Friday, December 20, 2013

Homebaked Gingerbread House or 'Adventures with Gingerbread homes Take One'

There are a lot of variations when you make gingerbread, I really liked the taste of this one, but then I really love gingerbread.  Next year I plan (note to self) try a different Martha recipe from a magazine I have but this year I used one from her Internet site:
I Heart Martha 

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dark-brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups unsulfured molasses
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • In a large bowl sift together (I actually do use the sifter) your Baking Soda, Baking Powder and Flour, Set this aside
  • In a mixer on a low speed combine your butter (I cut it into cubes) and sugar until creamy- then add your spices and salt   
  • Then beat in your eggs and molasses 
  • Lastly your flour mixture if you have the collar for your mixer, it makes putting in the flour easier and less mess
  • Divide your dough into smaller batches (remembering that you really only one to roll it out once, and cut your shapes that first time)
  • Cover in wrap and chill at least one hour in the refrigerator 
  • We rolled out the dough with a piece of baking paper on top, and we coated the board and the rolling pin well with flour
  • We cut our shapes and transferred them to a baking sheet- I used the excess or dough that went back into the fridge for cookies not any part of the house and I also tested my oven temperature with a batch of cookies 

In Australia the stores are filled with 'Christmas Puddings' which is basically a fruit cake (not American soft pudding made of flavoring and milk) and also Gingerbread Houses.

I don't remember ever thinking about Gingerbread Houses when I lived in America, yet I was very quick to buy an inexpensive 'template' from IKEA.

I followed a Martha Stewart recipe and let the KitchenAid do the heavy mixing.
I made the dough knowing that Zok would be better at the rolling out, cutting and construction.

Here are my tips from what I learned.
1. All those spices are not too much, not even the addition of pepper
2. For 'royal icing' egg whites can be substituted for 'meringue powder'
3. Don't be shy about the flour dusting for rolling out the dough or on the cut out form if you are using one
3a. We weren't happy with the cut outs and decided to use the forms as a template only, so we traced around the form with a small pizza cutter
4.  Do not keeping repeating statements such as "But, Martha did." or "But, Martha didn't." to your helper(s)
5. Pastry cutters (wheels) are a great tool for cutting out any additions, doors, extra windows
6. Light candy (read maybe not M&Ms or Smarties) are best for decorations

The construction was the tricky part for us, making the dough was easy
If you find the house is too much, just switch to gingerbread men, or other shaped cookies.

Zok ditched using the dough onto the plastic IKEA template after the second try, then he used them as shape guidelines which was much easier.
We also were partially happy to use the slots instead of sticking the house parts with icing or caramel syrup, but we both voted to try using caramel syrup next time.  It (as pictured) was a mess (Martha would not approve) but the whole event ended up sparking a desire to do better.
If we didn't have guests coming tomorrow I think we'd try again.
But I think we will end up doing this each year.

Lastly Royal Icing 
For Five Cups
2 lbs sifted confectioners' sugar
1/2 plus an extra 2 tbl. meringue powder (we used about 2 cups powdered sugar and 2 egg whites)
Scant 1 cup water
Beat all ingredients with an electric mixer on low speed (we used a hand mixer)
It took about 6 minutes to get it correct
We used ours right away but Martha says you can put it in an airtight container for up to a week.
If you need to soften it up a bit used a rubber spatula
You can thin the icing as needed with a bit of water, a teaspoon at a time


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