Monday, December 28, 2009

Daring Bakers December 09: Gingerbread House!

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. 

I was super excited when I found out what the December challenge was going to be! I had thought about making a gingerbread house, but had decided that it was just too expensive and too much work to do for just myself.  With the challenge, though, I finally had a good excuse to make one!  Ironically, I ended up running out of time to make my house before I came back to ND, so I build my house there instead.

ready to cut

I hadn't build a gingerbread house since middle school, and even then, we used graham crackers over old milk cartons.  A link was provided to a Bob Vila website for gingerbread house building.  What a fantastic site!  I grew up watching Bob Vila's "This Old House" and "Bob Vila's Home Again" so seeing instructions for gingerbread "construction," complete with gingerbread "plans." I used the side gable plans for my house.

freshly baked gingerbread

I decided early on in my planning phase to limit the use of candy in my design. I wanted to practice my piping skills further and it was more cost effective to use less candy.  But I ended up using no candy, just the gingerbread, the icing and then cardamom for the path in the front of the house.

side view

All the piping took much longer than I had anticipated (and also many more batches of royal icing.... ).

back view

I used gelatin sheets for my windows.  And I cut a hole in my cardboard base in order to add battery-operated tea light candles inside the house once it was finished.

The front of the house

I spent many many hours on this house and I am so pleased with the results! I'm definitely making more gingerbread houses in the future!

More pictures will be up on my flickr in the coming days.  I plan to photograph in daylight as well, but I wanted the post to be up on the 27th :)

Okay, on to recipes..... I used Y's recipe for the gingerbread, mostly because I had all the ingredients.  I did use less water than the original recipe called for.  I also used a different royal icing recipe because the one listed for the challenge contained vinegar, which I did not have on hand.....

Y's Recipe:
Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas 
1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]
1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.
2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.
3. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.
4. [I rolled out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1/8 inch thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.]
5. Preheat the oven to 375'F (190'C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.
Royal Icing: {note, I did not use this recipe}
1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

  1. 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.

Joy of Baking Royal Icing Recipe: {I used this recipe instead} 

2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 cups (330 gm) confectioner's sugar {note, I added more to make a stiffer icing for piping details}

  1. In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the lemon juice. Add the powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined and smooth. The icing needs to be used immediately or transfered to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.
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  1. Your house is stunning! I love the colours and details =D. Fabulous job!

  2. WOW!! And so neatly decorated too. Just look at that window framing! Complete with christmas light. Nice.

  3. When you said that you didn't use any candy to decorate it, I had to go back and look again--I didn't even notice, because it was decorated so well!! :) Great job!! :)

  4. I think your house is VERY nice, neat and sweet! I especially like the roof and the windows, and the light makes it all so shiny!

  5. That's the cutest house, so warm looking, I love that you put a candle inside, I was afraid to!

  6. I agree---stunning house! Your piping is stunning, especially on the roof. Bravo!!

  7. It looks lovely lit up like that. Great idea to use the gelatin sheets.

  8. Your house looks so warm and inviting, nicely done!

  9. I love your house! It's beautiful! And what a smart idea to not use candies...I'm not stuck with way too much candies. Will keep that in mind in the future! Happy 2010!

  10. Your house looks just perfect. Cute decorations!