The December Daring Baker's Challenge
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.
My family and I had a wonderful time making this recipe together. We printed off the gluten free candy list from Celiac Central and went shopping together. My parents were with us for the holiday and helped us with the candy hunt. Then on our big construction night, my Dad made us all dinner. My Mom, who is still in stroke recovery mode, was our cheerleader and helped us out with the candy.
When we began the baking process, we started a few days before the construction of the house. On day one, we made the gingerbread house pieces. Even though I over baked the gingerbread, I allowed the pieces to air dry for day two and constructed the cardboard base. I layered one end of the base with additional layers, so the house would look like it was on a slight hill. Then on day three, I made the royal icing and constructed the house.
Just remember when you start making your gingerbread and start constructing your house, each process will take well over three hours. The gingerbread took me 6 hours and the house construction took 7 hours. For a ball park figure, I'd plan on between 7 to 14 hours to make the house from start to finish.
1 1/4 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup sweet rice flour
3/4 cup arrowroot starch
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp chia seed powder
1/4 tsp agar agar powder
1 cube crystallized ginger, minced
2 tsp cinnamon, ground
1 tsp cloves, ground
1 Tb baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
5 Tb butter, softened
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 cup molasses
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
approx. 1/4 cup water, if needed
3 egg whites, room temperature
6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 Tb lemon juice
Making Gingerbread House Pieces
1. In a large bowl, cream the butter, vegetable shortening and sugar until blended. In another large bowl, dump in the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, baking soda, baking powder, flours, chia seed meal, agar agar powder and salt. Stir together thoroughly. In a small bowl, mix together the egg, molasses and chocolate. Slowly add the dry mixture into the mixing bowl containing the butter blend. Alternate adding the egg mixture into the butter blend. Mix until you have a stiff dough. If the dough won't form into a ball, add water, a tablespoon at a time.
2. Divide the gingerbread dough into 4 balls. Place a sheet of parchment paper on the counter and place one of the dough balls in the center. Cover the dough with another sheet of parchment paper and roll out the dough until it is 1/4 inch thick. Place your gingerbread house template or house cutters on the dough. Cut the outside edge of the template or press down the house cutters. Remove the excess dough between the house pieces. Leave the house pieces on the parchment paper and slip the parchment paper on to a cookie sheet. Place the sheet in the refrigerator to chill while you work on the rest of the dough. Continue until all the house pieces are cut out. Any excess dough can be cut into cookies for decoration.
Tip: If your gingerbread dough won't form into a ball because it's still a bit too dry, put water on the palms of your hands. Then roll the dough until the water is absorbed. This works really well when trying to work the scraps back into a ball.
3. Preheat the oven to 350'F (190'C). Bake for 25 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. The house pieces will be over baked, but shouldn't be burned. Cookie pieces can be baked the same way or for a softer cookie bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.
4. Transfer all the house pieces to one tray and lightly cover with a sheet of parchment paper. Allow the pieces to air dry for one day before construction of the house.
Making Royal Icing
1. Beat the egg whites until a soft peak forms. Then gradually add the powdered sugar until you get the desired slightly firm consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling.
2. 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.
Constructing the Gingerbread House
1. Begin with the house back and one side. Pipe the icing on each piece and hold the two pieces together. Move on to the second side and the house front. If the sides don't hold together, have another person to hold them up for you until you can get the other sides added. If your royal icing is stiff enough, it should hold together pretty quickly. Allow the sides to dry before putting on the roof.
2. Go back and repair any decorations that might have gotten dinged while assembling.
3. Decorate your landscape to your heart's content. Then enjoy! But don't forget to take pictures so you can remember all the fun you had building your gingerbread house.