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Food & Entertaining

A Midcentury Home for the Holidays

Author: Christina Barrueta
Issue: December, 2017, Page 80
Photos by Michael Woodall, click image for recipes and instructions

This confection includes Haver-inspired details such as a low-pitched sloping roof and large-paned windows extending to the roofline.
Build This Ralph Haver-Inspired Gingerbread House

Gingerbread houses evoke memories of childhood fairy tales, fragrant kitchens and culinary creativity. Though this tradition originated in Germany, executive pastry chef Country Velador transports this holiday classic to Phoenix by capturing the local architecture in a midcentury Modern-inspired confection.

Velador’s design of choice is what’s known as a Haver Home. These modest dwellings were designed by famed architect Ralph Haver, who is widely recognized for defining the Phoenix residential landscape with his prolific work that spanned the mid-1940s to the 1980s. Many Phoenicians may remember such bygone buildings as the grand theater Cine Capri and the Polynesian-themed Kon Tiki Hotel, but Haver is best known for his postwar tract houses that introduced the midcentury Modern design aesthetic found throughout the Valley. Signature features of a Haver Home include low-pitched, sloping roofs; large-paned clerestory windows that extend to the roofline; and exposed interior beams. Today, these houses are highly coveted by history buffs and architecture fans alike.

The pastry chef was drawn to create this Haver gingerbread house from a personal love of the style. She fondly remembers watching movies at Cine Capri. “It had a huge IMAX-sized screen and felt like an opera house,” she recalls, noting that she and her husband had even looked into purchasing a Haver Home at one point. “I just love midcentury Modern architecture, furniture and design. On a professional level, making a midcentury Modern gingerbread house was on my bucket list, so it’s really cool that I was able to accomplish that.”

The front and back entrances to the 7"H by 17"L by 12"W house are decorated with colored royal icing. Some special features you can try include glazed pavers, painted doors decorated with holiday wreaths, cacti, icicles and outdoor string lights.
When it came to designing the actual house, Velador received some help from her brother, architect Konan Kelvaugh, who drew the template according to her specifications. She notes that when creating the individual pieces, it is important to overbake the gingerbread “so that it stays hard and doesn’t crumble, and let it dry out overnight.” To seal the seams and for decorations, such as the roofline icicles and garlands, she uses royal icing. “It is the perfect glue because it dries so quickly and can be colored,” she says. “I matched it to the gingerbread so you don’t see it in the roofline or wall edges. You can pipe frosting over the seams, but this house has such straight lines that I didn’t want to do that. This way it creates a smoother finish.”

To give the home a sense of place, Velador re-creates a desert landscape with streusel, a finely ground mixture of brown sugar, flour and butter. She thickens a batch of royal icing with extra confectioners’ sugar to make barrel cacti and agaves, piping the shapes out and leaving them to dry overnight. The front door is punched up in aqua, “a color typical for that time period,” she notes. And for that special midcentury holiday joy, she added a secret treat: Peek through the front window, and you’ll spy a Christmas tree. “I made it pink and retro,” she says with a smile.

Velador’s Haver Home also adds a stone chimney. “Typically, they were brick, but I used chocolate rocks, and it turned out to be one of my favorite elements,” she explains. “My husband, Sergio, did this. We cut the rocks as thin as possible and glued them on with royal icing.”

Velador shares some final words of wisdom for making your own gingerbread masterpiece. “Don’t pressure yourself to be perfect. It’s very easy to cover up mistakes with candy or frosting. Take your time, and have fun with it!”

Click here for recipes and instructions

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