Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Donna Hay Gingerbread House

Yesterday, it was gingerbread men, and today, keeping with the theme, I am presenting a gingerbread house. Gingerbread houses are not really common here - until I started blogging, I hadn't heard of such a thing. However, Donna Hay published a recipe for a gingerbread house in the latest edition (Dec/Jan 2010) of Donna Hay Magazine.

I used Donna's gingerbread recipe, but that's where my use of the recipe ends. For example, Donna baked her gingerbread in blocks which she cut into shapes with a serrated knife for the house after baking. This terrifies me, because I am not as skilled as Donna, and I could see my lovely gingerbread being demolished into useless rubble if I attempted such a thing. Instead, I cut shapes out of the rolled out dough and baked those. I used a template off the Net, and cut out a window and a door before baking:

The gingerbread recipe is as follows:

7 1/2 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
375g butter
1 2/3 cups golden syrup

Place half of all the ingredients into a food processor and process until they come together into a dough. Remove the dough from the processor, then process the remaining ingredients. Combine both lots of dough and knead lightly to bring it all together. Divide the dough into 4 pieces, press it into discs, wrap each piece in cling film and refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes before using.

From here, my method is different from Donna's:

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to soften just enough so that it can be rolled out easily. Place each piece of dough between two sheets of baking paper, and roll it to a thickness of around 3mm (you don't want a fragile house, so don't roll it too thinly!), then using your house template, cut out the walls and roof of the house, plus any gingerbread accessories that you want (eg trees).

Leave the cut out shapes on the baking paper and transfer to baking trays on the paper so as to avoid bending, warping etc. (You may wish to chill the cut out gingerbread shapes for an extra half an hour before baking to further guard against warping and shrinkage in the oven, but I didn't bother.)

Place the baking trays with the gingerbread shapes on in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden. Don't put large shapes and small shapes together to bake, as the large shapes will take longer. It is important to ensure that the house pieces are baked thoroughly and end up on the crisp rather than soft side - I had to return a couple of pieces to the oven because they were too soft to make a house with.

Remove the baked gingerbread shapes from the oven and leave to cool completely in the trays on wire racks.

To assemble the house, you need:

  • a foil covered piece of stiff cardboard large enough for your house
  • royal icing that is stiff enough to hold the house together
  • a piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain tip
  • lollies of any variety that take your fancy to decorate the house

Pipe any fancy decoration like window shutters etc onto the walls and roof pieces of the house before you begin to assemble it so that you are not trying to acrobatically pipe on fancy shapes once the house is assembled. However, don't stick on any sweets yet, as they make the house pieces heavy and the house is then harder to assemble.

You first assemble the four walls of the house by piping royal icing onto the board in a straight line where you want each piece of the house to sit, and by piping royal icing at each join of the walls to stick them together. It was easiest for me to do all 4 walls at once to make sure that they all fitted together squarely. Hold each piece in place for a few minutes before putting up the next so that the icing has some time to secure it in place. You can also use glasses or tins to help hold up the walls until they set:

You can see the bent top of one of my walls where it banged up against the edge of the baking tray when I put it into the oven. Luckily, it didn't affect the final house structure.

Ensure that the walls are dry and set before adding the roof - wait 4 hours or so before adding the roof. Pipe royal icing all over the top edges of the walls, and add the roof pieces, holding in place for a few minutes to ensure that they aren't going to slide off. Allow the roof to set completely, again leaving the house to sit for a few hours to allow time for this to happen.

Finally, add your sweets and gingerbread accessories:

Isn't it pretty?

I had fun doing this:

Don't you love the "wreath":

This house went to a guy at work who bought it in a charity auction.

I think this would be a great project for children - Mum or Dad can assemble the house first, then the kids can go wild with icing and sweets.

Hope you have fun making your own gingerbread house!


The Blonde Duck said...

I LOVE the gingerbread dog!

Cakelaw said...

He, he, thanks Duckie!

CurlyPops said...

That looks amazing! I would never have the patience for so much work.

Hindy said...

You made this from scratch? I usually buy it buy pre-made, buy the candies, whip up some icing and let the kids at it. Yours is way too pretty for homemade.

Anonymous said...

Great job on the decorating! It looks wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Cute! I like the heart shaped windows and the gingerbread man & dog!

I can't imagine baking a big block and then cutting it...I think you were right to use a template to cut the dough before baking.

Anonymous said...

Wow - looks gorgeous. I have never made a gingerbread house, but it looks complicated! very impressive

Finla said...

Wow that just looks so beautiful. I love that you took pictures and showed how to make them.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Aww Cakelaw, you did an amazing job! It looks like something I would have dream of when I was a child! :D

Jennifer said...

I just love the heart shaped window! It's so sweet!

Your house is beautiful...I just love all of the decorations!

I think one of the great things about gingerbread houses is that you can keep it year after year.:)

Cakelaw said...

Hi CurlyPops, I didn't think that I did either!

Thanks Clivia! Believe me, all made from scratch.

Thanks Wendy.

Hi Jill, nor can I - I just see "disaster" in capital letters if I tried that.

Thanks Sugar Junkie - the great thing is that it looks complex, but one like this (ie the basic model)is surprisingly easy to do. There's some tricks (and I have tried to pass on the benefit of my "experience" in this post), but if you are aware of those, you can conquer it.

Thanks Happy Cook - I'm hoping it wll jog my memory too if I make one again.

Thanks Lorraine - I had forgotten about Hansel and Gretel until I was doing some research the other day.

Thanks Jennifer - but I have a feeling that this one is destined to be demolished by the owner's kids.

The Blonde Duck said...

Isn't Betina fun?

Unknown said...

Awesome job on this! I love Donna Hay. Her recipes haven't failed me yet.

Johanna GGG said...

it is very hansel and gretel - I have always wanted to do a gingerbread house but never thought of how to do it - your instructions are really helpful and I hope to put them into action one day - maybe when sylvia is a little older

Y said...

Looks beaut. Decorating is always the best bit. How cool that someone bought it at an auction too!