Virginia Tech Dining Services treats students with a gingerbread house replica of Burruss Hall
Students returning from Thanksgiving break may have spent their drive back to Blacksburg dreading inevitable upcoming exams, but Virginia Tech is doing its part to spread holiday cheer in the dining centers on campus.
West End Market is decked out in holiday style with a gingerbread house replica of Burruss Hall. Complete with pine trees, snow, and the picturesque four-columned tower, the Burruss Hall-inspired gingerbread house looks nearly identical to one of the most beloved landmarks in Blacksburg.
Each year, Dining Services staff members create a gingerbread masterpiece to encourage and uplift students as the semester comes to a close. Mark Bratton, executive chef, Mark Badger, chef de cuisine, Tyani Helms, first cook, and Justin Belcher, service associate, committed more than 60 hours of labor to the project over the past few weeks. Gail Seidemann of Floyd, Virginia, a senior majoring in English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, assisted by creating the majority of the piping on the gingerbread house. Seidemann worked for Dining Services as a student service associate and will be graduating this fall.
“The week before Thanksgiving, we began the process by baking the gingerbread,” said Bratton. “We purposely over-bake it and actually let it go stale to get the right texture.”
Though Southgate Food Processing Center is equipped with all the baking equipment needed for Dining Services, Bratton and his team simply used what they had access to in West End Market, including small rolling pins, baking sheets, rulers, and basic cutlery. He said they baked 48 pans of gingerbread to prepare for the Burruss replica.
Its 6-foot by 3-foot frame boasts nearly 200 pounds of powdered sugar and 100 pounds of gingerbread. This year’s “house” showcases less candy than usual to capitalize on the Hokie Stone-inspired gingerbread and windows created with gelatin sheets.
“We purchase white and amber rock candy in bulk and bake it into the gingerbread,” said Bratton. “The white fades to grey and the amber fades to light tan, creating a color similar to Hokie Stone.
“The last accent we add to the houses is a dusting of powdered sugar for snow because — my goodness — I’ve seen a lot of snow in Blacksburg,” said Bratton.
The Burruss Hall gingerbread house will be on display in West End Maket through exams and fall commencement.