A chef spices up the gingerbread concept

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A chef spices up the gingerbread concept

Plenty of gingerbread houses have graced hotel lobbies in Korea.

But the pastry chef at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Seoul, Lee Jun-youl, claims to have created the country's first gingerbread village.

Mr. Lee has made countless gingerbread houses over the past two decades. Crafting an entire village is another matter.

The 30 houses required 200 kilograms of cookie dough, 20 bags of M&M chocolates, 1,000 sugar cookies, 15 kilograms of meringue and 1 kilogram of powdered sugar. It took seven pastry chefs a month to create the village.

Mr. Lee took his architectural cues from German and French books ?and from new suburban homes in Korea. The two-story houses in his village are meant to resemble Korean homes.

"The hardest part is designing the house and cutting the gingerbread," Mr. Lee says. "Because if you're not precise, the pieces won't fit." He adds that gluing the baked pieces together is also difficult, since the goal is to make the entire house edible.

Although some of his giant gingerbread houses elsewhere in the hotel are supported with wood and glued with silicon adhesive, all the homes in his gingerbread village are made from edible elements.

Mr. Lee sticks the pieces together with strong syrup heated to 160 degrees. Then he uses meringue, a delicate mixture of powdered sugar and egg white, as a glue to seal the joints.

Gingerbread hardens as it dries in the open. "Several years ago, an elderly man tried to eat a piece right off the gingerbread on display," Mr. Lee says. "But he broke his tooth."

by Inēs Cho

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