December 26, 2009

The Magic of a Gingerbread House! Daring Bakers Challenge, December 2009


Having been a Daring Baker (Daring being the operative word here) for exactly 2 years now, I knew that our challenge for this month would definitely be in keeping with the season. I did however think it might be some complicated-to-make cake I had never heard of before. I certainly didn't expect to be asked to bake and put together a gingerbread house!

That's right, 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.

We don't celebrate Christmas and this month hasn't been very celebratory in my home so I almost didn't do this challenge. My daughter was however, taken up with the excitement of making a gingerbread house from scratch. Since my sister was down for a short stay, we both decided to indulge Akshaya and make the gingerbread house after all.

We decided to make the gingerbread house after her school term exams were done (on the 22nd) but when we finally got to doing it, my sister and I were left with the gingerbread on our hands as Akshaya was too busy celebrating the beginning of her vacation with a movie and a sleepover at her friend's place!





Gingerbread was not something I grew up with except in books and the gingerbread house decorated with sweets, cookies and chocolate from the story of "Hansel & Gretel" always made me think how wonderful it would be to live in a house one could snack on every now and then. No veggies, just a lot of chocolate seemed perfect to my then 8 year old mind!

Gingerbread always brings back memories of reading the "Gingerbread Man" to my daughter when she was 3 or 4 years old. She loved the story of how the gingerbread man would outwit everyone and not let them eat him, but would never let me finish the story because the wily fox would finally eat the gingerbread man and that would make her so sad.




All done up at the back of the house too!



My Gingerbread House Experience:


I have never ever made a gingerbread house (or even seen or eaten one) but I must say this challenge was something my sister and I had a lot of fun with. Even though I studied to be a biochemist, my dream was to be an architect and this challenge satisfied that dream somewhat! This month's challenge definitely had a lot more to do with being a Daring Engineer rather than a Baker!!!

I chose to use Y's recipe because Anna's recipe required molasses which isn't available where I live. A lot of fellow bakers seemed to have issues with weight/ volume of the wet versus dry ingredients and a crumbly texture to their dough.
I am one of those who cooks/ bakes without a kitchen scale (Did I hear gasps?) and just used my standard measuring cup (a cup which is left from a set of coffee mugs I had!) and my gingerbread dough had the perfect texture.
I did reduce the spices a bit, and used only half the baking soda suggested. Like Y, I didn't use the sugar syrup but the royal icing for "glue".
The detailed recipes for the challenger can be found on Anna's and Y's blogs.

As usual, this challenge meant many "firsts" for me. This was the first time I made gingerbread, a gingerbread house and decorated with royal icing.
It took us a while to figure out just how we were going to make our house and what we were going to decorate it with.




All decorated and ready to be "glued" together


I used this template as a guide to make my gingerbread house and the specifications of the individual pieces I used were as following:
For the side walls: Two rectangular pieces each 5" wide and 3" high.
For the front and back walls: Two pieces (front and back) 51/2" wide and 61/2" high (at the highest point). On the front wall, the door measures 21/2" high and 1 1/2" wide. The round window is 1 1/4" in diameter.
For the roof: Two rectangular pieces each 6" wide and 6" high.
Cut out other shapes as desired for decorating the house.



Useful Tips For This Challenge:

- I found it easier to divide the dough into 2 (or 4) equal portions, flatten each portion into a disc and then wrap and refrigerate them.

- I rolled out the pieces for the house (sides and roof) to 1/4" thick and the pieces for decorating into about 1/8" thick. This made the parts of the house sturdy enough to stand while the pieces that were used to decorate were thinner and looked nicer.

- It is very important to check that your pieces of your house measure the same at the edges where they are to be joined together. So check this as soon as they come out of the oven, and trim to them to fit!

- I found it easier to use disposable pastry bags (without the metal tips), as it kept the royal icing from drying out and whenever the bag tips got blocked with dry icing, I just needed to press them out to get the icing flowing smoothly.

- While assembling, a use heavy object to lend support to the pieces being joined together till the royal icing dries. I used my spice jars. They were especially useful to provide support to the roof.




My cardamom jar (and other spicejars too) lends roof support!


Verdict:

 
Never having eaten gingerbread before, I'm not sure how exactly it was supposed to taste. I understand gingerbread recipes used for gingerbread houses are usually more about texture and strength rather than taste.
My sister has had gingerbread before and she said it tasted good. In fact, half the gingerbread house is going back with her to the U.S. as I type out this post!

I personally have always found Beatrice Ojakangas recipes to work well for me, and I have to say the same about this one too.
The gingerbread was not too sweet and once the royal icing was used, just right where sweetness was concerned. The aroma of the spices every time we went anywhere near the gingerbread house was also something worth mentioning.

As I mentioned before, we had fun putting it together and it felt sad to have to take it apart after so much work went into it.
Please do not forget to explore the magic world of gingerbread houses in the world of the Daring Bakers.



***

"Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays"

And

"Best Wishes for a Very Happy & Prosperous New Year!"


***


71 comments:

RJ Flamingo said...

I think you did a fabulous job! That gingerbread house looks adorable - I know I would never have dared it! :-)

Simran said...

Such a lovely home! I totally chickened out at the thought of doing something as complicated as this.

Jamie said...

Wow you created one beautiful house! I love it! So pretty!

Deeba PAB said...

Gorgeous & picture perfect Aparna...wonderful. I had a fab time building it too! xoxo

Zita said...

Aww... so colourful & pretty :)

Jill said...

Aparna, you did such a great job!! I love all the cute shapes and the piping details are wonderful! :)

Tasty Eats At Home said...

This is your first gingerbread house? Wow. Looks so wonderful!

Madhu said...

You have done a very fabulos job, Just beautiful.

Random Thoughts said...

your gingerbread house is fabulous aparna....the royal icing decoration is very intricate.... kudos

Y said...

That is such a gorgeous house! Funny that your daughter was the one who was excited about constructing a house to begin with, and didn't even end up helping! (Ah, the 2-second attention spans of kids these days..;P) Your verdict is pretty spot on with what I found too, and I'm glad you had the opportunity to harness the 'inner architect' in you :)

Cynthia said...

Happy Holidays!

Marcellina said...

Your gingerbread house does not reflect the fact that you have never made one before. In fact, this is one of the most professional looking house I have seen. Beautiful work!

Jo said...

OMG, your gingerbread house looks absolutely fabulous. Wishing you great holidays and a happy new year.

Lauren said...

Your house is precious! I love the decorations and how you put it all together - its simply stunning!

s said...

Its awesome...one of the best ive seen so far...

Shri said...

The best looking Gingerbread house, Aparna!Looks fab!

anna said...

Your house is so lovely! Look at all that gorgeous piping! You are an icing master!!

Cham said...

Great built! The decoration is very pretty!

Karen @ Citrus and Candy said...

Your house is amazing! The colours, the piping and the roof decorations - it's so perfect :D

Ivy said...

This looks absolutely beautiful. Happy holidays and all the best for the upcoming New Year.

chef_d said...

Your gingerbread house looks so pretty, i love all those details! great job! :)

zorra said...

It's good you didn't skip this challenge, otherwise we would never see your beautiful little gingerbread house! Well done!

simplyfood said...

Your house is perfect.It looks like a confectioners dream.I am sure your daughter loved it.

peasepudding said...

It's the perfect Hansel & Gretel house! Beautiful, well done.

culinography said...

What a beautiful gingerbread house, Aparna! You'd never know this was your first try!

Veena said...

Hi Aparna,

Just got back home and first thing I did was to see how the house looked in your post!!!

Looks wonderful and it sure was a lot of fun helping to put it together.

Another 'never done before' beautifully conquered!

Natalie, aka "Sheltie Girl" said...

You're house is so beautiful! You did a great job.

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

anjelikuh said...

wow, this is a beautiful house! love the decorations you made with the royal icing and all the different shapes you cut out.

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

What a wonderful gingerbread house! I was thinking Hansel and Gretel as soon as I saw it too. Breathtaking.
And I always have great luck with B.O.'s recipes too.

Cakelaw said...

What a cute house Aparna - a lovely decorating job, and I'm so glad that your sister enjoyed eating it.

jayasree said...

Fabulous job... House looks so perfect..

sweetakery said...

it looks so wonderful! colourful & pretty!!..thank you for the comments and dropping by! Happy New Year!

Trissa said...

Hi Aparna, I've heard the same thing about gingerbread houses - they are better to be looked at than eaten. Having said that, I am glad you found a recipe that you enjoyed doing both with! Your house looks so festive!

MeetaK said...

what a wonderful masterpiece aparna! this is a house to be cherished. i am so glad to see you did this challenge - sending you all my hugs!

Miri said...

Absolutely darling little house Aparna - Kudos!!!

bake in paris said...

Very colorful and beautiful little house you have there! It brings out the festive mood and joy :)

Sawadee from Bangkok,
Kris

PG said...

It looks so very beautiful! Thank you so much for the lovely New Year Wishes! A very Happy New Year 2010 to you and your family too!

nithya praveen said...

Lovely one....very colorful and beautiful.As always great click too:)
Wish you a wonderful New year!

Hannah said...

No. Way. Your house is -amazing-! Just the right balance of color and whimsy, while still being quite elegant overall. Very impressive work, Aparna. :)

kellypea said...

Glad to hear your dough didn't give you trouble. I find that Beatrice's recipes do work as well! Gorgeous cottage -- love the shot of all the pieces decorated and ready to go. Excellent job!

Yasmeen said...

Very neat and totally impressive.Best wishes for 2010 :D

sra said...

Glad to see you're getting back into the groove. I wish I could live in those pretty houses.

Mon said...

Aparna that is gorgeous!!!!

Suzler said...

Beautiful job! I love the whole thing, but the roof tiles in particular caught my eye. It's such a gorgeous design.

All the best for 2010. :)

Indhu said...

I love the roof.. a very cute design :)

Priya said...

Cute and elegant house...tremendous work Aparna..

Coffee and Vanilla said...

What a beautiful house!! I love it!
My daughter and I we made some biscuit house as well, but is not even half that impressive...

Happy New Year!!

Margot

Clumbsy Cookie said...

How cute! It's really super cute! I love the color palet you chose for the roof!

MandyM said...

Your gingerbread house is really cute, I love the way it's decorated. Lovely baking!
All the best for 2010 :)

Elra said...

Very very pretty house Aparna. Wow, you are trully an artist.

Pavithra said...

Awesome work and hat off to your work.

Julia @Mélanger said...

Well done. Just a wonderful job. I agree about the flavour of Beatrice's gingerbread. Not too sweet, but combined with the icing (and other sugary treats) just perfect!

Alexa said...

You are very skilled. This is so magical and gorgeous looking. Happy New Year!

Sunshinemom said...

What fun! I am sure you sisters remembered all the childhood 'mami mami' game:). The house looks so beautiful!

glamah16 said...

Outstanding. Happy New Year.

Anita said...

Daring Engineer - love it :) Great looking house, and great you finally got to make and try it. I agree with it being disappointing to pull it apart after the effort.

Pari said...

Wow. Picture perfect, wish I could live in it!!!! Wish you and your family a very happy new year.

Lisa said...

Aparna, one of the prettiest GB houses in this challenge! It looks like the ones you see in ads for Xmas! Besutifully done, but I'm not at all surprised with your talent! Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy New Year!

Bong Mom said...

What a pretty pretty GB House !!! I have never tasted one yet, though I have had GB man and none of them tasted as good as yours looks

Have a great Year Ahead Aparna. Warm wishes for 2010

Suzana said...

Aparna, your house looks amazing! =D. I love the colourful decorations and the icing patterns.

Best wishes for you and your family in 2010. Happy New Year!

Soma said...

How adorable!! Do you really have the heart to eat this ? :-) I would save this for ever.

Happy New Year to you and your family Aparna.

Jacque said...

Oh my goodness, that is just completely adorable! I really love all of yoru decorations, especially the cookies on the side. Way to rise to the occasion.

Bharti said...

SO cute! Love it.

fairy_mi said...

Wow, what a fabulous gingerbread house!
Great shape, lovely decorations and beautiful colors-
It truly is a Hanzel and Gretel house.
Wtg for the fabulous job!
Inbal
(also a DB)

lata raja said...

Pat yourself on your back ENGINEER!!! The house looks so beautiful.

Dina said...

house looks great! great job!

Spice said...

So U get to venture into your dream carreer : architect. house looks perfect...happy new year...

di_ani said...

Looks very beautiful and tasty
Great photos
Greetings, Diana

Avanika [YumsiliciousBakes] said...

Wow Aparna! You really outdid yourself. A great job. The house looks amazing. And I've never tasted gingerbread either, which is surprising, because I always wanted to make gingerbread men when I was younger!

ap269 said...

This looks so cute!

Aparna said...

Thank you, thank you *bowing*.
Had a lot of help on this one, and I think it was one of the "funnest" challenges I've done in a while.