On the long drive home from Bet's house after making gingerbread houses after Thanksgiving, I wondered what the December Daring Bakers challenge would be. I drove past the outlet store where I previously found the cannoli forms needed for the November challenge, and wondered it it wouldn't be prudent to stop in and buy the whole bloomin' store in preparation for whatever was thrown our way in December.
Imagine my surprise the day after returning home to find that the new challenge was gingerbread houses! Ok, sure, I groaned a bit at first. After spending four days immersed to my eyeballs in gingerbread, royal icing, and candy, I was feeling a bit done with that for the year. Also, the challenge required us to use one of the two recipes provided--we weren't allowed to default to our own tired-and-true recipes. Believe me, I asked!
A cool aspect of the challenge was a new assembly method. The suggestions was to melt two cups of sugar in a pan, dip the edges of the baked pieces into the sugar, and quickly assemble the parts. Wow! This worked like a charm. I wouldn't suggest letting your little ones do this, but it sure made for the speediest and strongest construction ever!
I made a smaller house, as we already had two large ones on the buffet, and because that's the scale my girl traced it out for me on her graph paper.
This dough didn't roll out as nicely as my usual gingerbread does. You can see lots of cracks and splits. I hoped they'd diminish in the oven. Some went away, but others grew.
Working quickly, I dipped the pieces in the caramelized
sugar and assembled the structure.
I wanted to make "glass windows," but found I had no hard candies in the house.
I melted a few pieces of my candy cane cannots in the microwave,
poured the thickening sludge into the windows, and ta-da! Windows!
Windows that glow when a candle is lit inside the little house!
And when the lights are off, and you're busy taking pictures,
you think you've never smelled such a fragrant gingerbread house.
Then you realize the house is on fire.
The gingerbread house, not the real house!
All is calm, all is bright.
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.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.