By Sue Botos
Everyone has heard of the housing crash, but one Rocky River baker has felt its effects in a rather unique way.
This is the first year that Scott Totten, owner of Great Scott Bakery, will participate in Gingerbread Lane, the annual fundraiser held by the Rocky River-based Welcome House, which assists individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. However, he almost had to put his plans on the back burner.
He and a friend had just completed their original gingerbread creation, and it was sitting out on a table in Totten’s store, which offers a mix of sweet and savory treats as well as wine. The house, with the theme “Black Friday Rush,” was awaiting finishing touches before being transported to Tower City in downtown Cleveland for the Welcome House VIP Block Party on Nov. 30, which kicked off Gingerbread Lane, a display of edible houses from area bakeries.
Then a customer with a small child in tow entered the store. The next thing Totten knew, there was a crash, and 40-plus hours of work lay in pieces on the floor.
“I felt worse for the mom and child. I told her accidents happen and that we would make it work,” the Bay Village native graciously remarked while working on a replacement house the day before the party. He was going solo this time as his friend was out of town visiting family. Fortunately, Totten reported that the only casualty of the incident was the house. He said he was able to salvage a few peppermint sticks from the $85 to $100 worth of materials he estimated went into the house.
Working again on a table in the dining area of his shop, Totten, who now lives in Avon, said with a laugh, “You’d think I would have learned.”
He added, however, that he would keep a close eye on this house.
Totten said that he had been asked to participate in the event several times by coordinator Todd Schwartz and finally decided enter the mix in this, the fourth year.
Welcome House director Tony Thomas was pleased that, despite the setback, Totten’s store would be one of the “bakers’ dozen” of sweet shops represented. “We reach out to a great number of bakers and we’re thrilled Great Scott came on board,” commented Thomas, adding that the bakery has supplied treats for a number of the organization’s events.
Thomas further explained that the purpose of Gingerbread Lane is to raise awareness for Welcome House, which provides a variety of residential services for the intellectually challenged. The event is not a competition. According to Thomas, the houses are for sale and may be purchased by individuals or businesses for an average price of $250. When the houses are removed from display on Dec. 22, they can be delivered to the buyer’s home or business.
The houses, according to Thomas, must be on a 3-by-3-foot platform and can stand as high as 3 feet. All construction materials must be edible.
“This is a tremendous donation. The bakers are setting aside time during a busy season,” said Thomas, adding that it is a “win-win” situation, generating advertising for participants and awareness for Welcome House.
For Totten, the most nerve-wracking part of the process was yet to come. “Getting it to Tower City in one piece will be a challenge. We’re driving down there on a wing and a prayer tomorrow.” (A follow-up revealed that the house made it safely downtown, with only the loss of one candy cane.)
For anyone interested …
For anyone inspired to try their own hand at gingerbread construction, Scott Totten, owner of Great Scott Bakery, has a few tips.
First, he said to bake the gingerbread extra long. “Most gingerbread dough is pliable. I add extra flour and bake it for a good period,” he said.
Royal icing, added Totten, is the mortar which holds the sweet house together. The confection, which is mainly powdered sugar and egg whites can be strenghtened by the addition of more sugar. Totten said a zip-lock bag with a corner cut off can be used to pipe icing in place of a baker’s piping bag.
The best part, of course, is the decorating, especially for children. “The most joy kids get is from decorating,” said Totten, who offered a few short cuts. He said that some stores sell pre-made houses, ready for embellishment. A “flat house,” which is like a large cookie can also be used. “It’s like a gingerbread canvas. Things don’t fall off,” he said.