Brandywine Hundred resident Joe Daigle is sharing his gingerbread artistry across Delaware this year.
He became known for it after he won the Food Network’s “Holiday Baking Championship” in 2022, with friend Sean McGovern, pastry chef at the Urban Outfitters headquarters in Philadelphia.
He’s creating a display for Lit for the Holidays, the “annual extravaganza celebrating a long tradition of winter festivity at the George Read II House & Gardens” in New Castle.
He’s crafting rooms from the house itself “in glorious gingerbread,” and an exhibit called “The Season in Miniature” also features miniature rooms from the First State Mini Club of Delaware.
Lit for the Holidays is Dec. 9, and the exhibit runs Dec. 10-Jan. 6.
And he’s baking gingerbread cookies for the Breakfast With Santa, a Dec. 2-3 fundraiser for Camp Arrowhead in Lewes.
Hagley’s contest is titled “Treasures and Traditions,” and the 40 or so entrants are on display at the Hagley Barn, a short walk from Eleutherian Mills, which is decorated with the same theme.
“Local amateur bakers were challenged to create a gingerbread house that includes a wonderful treasure – maybe an heirloom or traditional decoration that holds special meaning during the holidays,” Hagley write on the contest page.
Entries will be on display Nov. 24-Jan. 1.
Daigle’s creation, as the featured house, is not part of the competition. H competed (but didn’t win) at Hagley in 2022, with a whimsical carousel.
His work this year is from “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” the 1957 Dr. Seuss book that has since been reinterpreted by multiple content creators.
He has created Whoville, with the townsfolk all happily singing around the huge Christmas tree in the town square. In the background: Flue’s Fireplaces, the mayor’s house, a restaurant and the house of Cindy Lou Who. In the distance: Mount Crumpit, the town dump, the Grinch, Max and that infamous sleigh.
Daigle said he has been improving his gingerbread skills. “I still have a lot to learn,” he said. “There are a million techniques.”
He’s tweaked his recipe so it can be thinner, stronger and more pliable.
He’s been experimenting with colors, so the gingerbread is not just that distinctive brown from the molasses.
His Whoville is “old-fashioned” in that it’s almost entirely gingerbread and royal icing, with a few candies.
Daigle chose “The Grinch” because he has so many fond memories of watching the 1966 animated TV special with his family. It’s a tradition that continues at the Elkton, Maryland, home of his parents, Terry and Connie.
“It brings back memories of being a kid, in the same environment with the sample people,” he said. “Nostalgic and warm.”
And when the family gathers this year, yes, he’ll be making gingerbread.
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