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 was beyond thrilled when I saw that this month’s Daring Bakers challenge was to make a gingerbread house from scratch. You might think I’m slightly nuts (and I’m OK with that), but it’s been on my must-bake list for quite a while. Once again, the Daring Bakers challenge was the little push that I needed to finally get around to it!
Luckily, I got snowed in last Saturday afternoon. We got about eight inches of snow (which is a lot for December around here), so I was stuck at home and spent the entire day working on my gingerbread house. I think when all was said and done, I spent about 15 hours working on my gingerbread house. It was a lot of fun, though, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.
I am also happy to announce that after one week, my house is still standing! I had very few issues with the dough shrinking. I made my own templates for the house and had very few issues with the dough. I did end up substituting half and half for the heavy cream in the recipe and had to use some whole wheat flour because I didn’t have quite enough all purpose. I didn’t actually taste any of the gingerbread from the house. It ended up being fairly hard and crisp, which was great for architecture, but not really edible (in my opinion). If you want an edible recipe, give my gingerbread cookies a try… I think they would actually work well to build a gingerbread house, and stay nice and soft when they bake!
For this challenge, we could choose between two gingerbread recipes. I made the Spicy Gingerbread Dough from Good Housekeeping (printed below from the Daring Bakers challenge). I had plenty of dough left over, so I used it to make some homemade ornaments that I gave to some friends and family. I followed the instructions as listed in the recipe to cut out the large pieces for the house, but I ended up just rolling out the dough on a floured mat and baking the other pieces as I would for standard cookies. I didn’t need the extra chilling time listed below in steps 5-8.
Instead of using simple syrup to construct my gingerbread house, I just used the royal icing that I used to decorate the house. I covered a large piece of cardboard with some aluminum foil and built the house on the foil platform. I used the same royal icing that I used to decorate my gingerbread cookies last week.
Spicy Gingerbread Dough
(from Good Housekeeping)
- 2 1/2 cups (500g) packed dark brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (360mL) heavy cream or whipping cream
- 1 1/4 cups (425g) molasses
- 9 1/2 cups (1663g) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
- 1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Grease and flour large cookie sheets (17-inch by 14-inch/43x36cm)
4. 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.)
5. 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.
6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (149C)
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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 used some M&M’s and gum drops to decorate my house. I cut out small hearts to make shingles for the roof and used a few of them to decorate the sides of the house, as well. I ended up adding some icing and coconut “snow” to the top of the house, though, which covered up all of the shingles.
Here’s the proof that I actually constructed my house without any additional supports! I apologize for the less-than-beautiful pictures… I was constructing at 10:00pm in very poor lighting!
When all was said and done, I was fairly pleased with how my house turned out. Next time I will have to restrain myself a bit because I feel like I went a bit crazy with all of the coconut and icing… But, I had a good time and have had another Daring Bakers success, so that makes it all worth it!
Bring on the January challenge!