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: The recipe I tested is from Good Housekeeping - I chose it because it was simple and required only ingredients I personally always have in my kitchen. Plus, it was so funky I HAD to try it, and luckily that worked out. I made my house around Halloween and decided to take advantage of the spooky goodies I could only get at that time of year.
Y: I tested a Scandinavian recipe from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book. I chose a Beatrice Ojakangas' recipe because I love her book, and usually have great success with her recipes. I was also attracted to the ingredients she had in her gingerbread. If you're using this recipe, please be aware that in general, gingerbread for houses are usually designed less for taste and more for it's ability to be sturdy and long lasting. My house is titled, "Steve the StormTrooper comes home for the Christmas holidays".
[I've always wanted to make a gingerbread house. It sounds like a fun thing to do especially with children or those that are young at heart. This month's challenge I'm baking on the road and have enlisted the help of Little Miss Kris... who is now a senior in high school. Time sure flies! Yikes!]
Mandatory for this Challenge:
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.
[I choose Y's recipe since the recipes required only 5 cups of flour and spices.]
Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, well packed
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour
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.
The sugar and butter are creamed together. The flour was added to the butter/sugar mixture and rubbed together to form a course mixture. I treated the gingerbread dough similar to a pie crust - where the water is slowly added to bring he dough together with minimal kneading.
I found it easier to mix all dry ingredients - flour and spices.
2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.
The pattern was based upon the book (referenced by Y), but when I rolled out the dough I wasn't sure if I had enough so I reduced the length of the roof and sides.
How the pattern looks in real life at full size before the trimming back the sides.
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. Y: 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.
[Based upon the complaints from other Daring Bakers, both recipes had a problem with dough shrinkage so for my runs I cut the dough a little larger than the pattern. After the dough is baked, I used a pizza cutter to trim the edges.]
For the royal icing, I used a powdered meringue instead of raw egg whites to avoid the raw egg and salmonella issue.
3T Meringue Powder
4C Powdered Sugar
Mix with a hand mixer for 10 minutes.
The Royal Icing is the glue that will hold the gingerbread pieces.
Assembling the House!
First, as needed, fixing broken edges.
You'll notice extra bits stuck to the lower corner... that was a fix for a cracked corner. Ice the cracked edge with royal icing and reinforce with a leftover bit of gingerbread.
Joining the sides:
Generously, pipe both sides with royal icing and press together.
Piece by piece ice and join.
The finished but bare house.
Start applying candy! I kept telling Kris - my rule is if you mess up, just add candy. Of course, she didn't make mistakes. I'm the one that followed that "rule"... lol.
The Finished G-Bread House
The front of the house made by Kris. Neat, aligned and put together with dexterity.
My attempt on the other side... Window's need to be aligned? Note: My picture frame window was a mess so I followed my rule, "Put candy over it!"... lol!
K's side of the house. Nice neat lines and the candy covers the room is intentional, not to cover mistakes.
My side of the house... Hmmm... the piping wasn't quite diagonal so I added the candy canes to cover up the bad piping job. :-) I am proud of my icicles. lol!
Overall, this turned out to be a fun challenge. I've always wanted to make a gingerbread house, but I'm glad I had a helper who was patient and had the dexterity. I'm more of the old fogey-type who waves my arthritic fist to yell at young whipper snappers to "turn down their hippie music" or "slow down".
Happy Holiday and Merry Christmas to you all!