DB Challenge: Gingerbread House

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 chose the Scandinavian recipe because it only called for things that I already had on hand. The Good Housekeeping would be more of the American traditional gingerbread in that it requires molasses.

I had never made a gingerbread house before, let alone from scratch. So many people just get the kits. The challenge said to make the house and decorate it as you please, just that all items must be edible. It also required the use of a template. I found mine off the internet somewhere (can't find the site again). I rolled my dough pretty darn thick so that my pieces were a good 1/4 inch thick.

The assembly required using simple syrup to be the glue. Simple syrup meant just melting sugar. Unfortunately I went a little too far and ended up getting very caramelized dark syrup. You can see a long drip on my finished house. This also ended up tinging my royal icing that came in contact with it. So after a day my icicles were looking like dirty snow icicles. Oh, well.

The real cost comes from all the decorating elements. I ended up using only candy on mine. I suggest going to the bulk bins at Winco as being the cheapest. I ended up at Sweet Factory for their bulk bins and large assortment. They are pricier though.

Here are some other things you can use:
-pretzel sticks
-Necco wafers
-almond slivers
-After 8 mints
-coconut flakes

All in all I was pretty happy with how it turned out. I wouldn't mind trying a more complex one next year or maybe doing a Halloween one. I ended up taking mine to work and donating it for auction to raise funds for our food drive.

This is probably my last cooking post for 2009. I'm off to Seattle and will probably do a review or two of restaurants up there. I'm hoping that maybe I can hit some of their famous gourmet food trucks as well. So for now, have a happy and safe holiday and Season's Eatings to you all.

Scandinavian dough
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.

Royal Icing:

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.

Simple Syrup:
2 cups (400g) sugar

Place in a small saucepan and heat until just boiling and the sugar dissolves. Dredge or brush the edges of the pieces to glue them together. If the syrup crystallizes, remake it.