easy At Library Workshop