Gingerbread Rowhouses & A Very Daring Bakers Christmas

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Joyous New Year to you, dear readers and ravenous eaters!

Mr. Luz and I are having our very first grownup Christmas, just the two of us and Foxy, this year. I'm so very excited that I'm not getting on a plane and leaving my Christmas tree behind this December! And as we're snuggling on the couch by the glow of our tree this Christmas, I will be thinking of you guys, and I'll feeling very thankful for all of the friends I've come to know or gotten closer to thanks to the blog.

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was, of course, a gingerbread house! I made a gingerbread version of our row house and our neighbors, Val and Lauren's, rowhouse. The whole process was really fun and not as difficult as I was expecting. Apparently, royal icing fixes a multitude of sins.

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.

Anna's Recipe: Spicy Gingerbread Dough (from Good Housekeeping)

2 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream or whipping cream
1 1/4 cups molasses
9 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbs. baking soda
1 Tbs. ground ginger

1. In very large bowl, with wire whisk (or with an electric mixer), beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.*At this time, the dough was a little dry. I added more milk Tbs. by Tbs. until it held together.*

2. Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.

3. Grease and flour large cookie sheets (17-inch by 14-inch/43x36cm)

4. Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16-inch thickness. (Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help roll dough to uniform thickness.) *Rolling out gingerbread dough is a Great workout, FYI*

Cutting out my template, using a book from my Feminist Theory class in undergrad so I can conceptualize my lil' rowhouses AND get some education at the same time.


5. Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.

6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

7. Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimmings as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately.

8. Chill for 10 minutes before baking if the dough seems really soft after you cut it. This will discourage too much spreading/warping.

9. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake.

Complete template & obligatory DB glass(es) of wine (with extra roof for 3rd rowhouse I gave up on after baking for 4 hours)

10. Remove cookie sheet from oven. While house pieces are still warm, place poster-board patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary. Cool pieces completely before attempting to assemble the house.

Assembling the House:

Decorate your pieces with piped and painted royal icing and edible decorations--Recipe Below--before assembling your house.

To "paint" your gingerbread like I did, put a moderate amount of royal icing in a small bowl, add 1 Tbs. of water and add food coloring to get the desired color. Paint on with a paintbrush.

To create caramel windows, put your gingerbread pieces with the windows cut out on a silpat or parchment paper covered with non-stick cooking spray. Mix 1 cup of sugar and 1 Tbs. of water in a heavy-bottomed pan. Bring sugar mixture to medium-high heat and as sugar begins to melt, slowly stir unmelted sugar into the melted sugar. Once it's mostly incorporated, stop stirring and instead gently shake the pan to even out the heat distribution and stir the mixture. (If you stir it, you'll get little bubbles throughout your caramel mixture and your windows will be too opaque.)

When a small bit of caramel dropped into a glass of water forms a "hard ball" you're ready to pour your mixture into your window cutouts. Let the caramel cool until it's hard and easily releases from the parchment paper/silpat. *Note: If you choose to light your gingerbread house with corded vs. battery operated Christmas lights, tape them to your base to keep them from knocking your gingerbread walls around, and cut a small notch in your gingerbread piece to accommodate the wire.*

Once your decorated pieces have dried, carefully assemble them using tension and various household items to keep them standing while they dry. IF you make a dual or triple row house, be sure to include an inside wall between the rowhouses so that your roof doesn't collapse.

My house with supplies in the background. I read that the 100 calorie pack Oreo snacks made great shingles, and they did! Adorable, and a fun shape to work with.
Complete Gingerbread Rowhouses, with Happy Holidays cookie-message on top.
Royal Icing Recipe:

3 egg whites
1/2 Tbs. cream of tartar
4 cups powdered sugar

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar till fluffy. Add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until incorporated. Your mixture should be stiff and slightly cement-like. Use immediately and cover any unused portions with a damp cloth until you're ready to work with it.

Foxy, looking frightened of the GIANT bag of flour I had to buy for this challenge
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11 comments:

  1. They're amazing! I love the idea of doing rowhouses, and you executed it perfectly!

    Merry Christmas =D.

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  2. ok really? ROWHOUSES? amazing. i thought of doing rowhouses, hello, i live in the Wire Baltimore. but no, i didn't. i ended up with a church.

    great job!

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  3. Cool house! I love the windows. I really want to try that next year.

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  4. What a cool idea to make a row of houses as your gingerbread house! Well done! And I love the little details like the presents in front! Cute!

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  5. Cute! Merry Christmas, don't eat the house all at once (does anyone actually eat gingerbread houses? My sister was seriously toying with the idea of making one out of cardboard, convinced no one would notice the difference)

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  6. I loved your idea of row houses!! Great idea using the oreos and I thought the cookie sign was awesome! Your windows are fantastic!
    Merry Christmas!!

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  7. Great job! I love all your little touches to make them look realistic.

    Natalie @ Gluten a Go Go

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  8. Ooh these are great! I love the festive message at the top, too! Way to go totally above and beyond! :D

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  9. Wow! What a great idea to make row houses... they're super cute! Way to go on this month's challenge, I can't wait to see what you bake up in the New Year :)

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