Chef's gingerbread National Shrine sure to earn brownie points

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Monday 20, December 2010 | Category:  

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. is the largest Roman Catholic Church in North America. This year, in a way, it may also be the most delicious. Charles Froke, executive pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown, has created a massive gingerbread replica of the Shrine.

CHEF FROKE and his gingerbread National Shrine
"I've made a lot of cool buildings [out of gingerbread] in the past, but nothing like this," Froke told The Catholic Standard, Washington's archdiocesan newspaper. "In the past I've done the National Cathedral, the Smithsonian Castle, the White House, the Capitol, and Healy Hall at Georgetown University, but this is the most ambitious one to date."

Froke, a Catholic who attends St. Ann Church in Washington, crafted the gingerbread Shrine out of more than 125 pounds of specially prepared gingerbread dough. "It is a little more sturdy and not as sweet as regular gingerbread," he said.

The creation also includes about 55 pounds of icing and 20 pounds of sugar. Froke used dyes to create the Shrine's blue dome. The stained-glass windows—which are illuminated by electric lighting—are made from colored liquid sugar. He said it took him about 70 hours to create the gingerbread likeness.

Before he started baking, Froke spent hours at the Shrine, taking photos and making blueprints. Hundreds of individual gingerbread pieces were baked and then put together with "mortar" made of icing. Froke said it was his hope that his gingerbread National Shrine "earns me some brownie points in heaven."

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