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. Thanks to Anna and Y for hosting this month's truly challenging project! I chose to use Y's recipe (the second one) as all the ingredients were on hand at my parent's house.
As usual I started this challenge by thoroughly reading the trials and tribulations of other Daring Bakers' and putting myself in a slight panic. Thus my devotion to sorting two movie size packs of Nerds (Thanks to Jarrett for his help with this tedious task) and various other candies by color in preparation rather than moving forward with baking and construction.
My initial plan was to go Gaudi in honor of visiting Spain this year, but when I began rolling the gingerbread at 11 a.m. Christmas Eve that went out the window. Procrastination never wins. As expected from my reading the dough crumbled, but rolling it between wax paper sheets forced it back together and all was well. Or it was well until I carefully cut out the front, back and sides of the house using Martha Stewart's Snow Swept Gingerbread Cottage template and stuck them in the oven only to realize the template lacked a roof! Needless to say I was none to happy and concerned about the likely dough shortage.
Fortunately my Dad was able to create a roof template, there was just enough dough using the scraps and a roof was made. I opted to "glue" the house together with the simple syrup, which Mom kindly made, because it would be quicker. Simple syrup worked like a charm creating a VERY sturdy house, although once something is set crooked it is SET. Sigh. Also, it is pretty dangerous. I burnt my finger, the roof of my mouth (genius!) and got syrup in my hair. This was around the time when I informed Mom that I thought I preferred cooking to baking. :)
The decorative gluing and snow are royal icing, made using the linked recipe and a touch of maple extract to improve the flavor without making the snow look dirty.While tasty the icing was like cement, which is the ultimate goal but not the instant one. My hands are sore today but somehow it all worked out and I was able to present the lovely house below to my family at our annual Christmas Eve gathering at Mom's parents.
My house may not be exactly what I envisioned but it wasn't a bad first try. I haven't decided if I'll tackle this again but maybe by next year I'll have recovered and be up for the challenge again. Gingerbread Houses like those of my fellow Daring Baker's can be beautiful and come in all shapes and sizes. It's hard to fail.
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas (or whatever you celebrate/celebrated) to you and your loved ones! If something in this entry doesn't make sense, please forgive me. I got a migraine for Christmas, in addition to fun gifts, and it is killing me.
The finished project!
See? It was very sturdy.
And I was very sticky.
Y's Recipe: Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas
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 [675g]
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.
*After my reading I halved all of these items. The resulting gingerbread didn't puff up enough to distort and wasn't overly potent to eat. It was a very dry, slightly sweet gingerbread which balanced nicely with the sweets and icing used to decorate.
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.