Author Topic: Another seasonal newbie here...working on my first gingerbread house!  (Read 2930 times)

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Offline Imalath

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I decided to make a gingerbread house for the first time this year; I've always been fascinated by cooking and miniatures, and combining the two was a match made in heaven!

I wanted to start simple this year, and progressively add to my skills as time goes by.  Right now I just kind of wanted to write my thoughts down as I go and throw some ideas out there for discussion (and help!  I'm sure I will need lots of advice as the process continues...).  Then I have a record of what I did for this year, and ideas about what to try for next year.

I made a simple pattern based off an old dairy barn with a gambrel roof.  Six rectangles of various sizes, and two more complicated "faces".  I trimmed a few scrap pieces into what will hopefully become a cupola.  It took me two or three tries to get the sizes right, but I am pleased with it.  Today I made king arthur flour's construction gingerbread recipe, cut and baked my pieces, and they are cooling on the counter overnight.

Things I've learned today:

1) Multiple small pieces in regular shapes are much easier to roll and cut than the larger odd-shaped ends to my barn.

2) Those little thickness-measuring rings that can be stretched over the rolling pin are a lifesaver.

3) For bigger pieces, a chunk of wooden dowel or a straight pin without handles would be better than my teflon pin.

4) Anybody ever tried to roll out strips of dough using a pasta machine?  I think it would make rolling even, long rectangles of dough easier and faster than using a rolling pin.

5) Find a new dough recipe:  kaf recipes don't usually steer me wrong, but this one did.  I have puffy, unevenly-baked pieces of thin bread, despite following the instructions carefully.  I was expecting something crisper, textured more like a cracker or a tough pie crust.

6) Cutting windows and doors into my dough before it bakes is easier than doing it afterwards; leaving the pieces in the holes kept the edges from burning.

7) Should I trim my pieces back to template size after they have baked?  Or should I just use the royal icing glue to cover any spreading or inconsistencies?

8) Find a way to make sharper corners.  Caveat:  smaller pieces are easier to cut, but tiny pieces distort easily.

9) Get rimless baking pans, so I can roll pieces directly onto the pans and not have to mess with carefully transferring from counter to pan and back.

My plans for tomorrow involve baking the pieces a second time to crisp them up...longer and at a lower temperature.  I am planning on also taking the opportunity to make window-glass by either melting candy in the windows, or using a colored sugar mixture to get the same effect.

I know that butterscotch candies make that golden glow of well-lit windows in winter...anyone know if peppermints melt pink or red?  I'm wanting something that is translucent enough to let light through (there is a flameless candle on a timer going in my house to light it), but tinted white, red, or pink instead of yellow.

Any advice/comments/criticisms welcome!

Imalath

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Offline annettebrown

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Re: Another seasonal newbie here...working on my first gingerbread house!
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2015, 05:08:14 pm »
Hi Imalath!  Glad you enjoyed your first gingerbread experience.  There's a lot to learn and it gets better every year.

My favorite dough recipe is in the book "Gingerbread Houses" by Nonie Cargas.  There are lots of good ideas in there for every aspect of house construction and design.  Unfortunately dough design to construct a strong house will not necessarily make the best tasting cookies, so you have to decide on your priority here.

I roll my dough out onto the flat baking sheets, or onto the back of rimmed ones with a support underneath so they don't bend.  I always cut and and remove the windows pieces before baking, and ALWAYS recut the pieces as soon as they come out of the oven so all the edges are straight and the sizes will fit together easily. Gently lay your template pieces back over the bakes pieces and recut each piece - its the only way.  Yes, its hot, but long fingernails help, or a small pot holder if nothing else works.  The length of baking can be a problem but is based on the thickness of your pieces.  Bigger, thicker pieces may need considerably more time than thinner ones.

I use crushed Jolly Ranchers melted on lightly oiled pieces of smooth aluminum foil for window glass.  If you have fairly large windows you may need two candies per window as you need enough to cover the whole opening and beyond on the backside so your icing won't show.  Watch the candies carefully as they melt as it can happen fast and then they'll burn.  Allow them to cool slightly then peel off the foil and let them finish cooling on wax paper.  I've tried other hard candies and some work OK, but some seem to soften up even after melting and remain sticky.  Jolly Ranchers come in a wealth of colors and work great.

Hope this was helpful!  Annette Brown

 

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