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.
I choose Anna's Recipe for the dough:
Spicy Gingerbread Dough (from Good Housekeeping)
- 2 1/2 cups (500 g) packed dark brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) heavy cream or whipping cream
- 1 1/4 cups (425 g) molasses (I used "Zuckerrübensirup")
- 9 1/2 cups (1663 g) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
- 1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger
Because I just wanted a small gingerbread house, I halved the ingredients. For assembling I just used royal icing (no syrup) and for decorating I used what I found in my kitchen, for example a bag of wine gums (some strange present from my parents), marshmallows and grounded pistachios and coconut flakes.
- 25 g white chocolate
- a bag of wine gums
- about 15 marshmallows, halved lengthwise
- coconut flakes
- grounded pistacios
- three egg white
- 300 g confectioners sugar
- onw tablespoon of lemon juice
- one package powdered food colouring (optional)
In very large bowl, with wire whisk (or with an electric mixer), beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.
Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.
Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16-inch thickness. (Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help roll dough to uniform thickness.) Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (149C).
Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimmings as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately. I used the trimmings to cut leaves and two different flower-shaped pieces with different cookie cutters. I used them for the decoration of the roof later - you'll need about 10 leaves and 6 of each flower-shaped piece. For the house, I used the gingerbread cabin/cottage template from here.
Chill for 10 minutes before baking if the dough seems really soft after you cut it. This will discourage too much spreading/warping of the shapes you cut. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size. Remove cookie sheet from oven. While house pieces are still warm, place poster-board patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary. Cool pieces completely before attempting to assemble the house. I had some issues with one of my roofs because I moved it when still warm and it got a big crack which I had to 'repair' with a hug amount of royal icing - so be carefull!
When chilled, decorate: Melt the white chocolate and stir in some butter until you have a runny consistency. Dip the decoration pieces (leaves and flowers) in it and then into the grounded pistacios (leaves) and coconut flakes (flowers). Let dry.
Meanwhile prepare the royal icing. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the egg whites with the lemon juice. Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined and smooth. Transfer two thirds of the icing into an airtight container and store into the refridgerator for later. The rest of the icing needs to be used immediately as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.
Decorate the roof and sides with wine gums, the leaves and flowers and the marshmallows using the royal icing. When everything is dry, assemble the house and use the rest of the icing for the finishing touch - mix half of the left icing with food colouring to get some extra effects.
The most time consuming thing is waiting ... for the decoration to dry and for the assembled pieces of the house to dry. Drying takes about one to two hours, at least if you want to have everything stable. I assembled first the fronts and sides and after that each roof seperately - the whole process of assembling took an evening. All together I spent for days making that house (one preparing the dough, one baking and decorating, one assembling and one for the finishing touches). Now I have a really nice looking gingerbread house and a final question: Who is going to eat this huge calorie loades 'sugar bomb'?