Sunday, December 27, 2009


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.

I chose to use Y's recipe from the The Great Scandinavian Baking Book.  We were given the following guidelines:

Your house can be as big or as small as you'd like, but it MUST meet these requirements:
  1. Everything needs to be edible - no glue or inner non-food supports allowed.
  2. You must bake the gingerbread yourself, whichever recipe you choose. No graham cracker houses please!
  3. You must use some sort of template. If you don't use ours, take a picture or link to what you do use in your final post. 
  4. Your house must be able to stand on its own. If you want to go adding balconies with candy stick buttresses or whatever go right ahead, but the main house itself must be free-standing.

Here is the recipe:
Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, well packed
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda [I used only 1/2 t to reduce puffing during baking]
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour
  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 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. [I rolled out the dough on a floured surface, roughly 1/4 inch thick, cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.]
  4. 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.
After the gingerbread pieces came out of the oven and cooled a bit, I put them on a sheet covered with foil and sprinkled crushed candies into the windows.  Popped them back in the oven for a few minutes and they melted beautifully.

I used a different Royal Icing recipe than the one listed in the challenge.  I don't like to use raw eggs, so this is my go-to recipe:

Royal Icing
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. meringue powder
5 tbsp. water

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 7-10 minutes).  This will be the stiffest consistency of the icing, and at this point it is still too stiff to use for decorating.  Add water a very small amount at a time and stir by hand until fully incorporated.  Continue until the icing has reached a consistency appropriate for piping.

I unfortunately didn't get any pictures of the template I used to create my house.  :(  The pieces got mixed up in all of my wrapping paper scraps and got thrown away before I got pictures.  But believe me, there was a very complicated process which involved drawing the design on graph paper, cutting out the pieces to make sure they all fit together and then transferring those shapes to poster board.  The graph paper was very thin and knew it would be a nightmare to try to keep flat on the dough while I cut around it, so the poster board made that part of the process much easier.

I modeled my house after our house, seen here:

I just realized how old of a picture that is.  This was the day we moved in and since then we ripped out the louvers to expose a wonderful porch and we added a railing to match the upstairs porch.  I had grand dreams of having the porches and dormers on my gingerbread house, but ran into a couple snafus along the way.  Most of my baked pieces were spared from massive puffing, shrinking and warping that other Daring Bakers experienced... except for my porches.  For some reason they curled so much that I couldn't use them.  Oh well, it allowed the cute little door and wreath to be seen much better, but I was very sad that didn't work out.  I was even going to use white Good & Plenty candies to make the railings... oh well.  Now, if you scroll back up and look at the finished product you'll notice there are no dormers... yeah, well, I was only going to make one except I icing-ed the wrong side of one of the dormer sides and there was no way I was going to make a whole new batch of royal icing and dye my hands red once again just to icing a freaking dormer, so I left that off.  At least I got the bay window right.

So here are the pictures of the construction:

I kept my royal icing VERY stiff so that I wouldn't have to worry about the side falling down while it dried.  The downside?  Sore hands and icing that was very difficult to control - hence the globs here and there.

My boyfriend thought it would be fun to take a picture of me delicately placing the roof on - I think he was secretly taking bets on whether the whole thing would fall apart.

Here is the back of the house:

And the front, sans dormer:

The final product once again:

I had grand plans to add landscaping, but after making cookies for Christmas for my family I didn't have the energy for another batch of icing.  Maybe next year!  Thanks to Anna and Y for this challenge!  I had a lot of fun doing this and will probably try again next year with a bigger, badder version.  I'll be sure to do it early enough and space it out enough so I don't run out of steam!