Thursday, December 24, 2009

Daring Bakers: Gingerbread Houses

I tried making a gingerbread house when my oldest daughter was about two. Goodness gracious. Candy everywhere... she was all sugared up for hours. I wasn't exactly tickled with the process. I actually said to myself, never again. Well, if there is one thing I learned in my life so far is to never say never. Yup. I did the challenge. And I had fun! Yes, despite what some of the DB'ers are saying it does taste good. My kids have been eating the cookies we cut out from the dough.
After I finished my house I constructed miniature houses for my kids to decorate. We had a blast. I really enjoyed doing it with the kids and I hope to do it next year as well.
Okay I hleped my youngest a little here. But all I did was make that flowerish shaped thingy.

Okay, when Mom is not looking let me stick my finger in my frosting and eat it. Who cares about the house, I'm in it for the sugar.
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.

We had a choice of two recipes. I chose this one and I did accidentally make an adjustment. When all was said and done though it worked out fine.

My Tips for Gingerbread House Building:

1. Plan, plan, plan.
2. Construct blue print and template.

3. Immediately after baking cut the forms again to ensure perfect construction. I cant stress this step enough. If your pieces are out of alignment, the whole thing will be way more difficult.
4. Think outside the gingerbread box.

Anna's Recipe:
Spicy Gingerbread Dough (from Good Housekeeping)

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 ( I used 1 tablespoon)
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.

Simple Syrup: (really this should be called caramel- hard ball stage)
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.

(Yes, no water). I recommend using half of this unless you have everything ready to go. It gets hard fast, so you have to work quickly. You can heat it up again and again but at some point it just gets too dark.)

I did use this to make windows. So when I place a candle inside the house (an electronic one), I can see the light shining through in amber tones.

For the royal icing:

I used the powdered meringue recipe on the back of the container. Worked like a charm. Ended up using that for my glue for the most part.

I had gone to the George Eastman Gingerbread House display for inspiration. Here is one of the neat GB "houses' that was there.


Barbara Bakes said...

Great job on this challenge! How fun that you did it with your kids!

kat said...

Yours turned out so good! I love the trees

Lauren said...

What fun! I love that you did it with your kids =D The houses all look fantastic!

Chow and Chatter said...

oh wow these are amazing great job

Merry Christmas

love Rebecca

Debbie said...

So cute!!! I loved the nonpareils on the roof!

Murasaki Shikibu said...

Love your very original gingerbread house. :)

chef_d said...

Pretty gingerbread house! I have been eating the left-over scraps too :)

Pontch said...

Beautiful gingerbread house
Great job
Happy Holidays :)

Jill said...

What a cute house and I love the gumdrop trees!
Merry Christmas! :)

Lucy..♥ said...

Great fun with the girls, and oh so pretty! I look forward to making them again with Grant.

Katy ~ said...

Well done! Good on ya for taking up the challenge even though you thought you'd "never" do it again!

Vanillastrawberryspringfields said...

so dang cute cute cutey pie ginger houses....
everyone of 'em rocks....
merry christmas and happy hols....

Vanillastrawberryspringfields said...

So dangy cutey gingerbread homes-love evry one of 'em.....
Merry Christmas and happy hols....

Sheltie Girl said...

Great job! I love your nonpareil shingles...they are an adorable and unique touch.

Natalie @ gluten a go go

Anna said...

Ooh your house is great! I love that bakers' kids were able to get in on the fun, too!

shaz said...

Aww..very sweet and looks like the kids had loads of fun! Glad you said you liked the taste because my hubby remarked that he really liked this gingerbread too. Happy holidays.

silverrock said...

hahaha... plan, plan, plan... I couldn't agree more. Way to go on this month's challenge, you rocked it out! The gingerbread house looks amazing :)

Anzj said...

Like me, you did the roof tiles the wrong way around too (allowing for all the rain to just pour in)!! But besides that, lovely colorful family house. It was my first, but we instantly decided it would be a New Family Tradition around here!!

LittleRed said...

Great job! Looks like everyone had fun! I had always wanted to try one but never got around to it until now thanks to the DB's. I let Ike decorate....and he loved it too, too bad we had to leave it behind:( Maybe next year we'll try a different pattern.

Y said...

Hooray! Love your house! I ate all my scraps too. Rather tasty :)

Ingrid said...

Your gingerbread house looks terrific! Good for you for giving it another try.

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that 2010 is a filled with friends (me!), family, and lots of yummy good food! :)

Lisa Michelle said...

Lori, as always, you turned out an amazing challenge. Your GB house is gorgeous, and I love all the accesories! I still can't believe I managed to pull this one off..LOL Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy New Year!

linda said...

Your houses look wonderful! Didn't allow my boys to help me on my first one. Next year I'll make them a miniature house too...great idea!