Thursday, 20 October 2011

Gingerbread House: Part 1 (the naked parts)

So it's that time of year again, the time when I vow to make a Gingerbread House and it always gets pushed back and pushed back until, look at that - Christmas is over! Too late. Definitely next year then. 

And the cycle starts over again. Not this time, my friends!

This post will be all about the naked Gingerbread bits. The dough to the baked pieces. You can make any shape of house and you can customise it using cutters or a sharp knife to make it more elaborate, like I did. One of my favourite techniques is to add crushed sugar candies to make sugar glass windows. Add a tea light inside the finished house and you've got yourself a fancy-schmancy Gingerbread Mansion, fit to be oooh-ed and aaahh-ed over. 

So. Get yourself a nice gingerbread dough recipe and house template off the internet or from a book. Martha does nice ones (yes, that Martha). Any will do. Make sure the baby is asleep and not likely to wake any time soon (feel free to change the word "baby" to anything likely to interrupt you)... and you're ready to go. You don't need to do the whole thing in one go, the baked pieces will keep nicely in an airtight container for a couple of days. I bake one day, and decorate later that day or the next. 

This is my second attempt and I can say that practice makes perfect. They can be tricky suckers to build. You will need time and patience, as well as a good deal of royal icing to glue it all together. Dressmakers pins help. They hold the thing together while you juggle with the piping bag. Trust me *insert evil laugh here*

You will need to double up on your recipe to have enough dough to cut all the pieces you need. You will most likely need (for a basic house like mine): 2 x roof pieces, 2 x gabled sides, 2 x front/back pieces. My pattern didn't include a chimney, but I cut one out using left over dough. Simple enough.

Gingerbread dough recipe
Adapted from 'The Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits' (1992 edition) by The Australian Woman's Weekly

Makes double

250g Soft butter
210g Brown sugar
2 eggs
750g Plain flour
2 teaspoons Bicarbonate (Baking) Soda
5 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons Golden Syrup or Molassis

Preheat oven to 170 degrees celcius.

Cream the butter and brown sugar using a paddle attachment on your mixer until light in colour and creamy.

Add the eggs, and whip until the mixture is light and airy. Add the golden syrup until combined and then slowly add the combined dry ingredients. 

When all have just come together, but the mixture is still crumbly, this is the point I change to a dough hook attachment and knead on the slowest speed until it forms more of a dough consistency. 

Divide into three, form into balls, and start rolling the first one until it is about half a centimetre thick. 

Place the template on to the dough and cut using either a sharp knife, a pizza or pastry roller, or even a long pallet knife. I used a pizza roller. It worked pretty well. Repeat with the rest of the dough until you have all the pieces you need. 

(Don't press the paper too much on to the dough as when you peel it away, the dough goes with it! Or cut the template out of greaseproof paper and you should be able to peel it away, no problems. In this case, I just flipped this piece on to the baking tray, ruined side down and the other side was just fine. Or brush with water and sprinkle with Demerara sugar to "rough up" the texture. Looks nice too!)

If you have windows cut into your dough, a nice little detail is filling the gaps with crushed boiled sweets or candies. They will melt in the oven at the same time the dough bakes and you will have yourself stained glass windows!

Bake for 10-12 minutes and keep an eye on it. Because of the high sugar content from the golden syrup and the brown sugar, it can burn pretty quickly, so make sure you set a timer. When the dough looks even in colour and set, it's time to come out of the oven. Cool them on a rack (except for the ones with the sugar glass windows, leave them on the sheet until cooled otherwise the candy glass will ooze out) and wait until completely cooled before decorating. 

Stay tuned for Part II where I attempt to glue the whole thing together and try to make it look pretty!

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