Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Gingerbread Houses

We have been enjoying a really nice time with family in America over the Christmas holiday thanks to a wedding in our family. While it has been wonderful, I have not had much time to add recipes though I've been testing recipes off and on during this break. Yes, though I'm far away, I have been thinking of my friends in South Asia and what they could make during this season with few ingredients. Soo..... I'm hoping over the next few posts to fill your heads with ideas that might inspire some post-Christmas celebrations or at least make it into the plans for next year.

Front of gingerbread house with sprinkle sidewalk

Building gingerbread houses was something I never did in my house as a child. We made gingerbread and sometimes delicious molasses cookies, but I can't recall ever building a gingerbread house until I made one with my daughter last Christmas. That time I found a kit on sale for $5 and thought it was a deal. With no such deals this year, I thought, "People made them all the time before kits came out. How hard can it be?" Not very, actually.

While I don't have a printable template for you to use, I can even explain how to cut the pieces out based on Beatrice Ojakanga's recipe. First, cut out 2 3x5 rectangles (outer walls of house). Then, cut 2 rectangles 3x5.5. These will be slightly larger than the wall pieces and will form the roof slabs. The front and back take some thought. Make a 3x3 square. Mark the halfway point vertically and draw a line extending up 2 inches higher than the square. From that point, you can make 2 slanted lines to connect to the top right and left corners of the square, and you'll have a house shape. Make 2 of these. With any of the pieces, you could cut just 1 piece and remember to cut 2 pieces of gingerbread for it.

Back of the gingerbread house

128g or 1/2 cup butter, softened (not room temp since that's too cold this time of year!)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground ginger or 2 inches ginger, finely minced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
2 Tablespoons water

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and baking soda. Once thoroughly combined, add in the flour and water. Mix until you have a well blended, moderately stiff dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm. This probably won't take long in winter anyway! Preheat oven to 190C/375F. Roll out the dough to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness. Lay the template pieces over the dough and cut them out. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes. You're looking for nice firm pieces. This makes enough dough to make some other gingerbread cutouts, too, if you want to add some flair to your house.

Once the pieces are cooled, prepare Royal Icing....or use gummy worms like Max and Ruby did.

Royal icing:
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or lemon juice
2-3 cups icing sugar

This is a rough approximation. You want this to be moderately stiff, but soft enough that it can go through a piping bag or plastic bag with a snipped corner. Add more water or sugar to get the right consistency. Cover with a wet towel when you're not using it. Use this to assemble and decorate your house. You can use books or other household objects to hold it together while the "glue" solidifies. Nowadays there are all kinds of exciting candies available locally to use as decorations.

Side view: Didn't she do a good job sticking on the candy?

This will totally be a family tradition for us because I love doing it. It was not super fun the first year with my 3-year-old, but now that she's able to contribute to the decorating, it will just get better. Happy housemaking! And yes, it's after Christmas, but c'mon, don't you want to make one?!

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