Daring Bakers December 2009: Home for the Holidays

So! I still haven’t found the time or energy to really get a coherent blog post together (and the majority of my holiday goodies have been failing MISERABLY) and things aren’t looking good for January either (can you say nearly a month of exams and multi-day projects?) but the other bakers are a-posting. Since I’m one of the hosts, I figured I’d better give you lovely visitors something to look at. Like MY gingerbread house.

Walk up the chocolatey front walk...
Walk up the chocolatey front walk...

I chose a gingerbread house for the challenge because, well, it hasn’t been done yet and I haven’t made one since I was a kid. I know they’re not necessarily the tastiest treats but they’re a lot of fun to make and allow for an almost endless range of creativity.

Oh look! Pumpkin pals!
Oh look! Pumpkin pals!

You may be curious as to why my house appears a little spooky for December. Well, when you host a challenge, you have to make it somewhat in advance to work out any kinks in the recipe and get all organized and stuff, so I made mine back in the beginning of November. And I bought candy in October. Which meant that I bought Halloween candy. But it’s ok because I like Halloween better than Christmas, and I hope it reinforces my interpretation that a gingerbread house can be any kind of structure, not necessarily a house decked out for Christmas.

What's in the coffin?
What's in the coffin?

There was originally supposed to be a little gingerbread Dracula in the coffin but he fell over on himself in the oven. I should have made him more like a tuile but didn’t think of it. He tasted pretty good though.

I don't know why I put sanding sugar on the cross. I just never find an excuse to use it I guess.
I don't know why I put sanding sugar on the cross. I just never find an excuse to use it I guess.

I decided to fill the coffin with one of my favorite basic candies, gummi worms. Creepy and delicious!

Wormy-snakey-gummy things! Yum!
Wormy-snakey-gummy things! Yum!

I sure do love my chewy, fruity candythings.

That coffin was kind of a pain to build. I should have actually measured the dimensions or something but the sides kept falling off. I probably held it together for an hour. But, in the end, it held together and you can tell what it is, and that’s all it takes to make me happy.

I very specifically wanted the little Hershey bars.
I very specifically wanted the little Hershey bars.

I made a smoked salt-cacao nib streusel to use as dirt, which was cute and tasty. I also used royal icing to glue little fun-sized Hershey bars down as a path, which came to me when I first envisioned this little house.

Note the "dirt"...the delicious, chocolatey, salty dirt.
Note the "dirt"...the delicious, chocolatey, salty dirt.

I’m no decorative piping master but I can pipe a straight line (sometimes). I would have liked to have piped something a little fancier but my royal icing came out really thick. Like, so thick you might want to decrease the amount listed in the recipe. Oops.

Spooky wreath?
Spooky wreath?

I think the star of this particular house, though, is the spooky candy and not the fancy piping.

More pumpkins, this time of the marshmallowy variety.
More pumpkins, this time of the marshmallowy variety.

If I had more time I’d gladly have thrown together a smaller, fancier house too but time is not a thing I’ve had for a while now.

I had them shingled at first but it was toooo heavy (or so I feared).
I had them shingled at first but it was toooo heavy (or so I feared).

I would have also liked to have had the time to test out more than one recipe, but luckily for me I somehow managed to convince the totally awesome Y of Lemonpi to co-host with me, so there were two recipes for our fellow bakers to choose from. (And apologies to the gluten-free/vegan factions, we would have LOVED to have had enough time to test specifically for you guys but we are both mega-busy little bakers these days and it just didn’t happen…we knew you guys would handle things awesomely on your own though.)

So that's who lives here!
So that's who lives here!

I’m off to go look at the (hopefully) hundreds of other houses floating around the merry internet now. Unseasonal or not I am pretty happy with mine – I would definitely actually measure my sides next time so they don’t overlap in weird places, but it was easy enough that I would, in fact, consider a next time. After all, it’s easier than building a chocolate Kitchenaid or a sugar fireplace!

Well hi there!
Well hi there!

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

Anna’s Notes: If you don’t have an awful lot of time, the doughs can easily be frozen and then thawed when you are ready to roll it. The baked pieces can also be tightly wrapped in plastic and frozen for assembly later.

Y’s Notes: I found this slideshow very helpful: http://www.bonappetit.com/tipstools/slideshows/2008/12/gingerbread_house…

Variations: You are welcome to use either recipe we tested, depending on your taste or what is available where you are.

Obviously, you are also allowed to use any sort of candy or sugar decorations you wish. You can even make your own candy to decorate the house! You may give your house any theme you’d like – you don’t have to stick to the traditional Christmas house. We are providing a rough template but feel free to find or make your own (there are a lot of great books out there with tons of fun blueprints and ideas). Some books you may want to check out:

Gingerbread: Things to Make and Bake by Teresa Layman http://www.amazon.com/Gingerbread-Things-Make-Teresa-Layman/dp/081093367…

How to Build a Gingerbread House: A Step-by-Step Guide to Sweet Results by Christina Banner http://www.amazon.com/Build-Gingerbread-House-Step-Step/dp/0981580610/re…

Gingerbread Houses by Christa Currie http://www.amazon.com/Gingerbread-Houses-Christa-Currie/dp/0385472676/re…

The Gingerbread Architect: Recipes and Blueprints for Twelve Classic American Homes by Susan Matheson and Lauren Chattman http://www.amazon.com/Gingerbread-Architect-Recipes-Blueprints-American/…

Gingerbread Houses: Baking and Building Memories by Nonnie Cargas http://www.amazon.com/Gingerbread-Houses-Baking-Building-Memories/dp/087…

Your house can be as big or as small as you’d like, but it MUST meet these requirements:

1. Everything needs to be edible – no glue or inner non-food supports allowed.

2. You must bake the gingerbread yourself, whichever recipe you choose. No graham cracker houses please!

3. You must use some sort of template. If you don’t use ours, take a picture or link to what you do use in your final post. It doesn’t have to be super technical – Anna didn’t even measure hers, she just cut out shapes from parchment and made sure the edges matched up.



4. Your house must be able to stand on its own. If you want to go adding balconies with candy stick buttresses or whatever go right ahead, but the main house itself must be free-standing.

We feel that by having these simple ground rules in place but giving you the freedom to run with the challenge otherwise, anyone with a few hours of free time this month can tackle this. And if you have a bigger chunk of time, you can REALLY tackle it.

Preparation Time for Anna’s Recipe: 10 minutes to mix the dough, 4-8 hours at least to chill it, then 5 minutes to roll, 10 to rest, and 10 to cut. Another 30 minutes to rest, if necessary. 25-30 minutes to bake, depending on the size of the pieces. I would estimate 2-4 hours to decorate, depending on how ornate you want to make everything. It could certainly take longer if you are doing a lot of intricate royal icing designs or making your own candies. Altogether, this will take 7-13 hours, including chilling time. But, as noted above, you can break this up over several days or even a couple weeks if the freezer is utilized.

Equipment Needed:

  1. Stand or handheld electric mixer (not required but it will make mixing the dough a lot easier and faster)
  2. Plastic wrap
  3. Rolling pin
  4. Parchment paper
  5. Baking sheets
  6. Cardboard cake board or sheet of thick cardboard
  7. Foil, if desired
  8. Small saucepan
  9. Small pastry brush (optional)
  10. Piping bag with small round tip, or paper cornets if you’re comfortable with them

Anna’s Recipe:
Spicy Gingerbread Dough (from Good Housekeeping) http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/recipefinder/spicy-gingerbread-dough-157…

  1. 2 1/2 cups (500g) packed dark brown sugar
  2. 1 1/2 cups (360mL) heavy cream or whipping cream
  3. 1 1/4 cups (425g) molasses
  4. 9 1/2 cups (1663g) all-purpose flour
  5. 2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
  6. 1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger


page 1

1. In very large bowl, with wire whisk (or with an electric mixer), beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.

2. Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.

3. Grease and flour large cookie sheets (17-inch by 14-inch/43x36cm)

4. Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16-inch thickness. (Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help roll dough to uniform thickness.)

5. Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.

6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (149C)

page 2

7. Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimmings as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately.

8. Chill for 10 minutes before baking if the dough seems really soft after you cut it. This will discourage too much spreading/warping of the shapes you cut.

9. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size.

page 3

10. Remove cookie sheet from oven. While house pieces are still warm, place poster-board patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary. Cool pieces completely before attempting to assemble the house.

page 4

Royal Icing:

  1. 1 large egg white
  2. 3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  4. 1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren’t using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

Simple Syrup:

  1. 2 cups (400g) sugar

Place in a small saucepan and heat until just boiling and the sugar dissolves. Dredge or brush the edges of the pieces to glue them together. If the syrup crystallizes, remake it.


  1. Thank you for cohosting such a fab challenge Anna. I LOVED it as much as I love the fun you had making your spooky house! It’s gorgeous! YUM!!

  2. Thank you for hosting such a great challenge! I really enjoyed it and was so happy that you picked Gingerbread Houses! I love the idea of having a Halloween Gingerbread House! So many cute ideas you did with your decorating! Once again THANK YOU!! :)

  3. Check out those straight lines – woohoo! You’re the pied piper of royal icing :D Glad you managed to write up a post despite being so busy. I love your commentary. And of course I’m going to say thank you again, Anna. Thank you, thank you. Because it was fuuuun :)

  4. Thank you for hosting this great challenge! Even though I have made gingerbread houses before (always traditional with snow etc) with your inspiration I deviated from the usual to create an Aussie house complete with boomers! Thank you! Your halloween house is fab! BTW so is your blog!

  5. What a fun challenge, it was really nice to have something new and challenging for everyone, I found the dough to be really easy to work with, although I was frustrated with myself for not planning very carefully, gingerbread houses are very disciplined things and I’m not sure I was careful enough. As I said in my post, maybe I’ll revisit next year with something much more ambitious!!

    I look forward to hearing more about your internship and all kinds of other crazy stuff you’re up to!

  6. Anna, Thanks for choosing and hosting such a great challenge. I had lots of fun putting this one together.

    Love your haunted house and I say there’s nothing quite like a chocolatey walkway!

    Happy Holidays and best wishes for a very Happy New Year!

  7. Haha I’ve been loving your halloween house ever since I saw it on the forums. Big love to the coffin!

    Thanks so much Anna for choosing a fabulous challenge. I never had my creative juices flow so rapidly!

  8. Thanks again for such a fun challenge Anna. Love your halloween themed one, next year I’m going to make Jack Scarington’s house for Christmas :)

  9. I’m smiling over the idea of making a gingerbread house for Halloween so you could prepare. It’s so cute! I’m wincing over all your projects so hope January is better than you think it will be.

  10. Wow! Your gingerbread haunted house looks uber-cute :) Way to go on this month’s challenge… you rocked it! Happy baking in the New Year!

  11. Two of my kids have October birthdays, so we used to make pseudo(graham cracker)gingerbread houses at their parties:) Your house looks so fun! Great job!

    THANK YOU so much for a great challenge-perfect for Christmas!!!

  12. Thanks for this great challenge Anna! Love your Gingerbread house and love your drawings even more! I always wanted to draw and your sketches are just super! Thanks again for this fun challenge and have a Blessed Xmas season and a wonderful New Year!

  13. Thanks for the cool challenge Anna! And it really was that . . . a challenge. Yours is so much fun. I’m loving looking at everyone’s whimsical creations. But that link to the chocolate Kitchen Aid is INSANE!

  14. Love your Halloween house! Thanks for being our co-host this month – I never believed that I could make a gingerbread house until I tried. Hope you had a great Xmas, and Happy New Year!

  15. Thank you so much for this wonderful challenge! It finally pulled me out of my comfort zone and faced my fear of construction-related project! :-)

    Sawadee from Bangkok,

  16. Thanks so much for hosting this…i guess this one was the best challenge i have made.Awesome one.Your gingerbreadhouse looks beautiful.I really appreciate it:)Thanks again!

  17. Ha, I like that you took your gingerbread house decorations in a very different direction than most! Really fun and colorful. Thanks for this great challenge, I’m grateful that I was still able to participate at all. :)

  18. Fabulous challenge, thanks Anna! I had so much fun. And I love your alternative Halloween theme. Thanks for the push, I wouldn’t have ever attempted something like this on my own!

  19. Thanks so much for a fabulous challenge! A good tricky one, but also really fun with all the decorating.

    Your creepy house is very cool! It was such a good idea to use all the Hallowe’en themed sweets. The gravelly floor and chocolate paving slabs look great, as does the coffin with the worms coming out. I’m really tempted to make one next Hallowe’en … though we’re a little way off at the moment!

    Thanks so much. Hope you had a great holiday and Happy 2010!

  20. Thanks for such a fun challenge, it was exactly what I was hoping would be the December challenge. I had such a great time putting mine together, it’s still up and I feel bad at the thought of demolishing it! :)
    All the best for 2010!

  21. Anna, thank you so much for a great challenge, and being a wonderful hostess! I was initially apprehensive, but dang, I did it! Thing is, I missed the part about making your own templates, but I did resize the originals, and futz with the shapes, well, I messed them up cutting them and had to reshape them, so that counts, right? LOL Happy New Year to you and yours!

  22. Hi there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group?
    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really enjoy your content.
    Please let me know. Many thanks

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