Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gingerbread House - Tutorial Part Three

Yesterday I was forced into the unpleasant reality of facing some of my bad habits. These include:

- procrastination
- sometimes flying through life without a net
- no plan "B"

My decision to produce the Gingerbread Tutorial in real time came back to bite me big time. Oh, the disasters!! The batch of gingerbread dough I mixed up was literally impossible to handle. It was dry beyond belief, something I've never encountered before. I added more and more honey. The dough proceeded to become more and more unmanageable. The worst part was rolling it out. It was so tough that I had to lean my entire weight on the marble rolling pin to make any progress.

I had visions of bloggers sending me terse e-mails. This dough is always a bit dry and stiff but this was ridiculous. I was near tears when I made the decision to start over. My inner voice said, "Just pitch that batch in the trash". And so that's what I did. I'm telling you this story so that you'll understand that sometimes things just don't work.

I started on a second batch and since I was doubling it, I decided to add an extra egg for moisture. I walked over to the pantry to grab the large container of sugar when something dawned on me. I forgot to add the sugar to the first batch! I don't know the dynamics that would make a dough more moist by adding one additional dry ingredient, but the second batch was so easy! Phew.

Did you know that there's a website called, "Engineers Who Cook"? They're very smart and maybe they can explain the chemical reactions between egg, honey, sugar and flour.

Having said all that, we can now begin to work with our gingerbread.

Roll it out to 1/8 inch thickness. The gingerbread will shrink up a bit and get a bit thicker as it bakes.

This is the difficult first batch of dough.

Lay your pattern pieces on top of the dough. I use a pizza cutter to cut the straight edges. Continue and cut all sides, saving the dough to recombine and roll out again.

ED. NOTE: If the dough starts becoming very stiff, put it in the microwave for 10-20 seconds. This will soften the dough and make it move pliable. You can do this numerous times if needed.



Don't forget to cut out windows and doors. I just cut freehand. Don't worry about being perfect because the decorations hide a multitude of sins. You can lightly mark the windows with a sharp pencil and cut out with a sharp knife.


Save the windows pieces. Cut them in half and they become shutters that are the perfect length.


Score the shutters with the edge of a knife to make louvers.


I wanted a round window at the top, near the roofline so I used the top of a salad dressing bottle.


I stacked the two side pieces on top of each other and cut the windows through both layers so that they would match.

Clean up your edges using a sharp knife.


Carefully slide your pieces onto a baking sheet.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. The smaller pieces will require less time in the oven. Keep an eye on them as they bake.

Remove and let cool.

Tomorrow we're going to mix up our gingerbread glue, otherwise known as Royal Icing. We'll need that before we can start construction. Thanks for following along. Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions you might have.


FarmHouse Style said...

I am happy to report that we have a double batch sealed-up, sitting on the counter and ready to go.

We had a great time mixing the son insisted on working the sifter and in the process of enjoying the aroma of the spices, he managed to sniff some clove dust up his nose. The rest of the time he worked with one hand while using the other to pinch his nose closed...LOL!

We are having lots of fun with this project, Suzanne. Thanks so much.


Heather said...

Ooooooo, I can't wait to start assembling!! My girls and I make graham cracker gingerbread houses every year because I'm too chicken to make a real one.

It might be the year to be brave, though, and make a real gingerbread house.

Vee said...

Oh dear gawd! Did I not follow directions properly again???? Was I supposed to make a double batch? Shoot! This is just how my life is going these days. Glad that you figured out what when wrong...that way, you won't be driven crazy wondering.

Anonymous said...

He, he. Sorry about your first batch--it happens to all of us!

I can shed some light on your sugar question, though. Sugar is a humectant--which means that it draws water from the air to make a cookie soft and moist. Without the sugar, there's no water from the air and you end up with really dry dough.

I've been enjoying your blog. Good luck with the rest of your baking/making.

Paula B. said...

sugar - who knew?

I plan to ask hubby if he is willing to try a gingerbread house with the Littles this year. He has endured many years using regular gingerbread cookie dough (can you hear the past echos of his stress level and impatience level rising as I type?) Maybe he would like working with this recipe better.

I remain hopeful. The older kids remember working on the gingerbread house with Dad -- the Littles have few memories of this experience.

I appreciate you sharing the not-so-successful parts too -- nice to know you aren't one of those "creative goddess-types" who manage to pull off incredible feats of clever creativeness without breaking a least, not all the time! :)

Mary said...

Unfortunately no time to make one as I'm off to New York City for a few pre-Christmas days - sharing sights and sounds (and probably snow!) with my 12 y.o. granddaughter.

We often head to Asheville, NC to see the magnificent Gingerbread houses in the big Christmas competition at the Grove Park Inn. They are awesome, but I must say I love your's of last year.

Happiest of Christmas joys to you and your family.

Melissa @ The Inspired Room said...

This looks like so much fun! What a great idea (even if you've had some mishaps along the way! That totally sounds like me, believe it or not I am always getting myself into trouble like that!)


Jill said...

Wow - that looks amazing. I'm not brave enough to try one of my own - so I'll just have to live vicariously through yours!