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.
Yippee! I was worried this time that it would be something complicated I could mess up tempering or what have you, but no, this challenge was more artsy-fartsy and awesome for Christmastime!
I have to say I did have major trouble with cracking (I believe several DB'ers did also, so I can't beat myself up about it too much). I initially was going to also make a larger house, plus a small village. The walls baked beautifully at first, complete with Jolly Rancher windows that came out perfect, but the next day, two pieces were cracked, and then the rest followed. I was going to redo it, but I was too sad, and done baking... I have other cookies to bake. Maybe next year. I did make super sweet ornaments with Jolly Ranchers that, miraculously, did not crack.
Anyhow, big house fail aside, the little village is downright cheery. I used cutters from a Mini Gingerbread House kit my mom gave me last year. Mini M&Ms, Sour Patch Kids, and Spearmint Leaves are the decorations/townspeople/trees. The pond is a Laffy Taffy rope I heated in the microwave a few seconds to soften, then rolled it into a lake-shape.
I used Y's provided recipe, but added some molasses for part of the sugar. I don't know if this added to the trouble or helped. I tried not to overmix, and I think my trouble started when I re-rolled scraps. I have not had a problem with cracking in years past, so I'll have to try and figure out what recipes I used successfully before. The Royal Icing recipe is one included with the Mini-House Kit.
Here are the recipes:
3 tbsp. meringue powder/dried egg whites (I used "Just Whites")
1 lb. confectioners' sugar
6 tbsp. cold water
Mix dry ingredients, then add half the water. Add more water as needed.
Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas http://astore.amazon.com/thedarkit-20/detail/0816634963
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]
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.