Thursday, December 15, 2005

Here's a good one.

I'm going to tell you how to make a gingerbread house. It's a family tradition for my mother-in-law. Well, she started it and she's trying to pass it along to me to make it a tradition. I'm hesitant to take over the whole thing, but I think we'll make one for ourselves, at least. I don't really know how to give you the pattern pieces for the house, but if you are resourceful (which I trust you are) you will find some on your own via the omnipresent google search engine.

The gingerbread recipe:

Mix together the following. It will look funny, but not to worry.
  • 1 c. vegetable shortening
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 c. dark molasses
Then sift together and mix in the following:
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 T. ground cinnamon (hint: For a more fragrant mix, use a mix of nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and ginger. It doesn't really matter if it's more than a tablespoon. Actually, the more the better. But don't go overboard, of course.)
  • 2 T. cornstarch (hint: This helps the gingerbread stay nice and firm, which is important since you are using it to build walls and such.)
  • 4 1/2 to 5 c. all purpose flour
You can now mix it all up, kneading if necessary, until the dough is even in color and smooth, not crumbly or dry. Form into a log and divide into three pieces. Wrap two logs in plastic to keep in the fridge to keep them from drying out while you work with the other piece. It is adviseable to chill it a bit to make it easier to roll. The oven should be preheated to 375 degrees. I've just noticed that my hand-written recipe doesn't have a suggested baking time, but you, resourceful baker, can probably determine that on your own. I'd say about 10-15 minutes? You don't want it to be too cakey, and it shouldn't be burnt, so figure it out.

Other (necessary) tips from the Gingerbread Queen (me, if you please):
  • Roll it out on a flipped over cookie sheet.
  • You can use lots of flour when you're rolling because after it's baked you can just dust it off. Also, you'll probably cover most of the house with frosting and candy, so it doesn't matter if its flour-y.
  • After rolling, place your templates over the uncooked gingerbread and cut them out. Remove the excess dough before baking.
  • When you take it out of the oven, carefully place your templates over the pieces again and use a bread knife (serrated, you know) to trim the pieces to their exact dimensions. They probably grew a little in the oven so to get the best house construction, you'll want to trim away the excess.
  • Take the pieces off the cookie sheet and move them to cooling racks soon after taking them out of the oven. They're still a little pliable when they're very hot, and will be prone to breaking if you let them cool too much on the pan.
  • Let them cool in a dry space. Moisture is to a gingerbread house as termites are to a real house. Let them sit and dry out for as long as possible. Like, days. The longer the better. This will lessen the chance of catastrophic collapse.
So now you have gingerbread! It's crunchy and hard, but it actually tastes really yummy. What's the point of having a gingerbread house if you can't eat it after Christmas? Anyway, I have to locate my recipe for Royal Icing, so in the next installment we'll discuss constructing your house and going crazy with decorating! Waahoo!

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