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.
I was excited to see this challenge, because I have never made a gingerbread house. I live less than an hour from Asheville, North Carolina, and often go up to see the winners of the National Gingerbread House Competition at the Grove Park Inn. I knew nothing I could do in my first attempt would even come close to what I see there, so I decided as long as I completed the challenge and learned something, that would be enough this time around.
The hardest thing to figure out was what kind of gingerbread house I wanted to make! I sketched several ideas - a lighthouse, a birdhouse, a dog house, but wasn't crazy about any of them. For a while I thought I'd make the basic shape and call it good but that made me feel boring.
I turned to The Gingerbread Architect by Susan Matheson for help. It is a great how-to book with templates and suggestions for decorations. I took the Greek revival antebellum plantation home idea and made it at half the scale. This meant finding different solutions for the columns, since the peppermint candy towers would have been huge.
I still went with her suggestions for the shutters (gum, although I accidentally picked a gum that only had green specks, not solid green color) and the roof (Oreo crisps), but went with chocolate hazelnut pirouette cookies for the columns, which sat on top of little rounds I cut out. I didn't make the gum porch, ice the entire sides, or make gum windows as suggested. Partly because I was running short on time, and partly because my reduction in scale made elaborate work more difficult.
I struggled with the recipes given to us for the challenge - the first gingerbread recipe I made came from the hosts but was infinitely dry even after chilling 2 days. I made some test pieces with it but they cracked, so my second recipe came from the book that I used the template from. The royal icing was equally overdry and I had to start over. Even with 1/2 cup less sugar, it was difficult to work with. Most of what I learned had to do with consistency, and I would have loved a thinner icing to do more elaborate design work on the sides with. I also rolled the first quarter of the dough out to thin. I remade one of the sides but the one I left as is broke in three places as I assembled the house. That was just another instance of when I should have followed my instincts instead of rushing through because I'd procrastinated again!
I hope everyone has a marvelous new year! Happy holidays from JennyBakes.
Categories: Daring Bakers, Gingerbread