Sunday, December 27, 2009

Daring Baker's 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.

In the past days I have been very very busy cooking for a sort of Christmas catering : I made 43 meals, 35 for Christmas eve and 8 for the 25th !! The worst part was delivering everything to 4 different groups of people (obviously living in different parts of Rome) coming back home and cooking for our dinner !! It was very funny when Andrea and Paolo, the husband of my friend and abetter (?) Cristina, had already packed everything and I arrived with my camera... no pictures this time !!

Anyway I'm glad I had made this little houses for a charity sale well before time because I needed some kitchen-free time !!
As you can see the houses have been decorated by my children with lots of fun (I actually plan on making them again during the holidays).
I used the Great Scandinavian Baking Book's recipe but I didn't like the results: the dough was not good to eat and it shrunk a lot while baking. I had another batch from a previous try (it's darker ) that worked much better, I got it from a youtube video .To glue the house I used the simple syrup : it's much faster and holds forever !!
Please visit the blogroll for many more houses !!!


Anna's Recipe:
Spicy Gingerbread Dough (from Good Housekeeping)

2 1/2 cups (500g) packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (360mL) heavy cream or whipping cream
1 1/4 cups (425g) molasses
9 1/2 cups (1663g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger


1. In very large bowl, with wire whisk (or with an electric mixer), beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.

2. Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.

3. Grease and flour large cookie sheets (17-inch by 14-inch/43x36cm)

4. Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16-inch thickness. (Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help roll dough to uniform thickness.)

5. Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.

6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (149C)

7. Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimmings as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately.

8. Chill for 10 minutes before baking if the dough seems really soft after you cut it. This will discourage too much spreading/warping of the shapes you cut.

9. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size.

10. Remove cookie sheet from oven. While house pieces are still warm, place poster-board patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary. Cool pieces completely before attempting to assemble the house.

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 [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.


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

What cute little houses! So pretty!

Happy Holidays and best wishes for 2010!



Cindystar said...

Natalia, che belle casette!
Sto postando anche io la mia.
Spero tu abbia trascorso un Natale sereno e giogioso in famiglia, e ti auguro di cuore uno sfavillante 2010!!!

Dajana said...

Con tutto quello che avevi da fare sei riuscita anche a costruire tante casette. Complimenti anche ai bimbi, sicuramente si sono divertiti tantissimo.
Auguri e Buone Feste

Ivy said...

These little houses are so cute and I am sure the children enjoyed them very much.

Min said...

Wow! I'm impressed with all the gingerbread houses, and all the meals you prepared!!??!
Happy Holidays, and thanks for your visit to my blog...
How's your salt supply?

Laura said...

Ciao Natalia! Che brava a far tutti quei pasti, sarai stanchissima.

I grammi nella ricetta erano sbagliati, ce n'erano 330 in piu'!

Magari ti chiamo domani.

PS E' troppo divertente che la parola di verifica e' cater, in tema con il tuo post.

silverrock said...

Awww.... your miniature gingerbread houses are so adorable. Congrats on completing this month's DB challenge and rocking it out!

Lucy..♥ said...

Ciao Natalia,
You have been very busy indeed!!! The little gingerbread houses are so cute & pretty..... Many happy wishes for 2010!


Valerina said...

Your gingerbread homes are adorable! Well done. :)

Jennifer said...

What precious houses! I bet they smelled great while baking!

Happy New Year!

Leslie said...

What a fantastic decorating job your kids did! They obviously got the creative gene from you! Happy New Year, Natalia!!

Anonymous said...

Your little houses are so cute!

You have been so busy! I hope you have some time to relax now.

Jill said...

Very cute houses---a little village of all things festive! Good job! :)

Anna said...

Your houses are adorable! Great job!

Cakelaw said...

What gorgeous little houses Natalia! It sounds as though you've been run off your feet, so it was a good job that you got these done early. Merry Xmas and Happy New Year to you and your family!

Federica said...

Ciao Natalia! complimenti mani di fata!!!

Auguri e Buone Feste! un abbraccio!

Clumbsy Cookie said...

Troppo carine! I love the small housesm they're a lot of fun Natalia! Auguri anche a te cara!

Lady Cocca said...

Carinissime davvero....ciaoooo

Marcellina said...

Gorgeous houses but what's so amazing is that you did this while making so many meals! You must be one fantastic cook! Congratulations!

steph- whisk/spoon said...

you and your children must hae ahd such fun! happy new year, and hope you are getting a bit of a rest!!

Engineer Baker said...

How cute and fun! And I hope things calm down - sounds like your holiday season has been quite busy!

Elra said...

Hope your christmas was wonderful.

These are very pretty Natalia. You and the children seem had a lot of fun decorating them.

Faery said...

Ciao Natalia, they are so cute and beautiful, I love the decorations.
I understand you natalia, I have been making panettone for selling and I feel so tired.

The Blonde Duck said...

Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Your houses are cute! Happy New Year!

TeaLady said...

All of your little houses are adorable. Quite a project to make so many. Makes me feel guilty I didn't do it at all.

linda said...

Wow, a whole village, very cute!