Sunday, December 27, 2009

The House that Kate Built

I've never made a gingerbread house, and have always wanted to, so when Good Taste Magazine featured one this month, I thought, why not?

I downloaded and printed the templates from the website and set about making my house.

Making gingerbread, which is mostly butter, when it's 35 degrees INSIDE the house, is not the best plan. Trying to transfer the cut out pieces to the baking tray was a disaster. Tearing, melting, shredding, separating disaster. I even pulled out the emergency icepack in the hope of cooling down the butter so it would bond together, which worked to an extent, but I still wasn't happy with it.

Eventually I worked out that if I rolled the dough directly onto the baking paper,  cut out the pieces and peeled away the outside dough, I could lift the baking paper straight onto the baking trays and have perfectly even, unstretched, unbroken dough pieces to bake for my house.

I wanted to create a stained glass window effect, so I used crushed up life savers and filled up the holes in the window prior to baking.

Waiting, waiting, waiting

I took a lot of photos prior to assembly, and of the work in progress because I was not convinced that I could pull this off! I don't have the steadiest hand, but I don't think this was too bad.

The stained glass thing worked!

I did have to hold the pieces together quite a long time for the chocolate to set, again, because it was so hot on Thursday. After assembling each piece I put it in the fridge for 5-10 minutes to make sure each join was set before I moved on to the next one. Even so, the last roof panel fell off about 3 times before it finally stuck.

I forgot to do the chimney - it wasn't on the template, and didn't say to do it in the instruction, so I just didn't cut one out. It was too hot for a fire anyway, it didn't need a chimney.

I must admit, I was incredibly flattered when, at Christmas lunch, I overheard someone asking if it was made by a pastry-chef friend of ours!

How to make a gingerbread house

Beat 250g softened butter, 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar and 1/3 cup golden syrup until pale and creamy.

Add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating after adding each. Gradually stir in 5 cups of sifted plain flour, 1 1/2 tbs ground ginger, 1 1/2 tbsp bicarb soda and 1/4 tsp ground cloves.

Knead until smooth, then wrap and chill for 30 minutes, and pre-heat oven to 180 degrees.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface (or directly onto baking paper for ease of transfer) until 5mm thick. I made mine a little thicker, and still had dough left over. Use the downloaded templates to cut out shapes and use a 4.5cm round cutter to cut a disc from the front wall to make a window. Cut a cross from the disc and re-insert it into the hole. Don't forget the door and chimney!

Bake on lined trays for 10-15 minutes. Cool completely on wire racks.

Trim the edges of the gingerbread (I found this completely unnecessary, I assume because of the way I cut out the shapes and put them on the tray to start with).

Beat 2 egg whites until foamy. Beat in 1 tsp fresh lemon juice and 2 2/3 cups pure icing sugar, sifted. Place in a piping bag with a 3mm nozzle, and use to decorate the gingerbread. You can see in one of the assembly pictures how much icing I used and had left over, so it depends on how much you want to decorate your walls and roof if you think it's necessary to make this much.

I assembled and then decorated the roof, as I thought it would be easier to handle, despite the instructions suggesting to do it the other way around.

Use 200g dark chocolate melts, melted in a zip lock bag with the end snipped to pipe along the edges of the walls to assemble a side and front/back piece, and hold together until set - this will take a while if it's hot in your kitchen. Then attach the other walls and the front door. Once this is properly set (which may require refrigeration) apply one roof panel, and once set, apply the other, and then the chimney.

I used melted chocolate to attach the freckles and bullets to the roof, but Good Taste used mini-wheats which looked a lot like roof shingles.
I didn't create a lovely snow scene like Lorraine did over at Not Quite Nigella, but I was concerned about its ability to transport, so it went into a cake taker, and displayed on a cake stand once it reached its destination.

There you go, that's something by Kate.


  1. It looks great - love the stained glass windows. Poor you though, making it on such a hot day! I liked your thinking behind the emergency ice pack!

  2. It was my own fault Agnes, I'd promised one to no-one but myself, and then it was too late to wait another day.

  3. a labor of love, but look how pretty!


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