The Gingerbread House

Ok, so this blog is being written because even though this year I made my third gingerbread house (not this year… overall), every year it feels like I am starting again from the very beginning.  This year before I started baking I spent all morning looking through the internet and my cookbooks trying to remember which recipes I had tried and liked and despite my efforts, I just couldn’t remember… so now that it is done, I have decided that this year, instead of just posting a picture of the gingerbread house I am posting everything, the recipe, the template and the things that worked and the things that didn’t, so that next year I might save myself some time, stress and probably money.

Each year I like to make something slightly different from those I have tried before… except in 2014… where it appears I didn’t make one.  Anyway, so far my gingerbread creations have been a basic house, a few little houses and a village:

gingerbread-houses

This year I made a mixture… I returned to some of the houses from 2013 and added in a few new elements… a Christmas tree and a sleigh.  After all the searching beforehand I ended up returning to my trusty Donna Hay back catalogue where I pulled out the recipes for basic gingerbread cookie dough… which I used for my sleigh and tree and the recipe for the houses as well as the template from Donna’s website.

The Houses:

Ok, so lets start with the houses… because lets face it… they are the most important… Donna Hay’s Recipe comes from Issue 72 (Dec/Jan 2014 page 139) and the recipe is as follows:

Ingredients:

Gingerbread:
1.2kg plain (all-purpose) flour
2 tsps bicarb soda
1 1/2 cups (265g) brown sugar
1 tbsp ground ginger
380g unsalted butter, melted
1 2/3 cups (580g) golden syrup
icing sugar to decorate
Icing
4 cups (640g) icing sugar
3 eggwhites
1/4 tsp cream of tarter
1 tbsp lemon juice

 

 

 

 

 

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 180°C.  Place half the flour, bicarb, brown sugar and ginger in a large food processor and pulse until combined.  Add half the butter and golden syrup and process until the dough comes together.  Transfer to a large bowl.
2.  Repeat with the remaining dry and wet ingredients.  Add the two batches of dough together and knead until smooth and combined.
3.  Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.  Using your fingers, press each piece into a 37cm x 25cm Swiss roll tin. Smooth the top with the back of a metal spoon.
4.  Bake in 2 batches for 12-15minutes or until golden.
5.  Transfer gingerbread sheet onto a large chopping board and start cutting out the shapes while it is still hot using a metal ruler and a sharp knife.  Don’t forget to print out the template found here.
Donna Hay suggests the following order:

Sheet 2 & 4:
• Large house walls
• Front of small house
• Back of small house
• Small house roof
• Small house walls
• Chimney
Sheet 1 & 3:
• Large house roof
• Front of large house
• Back of large house

 

 

 

 

6.  To make the icing; place the sugar, egg-whites and cream of tartar in an electric mixer and beat for 4-5 minutes or until light and fluffy.
7.  Add the lemon juice and beat for a further 2 minutes or until well combined.
8.  Use a piping bag to use decorate the house with the icing and glue the houses together.  I used the icing recipe as my glue and for my own free style decoration rather than the prefect and very beautiful lattice design intend… as my decorating skills just aren’t that good.

Notes:
Initially I was worried that the pieces for each house were quite hard and tended to snap rather than break of nicely when cooled.  However, once assembled and no longer trapped in an air tight container, the gingerbread softened enough to break and eat, but not enough to collapse… which turned out perfectly, despite my initial concerns of broken teeth.

I only have a small oven, so I needed to cook the sheets of gingerbread all separately, and because I took a little longer preparing my dough, my oven was well and truly at temperature before starting.  I had to keep a close eye on the sheets and the more I cooked, the less time they required as my oven is also not as good at keeping temperature without going over as I would like.  So make sure you keep watch as you need all of the sheets to get all of the parts so some burnt sections can make it tricky to fit all of the template in… plus they taste and look pretty average.

The glue is also very good, it sets quickly and holds well, but once set is still able to be broken with ease for consumption while remaining strong enough to hold the untouched parts still in place.

The Sleigh and the Tree:

Okay… so once the house was done I started on the sleigh and tree.  For both of these is used Donna Hay‘s ‘basic gingerbread cookie dough’ recipe which can be found online here, or if you are bit lazy like me… I have done the non-lazy thing and typed it out, just in case I lose my copy of  Issue 78 (Dec/Jan 2015 page 156) or the website changes.  Anyway the recipe is as follows:

Ingredients:

•  125g unsalted butter, chopped and softened
•  ½ cup (90g) brown sugar
•  ⅔ cup (230g) golden syrup
•  2½ cups (375g) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
•  1 teaspoon bicarbonate of (baking) soda, sifted
•  2 teaspoons ground ginger
•  1 teaspoon mixed spice

Method (Emma’s modified version):

gingerbread61.  Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2.Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 6−8 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until pale and creamy.
3.  Add the golden syrup, flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and mixed spice and beat until a smooth dough forms.
4.  Roll the dough out between 2 sheets of non-stick baking paper to 5mm thick and then use the sleigh template (see below) and star cookie cutters (see tree assembly below) to make the pieces required.   If there is some left over use a gingerbread man cookie cutter to cut out men from the dough, re-rolling the dough as necessary.
5.  Bake on trays lined with non-stick baking paper for ~8mins or until golden (Donna’s recipe was for a gingerbread man wreath, so this is where the instructions get a little messy, but I left my oven hot from the gingerbread house and cooked for shorter time, but they turned out perfect, you just have to watch them).
6. Allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

Sleigh Assembly:

The sleigh template I used can be found here, it is one that I found thanks to Pinterest and I used the template to cut out the shapes before baking them.  I used the left over house ‘glue’ (icing) to put the sleigh together, using large candy canes as the sleigh’s runners as suggested by the blog.  The sleigh requires some holding while the glue sets as my pieces warped a little in the over, and the candy canes will only support the whole thing once it is just that… one piece.

Tree Assembly:

For this one I googled a couple of things to get the idea but didn’t follow anyone’s instructions so to speak.  I made the tree using different sized star cookie cutters.  I got a set of 5 sizes from my trusty k-mart and made ~4 of each size, so that I would have at least 3 good ones for my tree (I also made some extra ones for eating with the left over dough). Once the cookies were cooked, I used glue which I used green food dye to turn green to layer the stars on top of each other in height order. At the very top of the tree I used a small star cookie standing up to make a tree topper (with Davo’s encouragement I dyed some icing yellow just for a better star effect).  This actually worked out much better than I thought it would, and was the most popular component on movie marathon day.

Once all the bits were together and decorated, this is how it turned out…

gingerbread3

Pretty good if you ask me!  Well at least not bad for an amateur.  Hopefully I will remember that I wrote this blog and save myself some time next year… Oh and this also crossed no. 21 ‘Make some kind of festive seasonal dish’ off the list.

Ok so there you have it… I am going to go and eat some of the left overs.

2013 – Through the eyes of my iPhone

Another year done and dusted… and once again it’s time to reminisce on what the year has brought.  It’s kind of overwhelming to look at the year in one go like this.  In many ways it feels like 2013 just started, but when I look at all the things i’ve done this year, it feels like a long time.

2013 has been another busy busy years, with lots of excitement, fun and laughter, some tears and sadness but it has all played an important part in the year that was… and without it.. it would have been pretty boring.  There are still things I wish I had have achieved this year, but there is lots of things that I have done which have been bigger and better than I could have imagined.  And just like the last couple of years I have taken a photo everyday, some good ones, some boring ones, and some in-between, but it gives me a good recap of all that happened in 2013… so here is 2013 through the eyes of my iPhone…

JANUARY

Jan

Highlight: January was fun month full of all good things about summer… sun, friends, family and the beach.  There was a lowlight of my computer dying, but that was outweighed by weddings, new puppies, dinner with family and some time at the beach with rellies from overseas… well played january.

FEBRUARY

Feb

Highlight: All things outdoors – my new herb garden, a new sleeping bag, moonlight cinema, young adults camp, oh and an indoor night with Keith Urban…

MARCH

Mar

Highlight: New apple products – a new laptop and my iPad mini… Fun weekends in Inverloch where Dex met Abe oh and Kate got married… March was a winner month.

APRIL…

Apr

Highlight: My Birthday and everything that went with it… crossing things off my list… although I am not sure if bikram yoga is a highlight or lowlight… but the most exciting moment of all is getting the call that said my best friend was engaged!  So much love and joy in one call.

MAY…

IMG_4838

Highlight: Dave’s school production of Les Mis… hands down… it was simply the best, such a wonderful bunch of talented kids and teachers… well done WCC…. Also Jake got enrolled as an adherent and that was pretty awesome.

JUNE…

Jun

Highlight: Camping… I have decided I love it… I love the tent, I love the adventure and I love our new tradition of timer photos.

JULY…

Jul

Highlight: Jake turned 21… and it was fun!  Oh and there was more camping which was also fun.

AUGUST…

Aug

Highlight: Well actually it’s a lowlight, in August we said goodbye to Dave’s Nanny, which was sad, but it did mean I was able to learn a whole heap about Dave and his family, look through lots of pictures and reminisce which I love.

SEPTEMBER…

Sep

Highlight: September was a big month, we went on another road trip, I got an awesome Tupperware haul, the Hawks won the flag and I finished my teaching rounds.  Overall a pretty impressive month.

OCTOBER…

Oct

Highlight: The highlight for October definitely has to be upping the anti on 2012 and completing my 21.1km half marathon at the Melbourne Marathon Series with my Dad and Davo.

NOVEMBER…

Nov

Highlight: Kempy got married, I got a veggie garden and we crammed in a whole lotta date days…

DECEMBER…

IMG_4826

Highlight: Another December, another year of Christmas being the highlight… In particular this year a special mention goes to Carols by Candlelight, the fireworks and Bruce, my penguin snow globe.  Man I love Christmas.

So that’s it… another year condensed into pictures and a highlight or two… so much madness compacted…

Here’s to 2014… I’m hoping its even better…

2012 – Through the eyes of my iPhone

Once again I find myself reminiscing on the year gone by, still finding it hard to believe that another year is over… This year, just like all those gone by has been busy, filled with all things that tell me I am alive, highs, lows, fun, laughter, tears and sadness.  I find this time of year really both happy and sad, I love looking back on what I have achieved, as well as planning some adventures for next year.  Yet I also feel sad about the things I couldn’t or didn’t do, or perhaps the time that I wasted on things that I shouldn’t have, but I know that really this is what makes up a year, it’s all just part of it.

Anyway, I really enjoyed using my project365 photos to help me capture all that happened in 2012… both the good and bad… so here is 2012 through the eyes of my iPhone, with a highlight for each month some big, some small but all highlights… oh and maybe some special mentions…

JANUARY

Jan

Highlight: January was a list frenzy, everything from cleaning, baking, getting fit and eating… and all of it was heaps of fun, especially because it most of them were crossed off with friends and family.  Time well spent.

FEBRUARY

Feb

Highlight: Weekend’s away at the beach.

MARCH

Mar

Highlight: Taylor Swift with some very excited young girls… oh and great food…. Steak Sandwiches… yum yum.

APRIL…

Apr

Highlight: My Birthday and everything that went with it… including my kindle… man I love that thing.  Special Mention goes to the Inverloch house which we said goodbye to in April, I have lots of fond memories and while it may not have been a highlight of this month, that house certainly has played a big part in summer and holiday highlights of years gone by.

MAY…

May

Highlight: Our trip to New Zealand, and being able to celebrate Brian and Jean’s 60th Wedding anniversary… oh and our first one.  Oh and a special mention to my first classroom teaching placement.

JUNE…

June

Highlight: A few bonus trips to Bendigo and all the fun that that brings… it’s a fun place to be especially when you have friends like mine.

JULY…

July

Highlight: Getting my Donna Hay on, not once, but thrice.  July also has a few important birthday’s in it which always deserve a special mention.

AUGUST…

Aug

Highlight: Dave’s Secondary Performance Dinner (SPD) with Jake.

SEPTEMBER…

Sep

Highlight: Getting stuck into my exercise and loving it… no sarcasm, actually loving it.  Oh and finishing placement is worth a special mention.

OCTOBER…

Oct

Highlight: Completing my 10km run at the Melbourne Marathon Series.

NOVEMBER…

Nov

Highlight: Dust and Jess got married… doesn’t get much more exciting than that… although the colour run does get a special mention.

DECEMBER…

Dec

Highlight: Christmas… the food, the gifts, the carols and the fun… always a winner especially the town hall lights… that was very cool.

So there you go… my year… it seems simple when you put it all together like that, but it wasn’t, it was good though and I am hoping that 2013 is just as good… maybe even better.

Season of Lists

The season of lists has started… the time of the year where you need to make lists of things to be done, lists of cards to send, lists of presents to buy, lists of food needed, lists of how to stay sane… seriously I have a list for everything… and it is only going to get worse. The thing is, without these lists life would be even more stressful, trying to randomly remember when I need to do things, what I need to get… I mean I have a very incredible brain… but it gets a little jumbled when you add a healthy dose of holiday madness. This is also the time of year that I start thinking about my list of things to do for next year… what I will put on it, perhaps what may need to be carried over from this year’s list… One day I think that I may in fact end up completely covered in lists… but regardless I declare the season of lists open…

20121205-165634.jpg

Top 5 Christmas Moments

Whew, the last couple of days have been full on… fun, but full on and because they were awesome, but most of you couldn’t share them with me… I thought I would give you my pictorial Top 5 moments of Christmas 2011… in no particular order:

1. Carols
Carols

2. Christmas Dinners20120101-112452.jpg

3. Silly Christmas costumes20120101-112510.jpg

4. Christmas lights20120101-112636.jpg

5. Loved ones20120101-112535.jpg