Gingerbread Dog House

Watching the Great British Baking Show will make you want to build something spectacular out of gingerbread. As I’m a gingerbread structure amateur, I decided to forego the Taj Mahal and Hogwarts Castle for a cute little dog house.

I recently bought the Wilton three-piece gingerbread house cutter set at the craft store and yesterday I tried it out. While it’s a very convenient tool, I wish I’d had a larger quantity of gingerbread from the recipe I used. Next time, I’ll either make smaller templates out of cardboard, or choose a larger-quantity recipe. Either way, this was a fun project. While I’d made a gingerbread house before, I wanted a better-tasting recipe this time, and I found this one at Food Network.I deviated from their instructions for baking a bit, but it turned out very well.

Ingredients

For the house

  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light molasses
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons water

For the royal icing

  • 3 3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3 egg whites, at room temperature

Preparation

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and baking soda together until the mixture is smooth. Blend in the flour and water to make a stiff dough. Chill at least 30 minutes or until firm.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a very lightly floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. Using the cutter set (or your own templates), cut sides, roof panels, and front/back panels.

Place panels on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper a few inches apart; cookies will spread when baking. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the dough feels firm – the cookies can burn, so keep a close eye on them.

Remove from oven and immediately trim off any uneven sides; you’ll want your sides as straight as possible for construction. Place cookies on a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

To make royal icing, place sifted powdered sugar and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment. Add egg whiles and beat on low for a few seconds to combine, scraping the sides of your bowl to get all the powdered sugar evenly incorporated. Whip on high speed for 7-10 minutes; you want the icing to hold peaks.

Working quickly, place icing in a piping bag; cover any unused icing with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. Beginning with one of the side panels, pipe a line of icing on the bottom and side, then press it gently onto your platter or cake plate. It helps to have someone hold the panels for you so they stay upright during construction. Repeat with the front panel, then add another side, the back panel, and your roof. Decorate as you like; I added very simple doors and windows, along with some snow on the roof. And of course, the resident dog.

Store at room temperature; royal icing will harden as it dries, keeping your house upright (at least we hope so).

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Gingerbread

gingerbreadYesterday we put up our Christmas tree, and it seemed appropriate to make gingerbread. Not gingerbread cookies, despite how delicious (and adorable) they are – but actual gingerbread loaves, which I’d never made before.

I found a great gingerbread loaf recipe from Pillsbury and adapted it slightly to include a thicker glaze than the original. ¬†You could leave the loaves plain if you like, but I highly recommend glazing them – although you might not expect it, lemon glaze adds a wonderful dimension of flavor to this rich, spicy bread. It would also be easy to cut this recipe in half to make just one loaf, or to bake the whole recipe in smaller loaf pans to give as gifts (which I’m totally going to do).

Ingredients

For the gingerbread

  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • Generous 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

For the glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 8 x 4 loaf pans (or spray with baking spray).

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and set; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each until the mixture is smooth.

In a 4-cup glass measuring cup, combine molasses and boiling water, stirring to combine. Add baking soda and stir; mixture will become foamy.

With the mixer running on low, slowly pour the molasses mixture into the butter mixture, beating until combined. Add flour in three batches, beating until just incorporated after each; stir by hand until well-blended.

Divide batter evenly between the pans and bake for 45-60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean; my loaves only needed about 45 minutes.

Cool in pans for about 15 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

To make the glaze, place powdered sugar in a medium bowl and add lemon juice 1 tablespoon at a time; you want a thicker glaze texture. Pour over loaves, spreading to the edges. Allow glaze to set before serving.

Gingerbread House

IMG_1773Gingerbread houses are charming, aren’t they? I’ve never made one until today, and it didn’t turn out at all as I expected. Perhaps if I have a different recipe for both the gingerbread and the royal icing, I’ll give it another go someday. In fact, this is the first time I won’t post the recipes I used on this blog, because I truly believe there have to be better ones out there.

Like many shoddy construction jobs, I believe the fault in my house lies in my building materials. The¬†gingerbread was far too soft, while the royal icing was far too hard. While I realize that royal icing is hefty stuff, designed to keep one’s gingerbread walls from caving in, mine turned out more like spackle…and it might have been easier to use actual spackle, since no one will be eating this.

Despite the recipe challenges, my end result is a cute and eco-friendly little structure. It’s small, with fairly thick walls, so it would be easy to heat and cool. And yes, those are supposed to be solar panels on the left side of the roof. Perhaps I could have constructed a wind turbine out of some pretzel sticks, but that’ll have to wait until next time.

 

 

Gingerbread Cookies

gingerbread cookies

 

 

 

 

 

Gingerbread has a long history among religious men and women in Europe, but when the Brothers Grimm published Hansel and Gretel, spicy treat catapulted into mainstream German culture and folks began to decorate gingerbread houses like the one in the story. When German immigrants came to America, they brought this tradition, along with many other Christmas standards we now think of as American, right along with them.

This was the first time I’d ever made gingerbread cut-outs, and next year I hope to make a house with this recipe. It is sturdy enough to hold up, I think…but only time and royal icing will tell!

Ingredients

For the cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/3 cup sugar

For the glaze

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons hot (just below boiling) water

Preparation

In a medium bowl, combine flour, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, baking soda, salt, and pepper; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar, and molasses until fluffy, about three minutes.

Add flour in two batches, beating until well-combined.

Divide dough in half and flatten into discs (dough will be very sticky); refrigerate about one hour, until easy to handle.

Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut into desired shapes.

Bake for about 12 minutes; you do not want the gingerbread to burn, so keep an eye on it.

Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for a few minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

If glazing:

Combine 1 cup powdered sugar and one tablespoon very hot water; gradually add more water, 1/4 teaspoon at a time, until icing can be piped through a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip.

Pipe as desired, or thin out icing further and drizzle.