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.
This is my second Daring Bakers' Challenge. You may recall that my first challenge took a few attempts to get right (but in the end, the French Macarons were both beautiful and tasty). This time, I was successful on my first try. But this
was still definitely a challenge - it took me three days to complete! Here's a quick recap:
On day one, I made the gingerbread dough, which subsequently chilled in my fridge overnight. Day two saw me spending several hours rolling (a great arm workout!), cutting, and baking the pieces for my house. Finally, on day three, said house was assembled, decorated, and photographed. The house stood on its own - success! The roof did not slide off, as I feared. The unbaked gingerbread submitted to the red food coloring mixed with a bit of water, just as I was hoping it would. The only travesty was a chimney that turned out to be far too large for the house and had to be eaten. All else went as planned.
This is the first time I've ever made a gingerbread house from scratch. I had thought it was the first time that I've ever made a gingerbread house, period, but my mother insists that I built one from a kit at my grandmother's when I was a child. That sounds nice (but I have no memory of it!).
Two recipes were featured as part of this month's Daring Bakers' Challenge. I used Anna's recipe from Good Housekeeping. I halved the recipe, which turned out to be exactly the right amount of dough for my small house (roughly 6"x4"x8"), with some scraps that I cut into small squares and triangles and dusted with sugar ala flat-sided gingersnap cookies. The amounts below reflect the halving of the original recipe.
Makes enough for 1 small house
1 1/4 c. packed dark brown sugar (I used dark muscovado)
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream
2/3 c. molasses
4 3/4 c. flour
1 Tbsp. baking soda
1/2 Tbsp. ground ginger
Beat sugar, cream, and molasses in a stand mixer equipped with a metal whisk until smooth. Combine flour, baking soda, and ginger in a large bowl. Mix well. Replace the whisk attachment on stand mixer with the kneading attachment (I'm sure there's a more technical name for it than that, but I am not familiar with it!). Add flour mix to wet mix 1/3 at a time. Knead evenly. (Have I mentioned how much I love my KitchenAid? This would have been painful by hand, but was a breeze with the right appliance.)
Divide dough into three portions. Flatten each to a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for four hours or overnight.
Roll dough one disk at a time to 3/16" (this is the arm workout I mentioned above!). Chill dough on cookie sheet in the freezer 10 minutes or until firm enough to easily cut. Use poster board patterns to cut dough into pieces for the house with a sharp paring knife.
Place pieces on parchment lined cookie sheets, leaving at least 1 1/4" between each to allow for expansion during cooking. Note: chilling discourages expansion, so I put the cookie sheets with cut pieces in the freezer for an additional 10 minutes prior to baking.
Bake in a 300 degree oven 25 minutes, or until firm to the touch (don't overbake, as this will dry out the gingerbread). Try to bake pieces of similar size together. Smaller pieces will bake faster, so reduce time accordingly.
Remove from oven and use patterns to trim pieces as necessary (this will be easiest while the pieces are still hot). Allow to cool.
Use royal icing (recipe below) to glue house together. Apply any decorations to the sides of the house prior to assembling.
Makes enough to hold together and decorate 1 small house
1 large egg white
1 tsp. white vinegar*
1 tsp. almond extract*
2-3 c. powdered sugar
Whisk egg white, vinegar, and extract together in a medium bowl. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until desired consistency is reached.
*I decided to go with a coffee/orange-flavor/red-color theme for my house, and so substituted citrus champagne vinegar for the white vinegar and 1/2 tsp. orange extract for the almond extract called for in the original recipe. 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar was the amount I needed to get to desired consistency (pretty thick, like paste).
Though my house was simple, I had a lot of fun with it. I can see how gingerbread house making can become an annual tradition. It might just have to be one of mine from now on. I'm already thinking about what I might do next year...