A Gingerbread Mansion

Last year I had planned to make a gingerbread house but never actually got round to it; a serious lack of time lead to a lot of gingerbread men and women being made instead.  This year I was determined to make a seriously cool gingerbread abode – I designed and made the blueprints for a gingerbread mansion.

You may ask why I had such big plans? Well, if you’ve ever read my posts before you’ll have gotten used to my insane ideas where I’m normally in over my head. My motto: ‘go big or go home’. OK so that’s not actually my motto but it works here.

First thing you need to do when making a gingerbread house is to make the blueprints for it – my building design was essentially four basic-shaped houses stuck together to make a mansion.  This in itself took around 2 hours; apparently geometry isn’t my best subject – I was more of an algebra type girl anyway.

 Then came the preparation of the batter – this year I went for Mary Berry’s recipe to see how it would differ from last years.  I made three times the amount of batter as I had a LOT of building parts to make. I started by mixing the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ginger and rubbing in the butter – this was, actually, quite a calming exercise and I was quite happy rubbing everything in while watching a Christmas movie on TV.  The golden syrup, sugar and egg is mixed in and kneaded until a smooth dough is made.

Gingerbread

By this point my hands were getting quite tired but I figured I was practically halfway there.  I started rolling out the batter and cutting out the shapes; there was a pretty good one-woman production line going but it still took around 2 hours to get all the pieces cut and baked.  I had planned to have a gingerbread Christmas tree but I simply didn’t have enough batter left.

 Gingerbread

The house was now seriously smelling like Christmas and the family were very excited about what I had come up with – the entire dinner table was covered with bits and pieces of my mansion.  Personally, at that point I was happy if I never smelt gingerbread again but I had to power through.

After a quick break for the gingerbread to cool (and a cup of tea, of course!), I started putting together the mansion.  I whisked together some icing sugar and egg whites to make a stiff icing to use as the ‘glue’.

Gingerbread

My dad and I spent the next 2 hours painstakingly putting each piece together; I never realised how dramatic and tense making a gingerbread house can be! We finally got the walls up and got started on the roof.  As each section dried I piped a decorative pattern on each of the joints for extra strength – and to hide all the ugly glued bits.  The last touch was to pipe chocolate icing onto the roofs and sprinkle some coconut to make it look like it had snowed. Add a snow covered floor and some snowmen and hey presto. My very own gingerbread mansion!

Gingerbread Mansion

On Christmas day the gingerbread house/mansion took pride of place at the centre of the table, everyone was pretty amazed, not only at my sheer luck but also at how long it took to make – 9 hours! They were so amazed that no one wanted to break into it – it was a completely different matter for me, I couldn’t wait to tear it apart!

 Gingerbread mansion

We only managed to get through the side extensions on Christmas day, but continued to work our way through until it was all gone!

The gingerbread itself was moreish – and a lot softer than you’d expect from a gingerbread biscuit.  I much prefer this recipe and will definitely use it again – just not for a very long time, I need to get over my ordeal first!

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Christmas Mayhem

Every year I get a bit ambitious and try to do too much over Christmas, this year was no exception.  I had left all my shopping last minute had to make a last minute dash to the shops to get everything done in time.

Another one of my impossible tasks was to make a gingerbread house based on the gingerbread men recipe in the first Hummingbird Bakery book.  My first mistake was that I didn’t realise that you had to let the dough rest overnight.  I had way too much to do the next day (Christmas Eve!) so I gave up on my gingerbread house idea and settled for gingerbread men.

I started making the dough by mixing the sugar and butter first and beating in the egg and treacle.  Now I’ve never experienced black treacle before and was slightly intrigued/disgusted by what I saw! It looked like crude oil! But I had faith in the recipe and carried on.

I then added the flour bit by bit, along with all the spices and bicarbonate of soda.  I was definitely excited about the amount of spices going into the recipe. Ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg not only creates this beautiful Christmassy aroma when cooking, it makes everything taste great!

My baby whisk was starting to make crazy noises again, a regular occurrence now and I hoped that it wouldn’t break before finishing the dough.  Thankfully it made it through and I managed to get the dough mixed, I wrapped it in cling film and put it in the fridge overnight.

The next day brought with it the task of cutting out the gingerbread shapes and baking them.  As I made twice the amount of dough to have enough for the gingerbread house, I had a lot of gingerbread mean to cut out.  They cookies only needed 9 minutes in my oven before they were perfect so I started a little one-person production line.

The dough was finally finished and all the cookies baked.  I let them cool while I finished wrapping presents and getting ready for a dinner party.  Then came the fun job of decorating them.

I always thought royal icing was simply mixing water and icing sugar; apparently this isn’t royal icing – oops.  I can now proudly say it’s made from egg whites, lemon juice and icing sugar.

I started decorating by making smiley faces for all gingerbread men before colouring the icing blue and making little buttons.  I was a bit short of time (and by a bit I mean I had around 10 minutes to decorate around 50 cookies) so I kept it simple.

The gingerbread men were distributed among neighbours and friends and were thoroughly enjoyed on Christmas Eve.  They tasted really good, all the spices went amazingly well together and that beautiful Christmassy smell stayed in the house for days. It’s true what they say – once you taste a homemade gingerbread man you can’t go back – well they don’t technically say that but they should.