Thursday, December 8, 2016

Matzo House Construction: Behind the Scenes Sneak Peek of this Year's Contest Entries

For those of you familiar with our Annual Gingerbread House Contest, you probably weren't surprised at all to see us veer from the typical "gingerbread" construction for this year's entries.   
But, Matzo? Why? 
Well, as you know, we carefully select our materials using a calculated system involving several predetermined factor considerations.....
Actually: We just use free stuff.
While moving my mother-in-law in to her newly completed apartment, we found 2 cases (yes, 2 cases - 36 unopened boxes) of expired Matzo. How's that for free stuff? 
So, what is Matzo anyway? 
Unleavened bread.
It is used during traditional Passover ceremonies and has great prophetic significance as celebrated in Messianic Seders. (We participated in one of these a few years ago and it was very eye opening!)
Plainly speaking it is basically a 7"x7" sheet of Saltine Cracker - lacking salt. Not really designed for enjoyment - but great for construction!
Here is a pile of Matzo (or Matzah, or Matzoh...)
There was definitely a learning curve as we explored the relatively fragile properties of Matzo as compared to gingerbread or even graham crackers.
After toying with it for a while we decided the Matzo was a little flimsy, so we created sturdier pieces by gluing (icing) two sheets together for each wall. You can see the double cracker stacker style in this photo:

  Except for a few minor construction fails (explained in the coming paragraphs), this year was great fun and a healthy challenge! We hope you enjoy viewing the results as much as we enjoyed making them.
Here is a behind the scenes look at this year's contest entries:
The "Country Cottage" was constructed in a classic "house" form. It was frosted and covered in blue cornmeal for a roughcast plaster look. Windows and doors were added to each side. As the roof details were being installed the doors and windows slid off the walls one by one.
Apparently, the loose cornmeal bits don't make a very solid contact point for the icing to adhere to.  So, the cornmeal had to be scraped off and the frosting cleared back to the bare Matzo anywhere a design element was to be added. 
This was a small step backward in the process, but nothing heartbreaking.
The "Almost Finished" Entry was constructed with double "exterior walls" and received a little more structural support with graham crackers studs (16" on center - to scale).

And, of course, before sheetrock could go up, insulation (cotton candy) was put in place:

And electrical work completed:

Construction Fail: The cotton candy (although a clever idea) was a big disappointment. It began dissolving immediately after being handled and had melted away almost completely by the time the sheetrock walls started going up. 
Oh, well.  Just like real life renovation fails: Lesson learned.
The construction of the "Ship Wrecked" entry was quite different. The initial hull of the ship was constructed with a single layer of Matzo (lots of tricky cuts and piles of Matzo debris).
The aftermath of the construction process:
A second layer of Matzo was attached to the main frame in 3" strips resembling wood planks. 
The ship was then strong and sturdy...and even the texture was right on. But the color was all wrong.
Enter: Vodka and food coloring!
The color went on smoothly and the alcohol evaporated quickly without warping the Matzo boards.

Every bit of the process went smoothly until the anchor was added as a final touch. The fondant hadn't set up completely and melted into a wobbly heap in the sand (blue cornmeal). Oops!

Good thing it's on dry land.

Well, that's it for this year's sneak peek. Do you have any Gingerbread House Fails or lessons learned you'd like to share? Please leave a comment in the box below. And don't forget to:
Click on the photo below to see the FINAL ENTRIES and cast YOUR VOTE!



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