[UPDATE 1: Ingredients list updated, accidental omission of one item- now rectified. Guess that’s what happens when you’re doing two things at once.]
You, guys!!!…I made my own Gingerbread house! From scratch! Like…wow! Ok, maybe not SO wow for you, but for me? It’s a big deal. Firstly, wow, because I never thought I’d be that person that would in fact bake a gingerbread house, secondly, to be so super proud of a tiny edible house(I mean, what’s up with that, right?)…And thirdly, because I don’t even LIKE gingerbread to begin with, and yet there I was mixing and whisking away!( as opposed to playing at the beach with my babies.) But it seems the Christmas cheer bug has bit me big time this year, so much so , I was practically possessed by the Christmas spirit!
So I had scoured by the interwebsies for a decent, do-able recipe. I even found one that doesn’t need molasses, thinking molasses would be hard to find. (It’s not – Checkers stocks it, like boss). I found a local recipe that I thought would be great, but turns out it didn’t work so well, so I made up my own recipe as I went along. (Cant believe I’ve hit that level baking already! Making up my own shizz without poisoning anyone! Don’t I like get to be part of some sort of baking champs secret club or something now? No? Oh well.)
Now, I’m not sure why, but I had it in my head that this was going to be super complicated, and would require some serious sayoncing to my late master-baker grandmother to help me through it. But I can confidently say, that this was surprisingly easy – just like any other cookie recipe- and not too long to make either. I mean, I cleaned house, tag-teamed my hubby with running after our two beasts AND made lunch, whilst putting this baby together. So honestly, not so tricky after all. Promise!
Ok, fine. Yes, Im not about to win any prizes for my specimen. I totally forgot about to put the chimney up, and yeah, sure, the exterior design is not exactly drop-dead gorgeous. I think I’ll work on that for next year, but for now, I’m just so freaking chuffed that I did it! *insert Dora’s “Lo hicimos” song here* . In fact, I had aspirations of cutting out windows and doing stained glass window panes, but I think, thankfully, common sense got hold of me and shook me. Hard. Like, get a hold of yourself woman! You only have so much time! But next year??..those window panes are Donkey Kong!!
The kids were involved too, in fact, Pax showed some pretty decent fine motor skills there with her candy placement. And I did my very best not to stress at all about placement – harder than I thought, but I let it go. And Im glad I did, for Morgan-Lee was pretty proud of her handywork, and so was I. Both girls did pretty well. Even though 80% of their candy was shoved into their own mouths. (Morgz even, with mouth propped full of sweets said, “mama, we mustn’t eat the sweets, hey?” )
I couldn’t understand why their bowls needed refilling after every time I turned to clean the surface areas. Till I watched…and waited. ANd captured them red-handed on camera. 🙂 My pleas for saving the candy went mostly pretty much ignored, and I got tired of repeating myself, so I joined them instead. (Forgot how good jelly tots can be.) Hence, our house wasn’t exactly covere in candy glory. Cause…ummm…we ran out.
Also this was my first time I ever made royal icing. I’ve always been intimiated by it, but I can honestly say, it really is quite easy. Sure, it may have almost blown the motor on my handheld mix with its cement like texture, but it honestly is easier than you would think. And because its so stiff, it’s actually quite easy to work with as well. (That is, granted you HAVE the right equipment for it – I don’t. So don’t judge my piping skills please. Let’s just all focus and bask in the glory of a successful first time, shall we?)
For recipe and method AND templates see after pix below.
What you will need:
Gingerbread cookie dough
– 250g unsalted butter
– 1615g all purpose flour or cake wheat flour (do not use self raising)
– 1 tblspoon Baking powder
– 1 teaspoon Salt
– 3 tsp Ginger (you can add more if you want, however, as mentioned earlier, Im not big on gingerbread to begin with)
– 3 tsp Cinnamon
– 1 cup molasses
– 1 cup Trecle/dark brown sugar
– 2 large eggs
-1 kg Icing sugar
-1 teaspoon Cream of tartar
– 5 tablespoons Meringue powder
Or you can be like me and buy the bang lot in premeasured packets from CAB foods – they’re awesome like that. The box will cost you R55 (comes with instructions), but saves you the hassle of measuring out first.( In motherhood, seconds count, yo!)
– Combine butter and sugar together . Mix well.
– Add spices to the mix. Then eggs and molasses.
– Sift in the flour and baking powder. Mix, using an electric mixer, beginning on low speed and increasing to medium, beat until well combined.
-Divide dough into two and shape into disks.Wrap in clingwrap and store in refrigerator for an hour,but preferably, overnight to rest.Dough can be frozen up to 1 month. (Thaw in the refrigerator before using.)
-Preheat oven to 180’C (35o’F)
-Roll out dough to about 3 to 6 mm ( little more than half a cm) Just remember the thicker, the easier to work with, but you also don’t want to run out of dough.I usually roll out on a piece of wax wrap paper.
-Place your templates over dough securely and using a knife, cut out shapes. (Templates have amounts on them.Click here for templates. For the base upon which to build the house, just cut out a 20cm x 20 cm square from rolled dough.)
-Transfer to waxwrap lined baking sheet.
-Pop in oven for 10-15 minutes. Rotate the sheet in oven halfway through.
Once out of oven, use templates and recut the cookies again just to be more exact. Then let cool properly.
Ps. Tip on using the template: if you can transfer these templates onto some plywood or something similar, even cardboard, that would work way better than just paper itself, especially after recutting them post oven baking time. However, if paper is all you’ve got, you can make it work.
-Mix up meringue powder with 175ml warm water, and hand whisk in your mixing bowl for about 30 to 60 seconds. (If you don’t go workout at gym anymore, like me, then at this point you will be surprised at just how tiring this can actually get.) Be sure to get all clumps out as best as possible.
-Then add the cream of tartar, and whisk this in further. (If like me, you will now at this point be disgusted at just how slightly out of breath this whisking has left you, and how weak your forearms have actually become. You placate all these negative thoughts with reassuring ones like, “I’ll totally do that upper body workout next week and show this whisk who’s boss. Yeah!”
-Then dump all icing in and use your hand mixer to combine it all well.
-Then take a step back and bask in the glory of beholding your very own royal icing that you just made!
-Then shove that snowwhite cement into your piping bag using a spoon.
Tip: keep icing covered with a damp cloth to keep it from hardening. It does dry quite quickly.
Once your cookies have cooled, use the royal icing to put your house together. There are no rules really. (I think) Just put it together as best you can. Use a lot of icing to secure the panels in place.If you’re not sure, just add some more. 🙂
Once its put all together, give it two to five minutes before you call in your pro-
candy-chompers decorators and let them loose on it. If you do have a specific design in mind, maybe help guide them on it. But mostly just have fun. Creating stuff is cool, good for the soul and supposed to be fun. For everyone. So just go with it.
By the way CAB foods also has a ready mix pack for the cookie dough. I unfortunately moved too slow on it. You need to get in there by November already. (Shoo). But if you’re lucky (like very very very lucky), you may get that stray pack if you call them now. But please know THIS recipe here, is genuinely easy peasy!!
Hope you enjoy putting your’s together!