Voting is now open! Go here, comment to vote. My house is #11. Vote for it if you like it best. You can vote once per day until the 17th!
For a fun seasonal activity, a fellow blogger’s gingerbread house contest caught my eye. I’ve never made a gingerbread house before, not even the kind that come in a box that you just stick together and decorate. My mind was dreaming big. Oh the possibilities…the
world gingerbread house was my oyster.
The nerd in me (and there’s a lot) set out to model the house in a 3D modeling software.
I thought this might save me some calculations while trying to figure out the dimensions and angles required to make the roof pieces meet together correctly and have the desired overhang. Seriously, roofs are complicated! I even pulled out the law of sines before I was content that my roof would actually fit together. This may not be difficult for you, but it’s been a few years, ok? Oh, my professors would be so proud. My engineering degree has finally been utilized to its fullest. Ha! I kid, I kid. It’s not that complicated and in retrospect I am sure that if I would have just winged it, the roof probably would fit just about the same. What is the tolerance on baked gingerbread anyway? It was not posted on the specifications sheet, I can tell you that! It’s ok, icing can fix
all most mistakes.
Now that I’ve thoroughly discouraged anyone from wanting to try this at home, let me show you how simple, albeit time consuming, it was.
I started with a ginormous batch of dough (recipe at the bottom).
It was the largest batch of roll-out cookie dough I’d ever made. I ended up needing two…
Contrary to the title of this blog (which refers to my fiery red hair color…not necessarily the ingredient) I have never used ground ginger, and could only think of the punch it brings to Asian food in its fresh form, which in my mind, didn’t pair well with a cookie. I was wrong. This dough made a wonderful crisp cookie. As I worked and nibbled on scraps, this spicy cookie brought the perfect combination of holiday cheer and warmth. Some recipes for gb houses are made for structural integrity. This recipe can easily do both. Cook a few minutes less for softer cookies.
After my model was done (I used Google Sketchup…so much fun) I cut out each piece I would need from thick cardboard. I wanted the thickness of the cardboard to mimic the final thickness of the gingerbread since that was the hardest thing to account for. I taped the cardboard pieces together, just to make sure, then set out to cut out my walls and roof pieces. I simply rolled the dough out on a piece of parchment to a flat 1/4″ (I used 1/4″ wooden dowels on each side of the dough to ensure it was flat and the right thickness, tip found here), laid the cardboard template on top and traced around with a knife.
I learned a lesson here: cut away from each corner, not toward it, or the dough can crack and break or your corner will at least get stretched out.
Remove the dough scraps and leave the piece right on the parchement paper you rolled it out on. Trim around it, leaving about an inch and a half of paper at the edges to grab onto, and slide it right onto your baking sheet. As soon as it comes out of the oven, lay the template on top of the piece and with a sharp knife, trim if needed, to get a nice straight edge.
Finish baking all of your pieces making sure to cut out windows and any other openings you want before they bake. Let the pieces sit overnight on the counter to cool and harden.
The next day the windows can be filled. I was in a rush on that day. I went to the store to buy candy for the windows. I knew exactly what I wanted. Brach’s butterscotch candies. Nowhere. It was like the evil candy spirits were denying my attempt. In frustration, I settled for a few bags of mixed candies that were mulitcolored. I picked out the yellow, orange and butterscotch ones thinking they would melt together and give a nice uniform orangy color. Nope. I got a stained glass effect.
So, if that is what you are going for, do that. If you want a solid color, only use one type of candy. Lesson learned. Break the candy into small pieces. Then just place each piece of gb on foil and fill each opening to a slightly rounded capacity. Bake at 350 degrees until candy melts (8-10 minutes). Let cool completely (overnight) before removing the backing paper.
The next day, mix up a batch of thick royal icing (recipe below) and pipe a thick line on each side of every seam as best you can while placing all of the walls.
Utilize whatever you have around to hold the walls as they dry. The next day add your roof, and finally the day after that, decorate away! I used gum dipped in cocoa for the roof shingles, fruit leather for the window casings, and gummyworms (sliced) with sprinkles for the lights.
One of my favorite components is the little tree on the porch.
It is simply a cone with a ton of royal icing piped around it. I think it’s cute in all of its non-perfection.
My very favorite part of the house is the snow on the roof. I outlined roughly where I wanted the snow to go with the thick royal icing, then thinned it, but not as much as you would for flooding. I got mine to the consistancy where it took about 15-20 seconds after it dripped off my spoon to disapear into the smooth surface of the rest of the bowl. Just pipe it round the interior of the outline and watch it run just a bit as it’s setting up.
I finished it by throwing some shredded coconut after the icing had dried for a little fresh powder effect.
I hope you like it, and if you do, it’s being featured in a contest over on Cook It Allergy Free! The post as mentioned above is here. My house is #11. Just leave a comment with my house’s number to cast your vote. You can vote once per day through the 17th! I’d really appreciate your votes!
I think creating a gbread house with a family would be a great way to create lasting memories and a fun family tradition. If you have any pictures of gbread houses from this year or years past, post a link to them in the comments, I’d love to check them out.
Gingerbread Cookie Recipe
adapted from Karen Joy over at Only Sometimes Clever
She says this recipe yields about 8 dozen medium cut out cookies, I wouldn’t know…I just made the ginormous house and it took all of two batches.
This recipe would probably work perfectly just as posted on Karen’s site, but I substituted a flour, changed up the spices a bit, converted the recipe to grams, and modified the method to reflect what I did. I like to cook by measurements so much, and especially when dealing with this much of any flour!
108g Quinoa Flour
298g Potato Starch
384g Brown Rice Flour
441 Sweet Rice Flour
2 Tbsp xanthan gum
3 Tbsp baking powder
2 Tbsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice (I always have some leftover this time of year)
3 cups powdered sugar
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 cups shortening
1 cup eggs (depending on size, 4-5 eggs. Measure into a glass measuring cup.)
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp dark molasses (OR 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses – which is what I used)
1 Tbsp salt
1. In a very large bowl, with a whisk, mix together the flours, starch, xanthan gum, baking powder, and spices until well-combined. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of a large mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the powdered and brown sugars, shortening, eggs, molasses and salt.
3. To the sugar mixture, add flour mixture, about 2 cups at a time, running the mixer after each addition to combine. Once the flour mixture is mostly incorporated, knead the dough in the bowl, slowly punching the dough down in the middle and folding the sides of the dough into the middle. Or, put the dough on a non-stick surface (like a silicone mat or a marble slab), and knead it on there. Incorporate all the flour mixture until you have a stiff dough.
4. If you refrigerate or freeze the dough, bring to room temp before rolling. Working with about 1/4 of the dough at a time, roll the dough 1/4″ thick directly onto parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
5. From this dough, either cut sections for your gingerbread house from a template, or use cookie cutters.
6. Slide the dough on it’s nonstick paper or silicon mat directly onto preferably a non sided air back cookie sheet. If you don’t have one of those just be extra careful navigating it over the edge.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 19 minutes until the edges are just starting to brown.. If your cookies are thinner, and/or you’re using thinner pans, bake time will be shorter.
8. Slide off of the pan and store at room temperature, in a airtight container if you you want your cookies to stay soft, or on the counter uncovered if they are gingerbread house pieces.
2 tablespoons dried egg whites**
6 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
**I use dried egg whites for a no-second-thoughts-about-samonella approach. You can use plain ole egg whites totaling 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup and 1/8th cup).
Mix the dried egg whites with water and using a whisk attachment on your mixer, or buy hand. Mix until very foamy. Add in the sugar and vanilla and mix in a mixer on high for 4-5 minutes until very shiny and smooth.