House of sweets: Pastry chef crafts extravagant gingerbread creation at Blue Chip Casino

2013-12-17T23:37:00Z 2013-12-18T07:04:10Z House of sweets: Pastry chef crafts extravagant gingerbread creation at Blue Chip CasinoEloise Marie Valadez Eloise.Valadez@nwi.com, (219) 933-3365 nwitimes.com

The fictitious duo Hansel and Gretel would no doubt be lured by the sweet structure located in the lobby of Michigan City's Blue Chip Casino.

The structure, made of gingerbread, candy and pounds of other sweets, is a creative gingerbread village crafted by Blue Chip pastry chef Charlene Hall.

"It was a fun project. I've been working on it for quite awhile," said Hall. The sweet village will be on display for all to see through the beginning of January.

The chef said the project took eight days to construct but she worked on the ideas for the village for a couple of months prior to creating it. It was designed by Hall as a tribute to the surrounding area.

"We have a lot of beautiful buildings in Michigan City and a lot of Victorian homes. I wanted to showcase that. It's something to celebrate," Hall said.

Last year, Hall created one house as the star of the gingerbread display. Now, the structure is even bigger.

"I wanted it to look like a city block and wanted to try and incorporate businesses into it," she said. The structure is made up of a Victorian home, a bake shop and an old-fashioned brownstone building.

"It was very challenging to build," Hall said, adding she had help from team members such as Carol Keller, a prep cook at Blue Chip.

Hall said many days she worked on the structure from 10 p.m. to about 7 or 8 a.m. Among materials used this year were 2,000 gingerbread bricks, 2,900 butterscotch candies, more than 1,000 pounds powdered sugar, 15 cases of marshmallows, 16 gallons of egg whites, 125 pounds regular sugar and many more ingredients.

"I put close to 90 snowflakes cut out of gingerbread and stars cut out of gingerbread on the houses," she said. Cakes, cookies and brownies were also used to construct the work of art.

In Blue Chip's Options buffet, Hall said there are also smaller gingerbread houses on display. Buildings in the buffet include a townhouse, a community church and a town square setting.

Working with gingerbread, Hall said, "is something I picked up 7 or 8 years ago." It was a project she did with her grandchildren.

In November, Hall participated in a national gingerbread house competition in North Carolina. She submitted a Pinocchio and Blue Fairy marionette-themed display.

"I love it. It's very detail oriented, very creative and it's relaxing," she said, about working with gingerbread. "I also love Christmas. It's really the most wonderful time of the year."

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