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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Daring Bakers turn Architects

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.

Yay! Gingerbread houses! I feel like I've done my dash waxing lyrical about gingerbread in my recent Gingerbread Christmas Biscuits post, and I'm a little weary after the last day spent completely gorging on food and opening exciting presents, so I might let the pictures speak for themselves.

We were given a choice of two different gingerbread recipes, but for the purposes of this post I'm going to give you a different one that I can recommend if you are going to get architectural yourself. If you are just going to make gingerbread biscuits though, I'd recommend my usual gingerbread recipe instead.

Gingerbread House
Gingerbread and icing recipes from taste.com.au

3 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup plain flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
185g butter, chopped
1/2 cup golden syrup
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Royal Icing
2 eggwhites, lightly beaten
3 cups pure icing sugar

Red licorice
Mint leaves
Tiny teddies
Teddy bear biscuits
Tina wafer biscuits
Barley sugar (or similar) lollies
Dairy Milk rounds
Desiccated coconut

1. Design or download a house template and cut out of card. I used Martha Stewart's Snow-Swept Gingerbread Cottage template, but after printing and cutting it out I found it was too small for my liking. I then spent quite a while scaling it up by hand so it was a better size, and just ended up using paper cut outs as I didn't have any card handy. I also added some extra cut-outs for window sills.
2. Combine flours, ginger, cinnamon, sugar and butter in a food processor. Process until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Whisk golden syrup and eggs together in a jug. With the motor running, add egg mixture and process until dough just comes together. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently until smooth. Cut dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until well chilled.
3. Roll dough, 1 portion at a time, between 2 sheets baking paper until 5mm thick. Remove top layer baking paper. Using cut-outs as a guide, cut shapes from dough. Place gingerbread in a single layer on trays. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or until firm. Crush some barley sugar lollies to fill the window holes to create "glass". My parents don't have a mortar & pestle, so I did this by wrapping up the lollies in baking paper and bashing the crap out of them with the top of a meat tenderiser. This successfully drew my Dad out of the lounge room to investigate what the hell was going on in the kitchen. A useful tip to remember.

4. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line 4 baking trays with baking paper. Place gingerbread on trays. Bake, 2 trays at a time, for 15 minutes or until firm (keep an eye on the smaller pieces as you may need to remove them earlier). Cool on trays.

5. Make royal icing: Using an electric mixer, beat eggwhites until soft peaks form. Gradually add icing sugar, beating constantly until thick.

6. Put the royal icing in a piping bag with a round tip, or in a ziplock bag with a corner snipped off. Use it to get decorating...

Tina wafer window shutters, Smarties window frames, Mint Leaf wreath and Freckles roof tiles (very important to overlap them properly so the rain will run off correctly... we don't want the gingerbread family's furniture to get rain damage, especially not at Christmas)

7. Let the decorations set before assembling the house, so that they don't slide off. Use more royal icing to assemble the house, propping up the pieces with tins of food. Another tip I came across was to use dressmaker's pearl-headed pins to hold the panels together, but I didn't try this myself. Let the side panels set before attempting to attach the roof.

8. Add more decorating touches...

Mint leaf greenery, red licorice pillars to hide the joins, and icicles dripping from the roof

The residents will soon complain if we don't have a working chimney to see them through tsunami season, and we'd better test it by lighting a fire. Ooh, the marshmallow smoke seems to be pumping out nicely

Lay down a nice footpath and you won't be able to keep out the riffraff

Ta-da! (thanks Dad for being a valiant prop-holder)

9. After showing it off for a while to much praise, ignore the cries of those around you and bust that baby open to feast upon its dismembered pieces. You might even find a surprise tin can of mushrooms that you accidentally left inside. Surprise mushrooms! Merry Christmas!


Rubber Ninja December 26, 2009 at 1:53 PM  

Yay! Gorgeous Gingerbread house. Love the icicles hanging from the roof.

Trissa December 26, 2009 at 6:12 PM  

Great job Conor! Your gingerbread house looks adorable. Did you manage to make this house in between eating loads of Christmas food? If you did, I am suitably impressed!

Hannah December 26, 2009 at 7:19 PM  

Once again, awesome work! Very intricate and lovely to look at.

H :)

mademoiselle délicieuse December 26, 2009 at 7:53 PM  

Wow, the gingerbread family should be very happy with this house! Don't think I've seen anyone who has decorated it before assembling the house and LOL at the hidden can of food inside =p

Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz December 27, 2009 at 12:49 AM  

Awesome house, so festive and snowy! Very creative decoration too. I like the wafer shutters.

Merry Chirtmas to you too (And I will a trip to Aussi land too)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella December 27, 2009 at 10:47 AM  

Woohoo! Great job Conor! LOL I'm afraid I would consider myself a total failure as an architect but yours looks great! :D

Pierre December 27, 2009 at 7:04 PM  

Hello Conor
I am always amazed how anglo saxons love to do such things and this is really a beauty : congratulations !! have a good one in Perth ; here in Paris it si cold but sunny and the city is gorgeous

Iron Chef Shellie December 27, 2009 at 7:30 PM  

Oh Conor!! It's gorgeous!!
I LOVE the footpath! =)

I'm currently eating mine... so good!

CheapAppetite December 29, 2009 at 8:40 AM  

Conor, this is so cute! It's interesting to see all the steps and behind the scene shots. I can't believe you really ate this lovely house. Funny you left a can in there. haha.

Karen Harris December 29, 2009 at 12:20 PM  

Beautifully done! I'm in awe as I've decided that there are two things I will probably never make from scratch, puff pastry and gingerbread houses. I hope you had a happy Christmas.

Julia @Mélanger December 29, 2009 at 1:08 PM  

I love your gingerbread house. Particularly the wafer shutters! :)

A cupcake or two December 29, 2009 at 6:38 PM  

Conor that is incredible. I love the freckle roof. Its just so whimsical. Is that how you spell that word? The rolo brick road is cool too. Great job.

Krissy @ The Food Addicts December 30, 2009 at 1:20 PM  

awesome... i am so glad you put up step-by-step photos of the gingerbread house-making. i guess if i ever attempt to make one, i would sorta feel like a general contractor, hehe.

Belle@OohLook December 30, 2009 at 5:51 PM  

Hehe, you should become a real architect (and principal builder) of houses. Oh, wait, that's a *gingerbread* house? It's so real! Love the freckle roof and Smartie decor.

Conor @ HoldtheBeef December 31, 2009 at 9:52 AM  

Rubber Ninja - thanks! All icicles should be made from sugar, I think.

Trissa - thank you! I set aside Xmas eve to make it, and managed to squeeze in going out for lunch and then having a big dinner amongst the construction :) there's always time for eating!

Hannah - thanks very much :)

mademoiselle délicieuse - thanks, the little teddies certainly looked quite happy. Happy to be eaten, muhahahahaha.

Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz - cheers! Yes, let's win the lottery and spend 2010 travelling.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella - thanks Lorraine! Nooooo yours was great, especially those little flower planters. Too cute :)

Pierre - haha, thanks Pierre. Yes it was certainly very hot here over Christmas, but sadly the temperature has dropped for this new years eve! I might even have to consider taking a jacket out with me tonight! (shock horror)

Iron Chef Shellie - thank you!! I'm still making my way through mine. Cracked it up into chunks and made little 'meals' in chinese takeaway containers. The meals are slowly disappearing..... :D

CheapAppetite - thanks :) eating it was the best part, in fact I think it is time for morning tea right now, yes yes :D

Karen Harris - thanks Karen, I hope yours was good too. I'm sure you can survive without having ever built a gingerbread house, but I have to insist that you try making your own puff pastry. It is TOTALLY worth it for a special treat!

Julia @Mélanger - thanks Julia :) I have to admit that I needed to restick those shutters a couple of times, but luckily this happened before the grand unveiling!

A cupcake or two - thank you! Yes I am pretty sure whimsical is correct, although at this time of year I think you're allowed to spell things however you want, and also lose the ability to do mental maths.

Krissy @ The Food Addicts - hehe, too true! Just hope you don't injure yourself and have to make a workers comp claim (paper cuts from the templates are a real threat ;) )

Belle@OohLook - aw thanks, I'll add it to my list of professions I should be in instead of what I'm doing ;) I love the term 'Smartie decor'... Freedom should bring out a Smartie decor range!

NikiTheo December 31, 2009 at 10:25 AM  

That is a gorgeous gingerbread house!!! I've never braved making one, but it's definitely going to be one of those things you do w/ the kids (when I have them!)

Anonymous December 31, 2009 at 1:51 PM  

Absolutely gorgeous gingerbread house. I am in awe with so much details and the efforts you have put in :) Wishing you a very happy new year!

Forager December 31, 2009 at 2:24 PM  

Gorgeous gingerbread house! I love that your dad became a prop holder too!

Karen @ Citrus and Candy January 2, 2010 at 10:40 PM  

Omg I'm so late catching up on blog reading! But anyway, your gingerbread house is amazing - I love how you used all my fave candy hehe - freckles, smarties and omg Rolos!

*wipes drool* Beautiful work!

Nicole January 4, 2010 at 5:24 AM  

Oh my word!! That is AMAZING!! You are so unbelievably clever!!!

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite January 12, 2010 at 3:57 AM  

Conor - I guess I missed this post when I was away and am just now working my way through Google Reader... I am BLOWN AWAY at how talented you are. Everything you touch turns out so well. That is all.

Conor @ HoldtheBeef January 12, 2010 at 11:43 AM  

NikiTheo - thanks :) I guess if I have kids I've got a head start here.

Ellie - thank you! A very happy new year to you too!

Forager - thanks! Yes he's a talented man. A very tall talented man.

Karen @ Citrus and Candy - thanks very much! Eating the roof was the best part. I just wish I had more leftover Freckles. Happily I had lots of non-brown leftover Smarties :D

Nicole - thank you!! :)

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite - aw you! Shucks :D

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