GINGERBREAD COTTAGE

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i can count the days till christmas on one finger!!!!!!  *all the eyes roll* 

so about this whole christmas thing. gingerbread is something i remember making as a little kid. we'd sit around our family friend's dining room table, making flat packed gingerbread houses from ikea. they actually tasted really good. so not only does ikea make fat pack furniture, they also make miniature edible houses. now there's a company strategy i applaud.  

this is "the great gingerbread house of 2014". i'm working on the name so bear with me on that one.

 

step one: making the gingerbread. 

most of us don't give enough credit to those who make really really good gingerbread. it truly is quite hard and everyone has a different preference. there's the crunchy and hard type, the soft and spongy, super spicy, super sweet....and of course those picky people who like it "crunchy on the outside but soft in the middle please and thank you". well each to their own i suppose. 

the point is there's no "right" way to make gingerbread, but the key is getting it the way you like it. traditionally of course, there is a proper way it should look and taste, but it too, depends who you ask. 

in true jess style, i made a massive extra amount (some say it was an accident, i say it's blessing) 

step two: roll out the dough

repeat after me "i am the master of my own dough" 

rolling out dough can be tricky....but once you get the hang of it is easy. basically all you need is a well floured surface an a bit of elbow grease. the only thing to watch out for is accidental over-kneading. hot tip: it's okay if your dough is a bit sticky before you knead, as the flour from your bench will account for that. 

step three: baking the dough 

basically just don't burn it. 

step four: slicing and dicing 

cutting your gingerbread into shapes is crucial. make sure that your sides are straight! also be sure that both your roofs, sides and ends match up size-wise. this step is best done immediately after baking - the gingerbread is softest at this time and easiest to cut. 

step five: make the icing 

easy peasy lemon squeezy. the thicker the better. store it in the fridge. 

step six: assemble your small scale construction and decorate 

there is something to be said about the whole "less is more" approach when it comes to the lollies. i used melted chocolate as a part of my decoration coupled with small silver balls, plenty of coconut (it is now all over the floor) and jaffas! 

some useful utensils  include a pastry brush, a piping bag with many nozzles, a knife (or a small palette knife) for spreading and a good scrubbing brush for washing up. 

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GINGERBREAD COTTAGE

ingredients

300g unsalted butter (i used 300g of dairy free nuttelex, works exactly the same)

1 1/2 cups brown sugar 

1 cup golden syrup

4 tsp. bi-carb soda

6 cups plain flour, sifted

9 teaspoons powdered ginger

4 teaspoons mixed spice

3 egg yolks

2 teaspoons good quality honey

 

for the royal icing

3 egg whites

800g icing sugar

 

method 

preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius and line two baking trays with baking paper

place butter, sugar and golden syrup in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until butter has melted and sugar is dissolved. 

remove from heat and stir in bi-carb soda (avoid lumps at all costs!) 

sift plain flour mixed spice and ginger into the mixture and mix thoroughly 

add egg yolks and mix until combined evenly

tip mixture onto a lightly floured bench and knead until smooth. split the mixture in two (one for each tray). 

add the honey to one of the doughs by kneading it in. 

using a floured rolling pin and clean hands, roll out both dough balls to the shape of each tray until it is 1 cm thick (if too thick, remove some dough and do a second batch) 

bake for 15-20 mins or until springs back at the touch. note: the dough is a deep golden colour already, so waiting until it appears "golden and cooked" won't work. 

working quickly yet carefully, cut the gingerbread into shapes to make your roof, sides and ends. with any spare bread, make trees, a chimney, stepping stones, logs, snowmen.....use your creativity! the possibilities are endless! 

leave the pieces to cool.

in the meantime, make the royal icing by beating egg whites in a bowl of an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. add the icing sugar in four batches, mixing well between each addition.  store in the fridge until ready to use. 

once the pieces have cooled, select a large flat plate or cake board to serve your house on. pipe strips of royal icing on the base of first end. cement it into the platter. pipe another strip on the base and one side of the left side wall. cement this to the platter and the left side of the end wall. repeat with the right side wall, before attaching the final end wall.

cement the roof pieces onto each side of the house gently. leave to set for 5-10 mins.

decorate with lollies and chocolate as desired! 

note: if those instructions on how to assemble made no sense - youtube is a great resource. also, scroll up for some hot tips on gingerbread making!