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Gingerbread University: A Decorating Fantasyland for All Ages
The sweet aroma of gingerbread, colorful bins filled with candy, whimsical decorations and holiday jingles create a fantasyland for all ages year round.
Gingerbread University, located in eastern Long Island on Sound Avenue in Riverhead, is a center for edible education and expertise in the subject of “Gingerbreadology.” It’s a place where individuals come for a hands-on experience, decorating gingerbread houses and pieces.The university was created by Frederick H. Terry Sr., a college professor, and has been in existence for more than twenty years. The idea arose when Terry needed a final project for his advanced culinary students.
“I had the students go out into the community to rest homes, nursing homes and orphanages, where they brought undecorated gingerbread pieces for the individuals to decorate,” Terry said. “The news media wound up coming to film it and it kind of blossomed from there.”
After Professor Terry retired, he decided to create a business oriented around decorating your very own gingerbread creations. He became known by the children and others who attend the university as “Gingerbread Fred.”
The university’s home is in large red wooden barn located behind Lobster Roll Northside “Country,” one of the restaurants Terryowns. During the holiday season it is decorated with wreathes, lights and ornamental blow ups. The barn also features a Sweet Shoppe and holiday stores where guests can buy an assortment of decorated sugar cookies, candy, gingerbread figurines and other festive trinkets.
“I use the barn primarily for my hobbies and my avocations, which is gingerbread,” Terry said. “I renovated the entire thing into a fantasyland for children and adults to come to do quality work with each other.”
At the university, guests can choose to decorate a pre-constructed gingerbread house or a 10- to 12-inch cookie piece, depending on the season. They do 90 different themes of cookies and houses year round. Some of their trademark specialty creations include Ginger Express, GingerJaw, GingerCoops and Bunny Huts. Prices vary with size from $9.95 to $27.50. Each kit comes with all the supplies and materials you will need. The university accepts walk-in’s, but they advise that you make a reservation to secure a spot.
“I made my gingerbread house for Christmas,” said Marilyn from Amityville, who was decorating with two friends. “I put on all the goodies that I got.”
Christian, a little boy from Smithtown who was decorating with help from his mom said, “I am making gingerbread houses with my friends.”
The university supplies each decorator with a royal icing bag, candies and cookies to place on their gingerbread creations. Some candies that are available for the Christmas themed house include Santa cookies, gumdrops, peppermint hard candies, and M&M’s. If you need extra candy or cookies to decorate your gingerbread, you can purchase them in the Sweet Shoppe.
The process to fully decorate an edible sweet treat takes about an hour. Once clients are finished, their piece is wrapped and they receive a degree in Gingerbreadology, compliments of the university.
“We plan to make three to five thousand houses during the heart of the season,” Terry said.
*5 ½ cups flour
*1 tablespoon ginger
*1 teaspoon baking soda
*1 cup solid vegetable shortening
*1 cup granulated sugar
*1 ¼ cups dark molasses
*2 eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix 5 cups of flour, the ginger, baking soda in a large bowl. Set aside.
Cream shortening and sugar in large bowl with mixer. Add molasses and lightly beaten eggs. Blend well. Gradually add dry ingredients. Knead in remaining flour, if necessary. Chill dough for 1 hour for best rolling results.
Lightly grease cookie sheets. Roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick directly onto cookie sheets. Cut patterns, removing excess dough. Chill 10 minutes before baking. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes.
*3 large egg whites, at room temperature
*1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
*1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar
Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl at medium speed of an electric mixer until foamy; gradually add sugar, mixing well. Beat 5 to 7 minutes.
*Add food coloring for colored icing
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