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.
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.
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.
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 decided to fill the coffin with one of my favorite basic candies, gummi worms. Creepy and delicious!
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 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.
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.
I think the star of this particular house, though, is the spooky candy and not the fancy piping.
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 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.)
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!
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.
- Stand or handheld electric mixer (not required but it will make mixing the dough a lot easier and faster)
- Plastic wrap
- Rolling pin
- Parchment paper
- Baking sheets
- Cardboard cake board or sheet of thick cardboard
- Foil, if desired
- Small saucepan
- Small pastry brush (optional)
- Piping bag with small round tip, or paper cornets if you’re comfortable with them
Spicy Gingerbread Dough (from Good Housekeeping) http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/recipefinder/spicy-gingerbread-dough-157…
- 2 1/2 cups (500g) packed dark brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (360mL) heavy cream or whipping cream
- 1 1/4 cups (425g) molasses
- 9 1/2 cups (1663g) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
- 1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger
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)
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.
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.
- 1 large egg white
- 3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 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.
- 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.