On February 15th, 2016 (also known as this coming Monday), the last episode of Gravity Falls will air. As in, the last episode ever.
I think fans of the show all assumed we had more time left with this delightful series. However, in late November last year we were hit by the sudden announcement that the show would be over in a matter of a few episodes. As surprised as everyone was, the reason given was compelling: the creator had intended this show to be a cohesive story spanning over a single summer. It was never SUPPOSED to go on for longer, and it’d be a disservice to the narrative to drag things out. It was a reasoning I could respect, and so I was alright with saying goodbye.
I wanted to see off this amazing show with a bang, though. I spent a lot of time mulling over what I’d like to do before making a decision that was obvious in retrospect: I wanted to make the Mystery Shack.
For those not familiar with Gravity Falls, I’ll give a quick explanation. The Mystery Shack is the center of all of the experiences the twin protagonists, Dipper and Mabel, have in Gravity Falls. It’s a living space/tourist trap owned by Dipper and Mabel’s great uncle (or “Grunkle”) Stan. The twins spend a lot of time there when they aren’t having paranormal adventures in the woods, and ultimately they discover that the Mystery Shack too has its fair share of secrets. What those secrets are I won’t mention. Instead, I’ll encourage you to watch this series and find out for yourself. Every element of this show was a labor of love. The amount of time spent hiding codes and secrets in the show itself is mind boggling, and the characters are lovable and hilarious. Go see it if you haven’t.
So, let’s get going on this gingerbread Mystery Shack. Honestly I consider this more of an edible showpiece than a classic gingerbread house, though the walls themselves will be made of gingerbread. I guess “gingerbread house” just brings to mind visions of icing snow and candies, and neither will be present here.
In the same way that I began my Bob’s Burgers gingerbread house, I started by making a paper template. Essentially I cut made an entire Mystery Shack out of cardstock, shaving off and fiddling with the shapes until everything fit. That part was very interesting, since the Mystery Shack is actually based on real-life tourist attractions that essentially use optical illusions to create the appearance of gravity gone awry. That means a good part of the Mystery Shack is actually slanted, while the rest of the house is at regular angles. It made for a really interesting template building experience, to say the least. When I finally got the templates done I labeled each piece, pulled it all apart and started making gingerbread.
I used a gingerbread recipe specifically for showpieces rather than eating. It’s edible, but I want it to be very firm since I intend to keep this as a display for several weeks. To prevent warping, my preferred method is to roll the dough out directly onto a large silicone mat with no flour on the underside. I then cut the shapes directly on the mat and bake immediately. Since these pieces need to fit well together, I don’t want to change angles by picking up pieces to move them onto the mat.
I like to make sure that pieces of similar sizes end up on the same sheet. If I don’t, I run the risk of having smaller pieces turn out very dark while other spots aren’t set yet.
I shot for a medium bake on the larger spots and a dark bake on the small pegs that’d be holding the whole thing up. I wanted those bits to be really, really solid.
Once my gingerbread was cooled, I almost immediately began assembling. I used a thick royal icing tinted brown to blend in a bit more with the gingerbread. The icing would still be obviously visible, but it’d be less jarring than white and would make cleanup a bit easier.
Once I got to this point, I was done for the day. I want to wait to put on the second part of the roof until I have all the windows and doors put on. More about those tomorrow!