Friday, January 1, 2010
Daring Bakers' Challenge: Gingerbread Houses
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.
Hello, my blog-world friends. I am sorry I've been gone for so long. Some of the blame goes to the fact that I'm just plain lazy, but I do have two other reasons for neglecting this blog that are a little better:
1. My family and I just moved. During finals week. The week before Christmas. Consequently, cooking and baking exciting things weren't really high on my priority list.
2. I am pregnant with my second child and morning sickness has taken it's toll. Sadly, there were some days that I just couldn't even look at a cookbook or think about food blogs. And the idea of making the cannoli that was last month's Daring Bakers' challenge turned my stomach and I just couldn't do it. But I'm into my second trimester now and feeling much better, so I felt it was finally time to get back into things.
The challenge this month was so fun and festive. I love gingerbread houses, and I was excited to try to make an entirely edible one--usually I just cheat and hot glue my houses together. We were given a choice of two recipes we could use. I chose the Scandinavian one to pay homage to my Swedish roots, and I must say, they weren't kidding when they warned that the recipe was made more for sturdiness than for taste. This gingerbread made my house smell wonderful but tasted like spiced modeling clay. It was very durable, though. Even though some daring bakers complained that the dough was dry and I did have to add a couple of extra tablespoons of water and still had some cracking around the edges as I rolled it out, I liked working with this dough. It held it's shape well as I transported it to cookie sheets, and the baked pieces were nice and sturdy.
For my template, I used one I found here at gingerbreadbydesign.com. I would have liked to decorate it more, but I was already late posting this and my two year old was eating the candy almost as fast as I could put it on. Anyway, enjoy, and happy New Year!
Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas http://astore.amazon.com/thedarkit-20/detail/0816634963
1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]
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.
2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.
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. [I 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.
1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract
Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren't using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.
P.S. The original recipe called for making a simple syrup to "glue" the house together, but I just used the royal icing and it was fine.