Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gingerbread House 101

Nothing makes a more festive centerpiece
for the Christmas table
than a Gingerbread House.
Imagine the smiles on the children's faces
and the amazement of the adults
as they admire your tasty work of candied art.

Although there are many kits available
that make the Gingerbread House construction
a quick and easy process,
I decided that hand-crafted
was the best way to go
in order to assure that traditional sense
of an old fashioned Christmas.

These are the ingredients you will need:
  • 6 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup dark molasses
  • 1 Tbsp water
However, I do not like cloves,
or cinnamon,
so I left those out of my recipe.

I was also completely out of salt,
only had baking soda,
and substituted white sugar for the brown.

But- you know-
when that urge to bake hits you-
there's no running to town to get supplies!

It only serves as an excuse to
buy chocolate covered cherries,
a five pound tin of salted cashews,
and a giant bottle of Bailey's.

Then- by the time you get home,
you're ready for a nap
and say the heck with the baking.

So- trust me.
Make do.

Make the Gingerbread Dough

1 Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. 
(My bowl was a bit small and kept flying all over the place, but, hey- that's what paper towels are for!)
Set aside.
2 Using an electric mixer, ( I used a wooden spoon- my beaters are bent),
beat on medium speed the butter and brown sugar until fluffy and well blended.
(Mine was not actually fluffy. It just kinda laid there like cement).
Beat in the eggs, (I always pretend I'm on the Food Network during this process!)
molasses and water until well combined.
3 Beat half of the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until well blended and smooth. 
(Have you ever tried to beat molasses? Doesn't work, people!)
Stir in the remaining flour. 
Knead (or use your mixer's dough hook)  (Oh, yeah- like I've got one of those!)
until well blended. 
If dough is too soft, add a little more flour.
(I was out of flour, so I used pancake mix instead.)
4 Wrap the dough in plastic wrap (If you can ever find the start of the wrap and keep it from sticking to itself! Mercy!)and refrigerate at least two hours, preferably overnight.  (How could I possible wait overnight? I was too excited! I waited till Reno 911 was over, then I continued construction)
You can make it up to 3 days ahead of time. (Yeah- like who plans that far ahead?!) 
Let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before rolling out.(Rolling out? No one said anything about rolling out! Crap! I hate that part!)

Now is the time where creativity takes charge!
Make a paper pattern of the house you would like to build.
Will it be square? Ranch-style? A castle?

I decided on the typical Hansel and Gretel type house.

My dough ended up 1/16 inch thick
on one end
and 3.75 inches thick
on the other,
but I think it gave my house more character.

Bake the pieces at 350 for 11-15 minutes.
While waiting, prepare your Royal Icing.
This is the mortar that will hold the pieces together.
It will also make for stunning decorative icicles
and subtle finishing touches to your
awesome centerpiece.

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 2/3 cup powdered sugar, divided
The following is the construction process
that I found worked best for me:

Pipe the icing along the edges of your cooled pieces,
taking both hands,
duct tape,
and a heavy duty vice to hold them together.

Align two walls and mortar.

Wait five seconds for them
to crack and fall.

Wipe the icing from your brows
and hairline.

Eat all the jelly beans,
licorice sticks
and M&M's
before they go stale.

Try again using 1 part Royal Icing
to 2 parts library paste.

After the chimney falls,
the roof caves in
and the sidewalk crumbles,
proceed to throw the entire monstrosity
into the nearest trash can.

I'm sitting here this morning-
enjoying my beautiful masterpiece.
A Wilton pre-made Gingerbread House!

And I've finished off a half dozen
chocolate covered cherries,
a pound of cashews
and five shots of Bailey's.

Life is good.