Gingerbead House: Christmas with The Daring Bakers

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.

And I, of course, posted it late. Not only that, but the photos are on a roommate's camera, which, of course, I have not uploaded. No, do not weep for me, just listen to my tale.

I was excited. I confess I wanted to make something I was going to call either "Gingerbread Crack House" or "The Crazy Cat Lady Lives Here". I bought tiny gummi bears (all the better to resemble a collection of bottles with!) and real gummi bears and sour things and Pez and all the things I can't eat. But others can! And that was fine with me.

Then I started making gingerbread. I used Anna's recipe, which she got from Good Housekeeping. I picked thise one because I really like molassases. As I proved later that same night by making molassases cookies.

2 1/2 cups (500g) packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (360mL) heavy cream or whipping cream
1 1/4 cups (425g) molasses
9 1/2 cups (1663g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger

1. In very large bowl, with wire whisk (or with an electric mixer), beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.

2. Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.
3. Grease and flour large cookie sheets (17-inch by 14-inch/43x36cm)
4. Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16-inch thickness. (Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help roll dough to uniform thickness.)
5. Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.
6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (149C)
7. Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimmings as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately.
8. Chill for 10 minutes before baking if the dough seems really soft after you cut it. This will discourage too much spreading/warping of the shapes you cut.
9. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size.
10. Remove cookie sheet from oven. While house pieces are still warm, place poster-board patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary. Cool pieces completely before attempting to assemble the house.
I then attached the (shoddily but still tasty) pieces of my house together using a simple syrup.
Which I made simply by melting down some sugar and hoping to god that I didn't burn myself, which ended up working out, as I did not!
Then came the decorating.
I confess, I had little time to do any decorating. In fact. I left it to my roommates. If I had, I would have used this recipe for royal icing, also from the challenge.

Royal Icing:
1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract
Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren't using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.
...I'm sure you see where this is going.
Non-complete. Enjoyed! Cheered over, even, if a little mocked. Deservedly mocked. At maybe more than a little frequency.
I take heart in that my house was constructed, at least, and then abandoned like so many projects are at times. I'll think of it as just the Chicago way to build things. Slowly, oh so slowly.
Also: take heart, this was really tasty.

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