Baking with J: Gingerbread cookies and houses

Christmas 2013 has come and gone, and this is the second year I have made a gingerbread house. Last year I made two, one for my boyfriend’s family and one for a family friend. This year, I took one to my work’s brunch. Personally, I prefer minimally decorated gingerbread houses, but I thought taking in one with some sweets plastered to it could also be fun.  

Here is my recipe, passed on to me from my mother, who got it from her mother, who got it from a wizard … you get the picture.
 
Gingerbread 
 
makes enough for one gingerbread house, and between 20-30 cookies

250 g honey
250 g raw sugar
100 g margarine
cinnamon (ground)
cardamom (ground)
nutmeg (ground)
ginger (ground)
allspice (ground)
2 eggs
600-700 g white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

 

Melt the margarine, honey and sugar on medium heat with stirring. Make sure sugar is 100% melted, otherwise it’ll be grainy in the gingerbread (this has happened before, it isn’t that great). When it has cooled down, mix with the eggs and the dry ingredients until well combined. I never follow specific measurements for spices, I prefer to add them to taste. If you’re not sure, start with 1/2 teaspoon of each spice and go from there. I make my gingerbread with a lot less ginger than other people because I prefer a dominant cinnamon taste. Allow it to rest overnight. Chilling it means the dough will be less sticky to work with the next day. It also means you don’t need to do it all at once 🙂 . After taking it out of the fridge, roll it out onto a floured surface and bake at around 180-200 degrees celsius for around 15-20 min depending on your oven until it has acquired a nice light-medium brown colour. I roll out my dough to about 5 mm thickness, but you can make it thicker. I wouldn’t recommend it to be too thin though, unless you’re aiming for gingersnaps. I also freestyled the measurements of the house … just make sure to have matching walls!

 

Gingerbread icing
 

Egg whites
Icing sugar (a.k.a powdered sugar)

 

Beat the egg whites on high until foamy and then add the icing sugar. I don’t follow precise measurements for this step, I generally look at the mixture to make sure it’s what I want. Start off with 3-4 egg whites. If you add more icing sugar the peaks stay still and stiff, and your icing will be a bit more brittle but will stay in place, which is great for decorating cookies. Less icing sugar with slightly runnier peaks forms a mixture a bit like runny white cement, which I think is good for assembling the house. Experiment and see for yourself!

 

Assembling a house
 

I do this on a chopping board, mainly because I don’t want to have to scrape icing off my table or countertop. I start by putting together two walls together on the gingerbread base, then wait for the icing holding the walls together to become stiff before putting together the next two walls. If they keep falling down, stack books next to them (I put my polar bear Zumy bookstand and some books beside it), or you can also be sneaky and hold it together with pins/needles until dry. The final part should be the roof. Note: you want to decorate your walls and rooftop before assembling, otherwise things can get runny or your pretty patterns will be ruined. See pic below. Remember to pull out any pins when you are done.

 

Gingerbread house for work, Christmas 2013.
Gingerbread cookies are also quite a big deal in my culture, and though I didn’t have the energy to make them this year, here is a photo of last year’s cookies. I hung some of these on the tree, as is tradition.

 

Gingerbread cookies, 2012.

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