Yesterday, it was gingerbread men, and today, keeping with the theme, I am presenting a gingerbread house. Gingerbread houses are not really common here - until I started blogging, I hadn't heard of such a thing. However, Donna Hay published a recipe for a gingerbread house in the latest edition (Dec/Jan 2010) of Donna Hay Magazine.
I used Donna's gingerbread recipe, but that's where my use of the recipe ends. For example, Donna baked her gingerbread in blocks which she cut into shapes with a serrated knife for the house after baking. This terrifies me, because I am not as skilled as Donna, and I could see my lovely gingerbread being demolished into useless rubble if I attempted such a thing. Instead, I cut shapes out of the rolled out dough and baked those. I used a template off the Net, and cut out a window and a door before baking:
The gingerbread recipe is as follows:
7 1/2 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 2/3 cups golden syrup
Place half of all the ingredients into a food processor and process until they come together into a dough. Remove the dough from the processor, then process the remaining ingredients. Combine both lots of dough and knead lightly to bring it all together. Divide the dough into 4 pieces, press it into discs, wrap each piece in cling film and refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes before using.
From here, my method is different from Donna's:
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to soften just enough so that it can be rolled out easily. Place each piece of dough between two sheets of baking paper, and roll it to a thickness of around 3mm (you don't want a fragile house, so don't roll it too thinly!), then using your house template, cut out the walls and roof of the house, plus any gingerbread accessories that you want (eg trees).
Leave the cut out shapes on the baking paper and transfer to baking trays on the paper so as to avoid bending, warping etc. (You may wish to chill the cut out gingerbread shapes for an extra half an hour before baking to further guard against warping and shrinkage in the oven, but I didn't bother.)
Place the baking trays with the gingerbread shapes on in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden. Don't put large shapes and small shapes together to bake, as the large shapes will take longer. It is important to ensure that the house pieces are baked thoroughly and end up on the crisp rather than soft side - I had to return a couple of pieces to the oven because they were too soft to make a house with.
Remove the baked gingerbread shapes from the oven and leave to cool completely in the trays on wire racks.
To assemble the house, you need:
- a foil covered piece of stiff cardboard large enough for your house
- royal icing that is stiff enough to hold the house together
- a piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain tip
- lollies of any variety that take your fancy to decorate the house
Pipe any fancy decoration like window shutters etc onto the walls and roof pieces of the house before you begin to assemble it so that you are not trying to acrobatically pipe on fancy shapes once the house is assembled. However, don't stick on any sweets yet, as they make the house pieces heavy and the house is then harder to assemble.
You first assemble the four walls of the house by piping royal icing onto the board in a straight line where you want each piece of the house to sit, and by piping royal icing at each join of the walls to stick them together. It was easiest for me to do all 4 walls at once to make sure that they all fitted together squarely. Hold each piece in place for a few minutes before putting up the next so that the icing has some time to secure it in place. You can also use glasses or tins to help hold up the walls until they set:
You can see the bent top of one of my walls where it banged up against the edge of the baking tray when I put it into the oven. Luckily, it didn't affect the final house structure.
Ensure that the walls are dry and set before adding the roof - wait 4 hours or so before adding the roof. Pipe royal icing all over the top edges of the walls, and add the roof pieces, holding in place for a few minutes to ensure that they aren't going to slide off. Allow the roof to set completely, again leaving the house to sit for a few hours to allow time for this to happen.
Finally, add your sweets and gingerbread accessories:
Isn't it pretty?
I had fun doing this: