Gingerbread house single

Each Christmas, Mr Mélanger’s mummo (Finnish grandmother) would make a gingerbread house.  Simply decorated with royal icing, it would burst with flavour from the obligatory warm, earthy spices for which Scandinavian baking is renowned.  Cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger.  I was excited for this month’s Daring Bakers challenge, as it was my opportunity to carry on this tradition. 

There was no question which recipe I was going to use.  My faithful baking companion, The Great Scandinavian Baking Book, by Beatrice Ojakangas received a bit of a workout earlier this year during Finnish month.  I was very happy that Y selected this recipe as an option.

I thoroughly enjoyed making this, my very first gingerbread house.  Though it was not without a few hiccups.  As such, I title my effort, Ring around the Rosie Gingerbread House.  Why?  Because it all fall down.  Multiple times.  In fact, my little gingerbread house fell apart no fewer than four times.  The third time I almost walked away, but I finished.  I am not sure why it was so temperamental. 

Each time I put the gingerbread house together again, I needed to move the spot where I was going to take my photograph.  It was very overcast and the opportunity for natural light was very limited.  In the end, I managed to snap off a few dark and dirty grey memories.  Given what damage the little house sustained during my assembly (poor little bruised gingerbread house!), I really cannot complain about the outcome. 

Happy Holidays everyone!

Gingerbread house set

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.

{ Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga) }
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

* Ingredients *
1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

* Directions *
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, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door 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.
4. [I rolled out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1/8 inch thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.]
5. 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.

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.

Simple Syrup
2 cups (400g) sugar

Place in a small saucepan and heat until just boiling and the sugar dissolves. Dredge or brush the edges of the pieces to glue them together. If the syrup crystallizes, remake it.