Gingerbread House (Daring Bakers Challenge Dec 09)

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.

I was really excited when I discovered that this month’s challenge was to make gingerbread house. I decided to do a bit of research and looked through various books gathering ideas. I’m a big fan of Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid & Antoni Gaudi but unfortunately their creations would be too complicated for a novice architect. I opted for a relatively simple building designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and built a maquette out of paper. I decided to make a gluten-free version and adapted a recipe by Antoinette Savil from the Gluten, wheat and dairy free cookbook.

I used pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaked almonds, cranberries, dolly mixture and chocolate buttons to decorate my house. Knowing that I’d have problems constructing my houses, I took photos of the walls before I ruined them.

I made the mistake of removing the gingerbread from the tray before it was cool which caused some pieces to curve so they didn’t fit together too well. I used royal icing as cement but took a frustratingly long time to dry, and slid apart when I tried to attach another component…grrr! Royal icing all over the place and my neatly decorated walls were smudged by my clumsy hands.

After 3 hrs of huffing & puffing, I managed to decorate and construct 2 houses. My first one has half its roof missing as it broke, but fortunately you can’t see it in the photo. Despite cutting all the bits for the extension and loft conversion, I feared that my house would collapse. My second attempt was a lot easier as it was smaller and simpler. I felt a HUGE sense of achievement when I completed my wonky houses.

Here’s a gingerbread house that I think Gaudi would be proud of…

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

2 1/2 cups (500g) packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (360mL) heavy cream or whipping cream
1 1/4 cups (425g) molasses
9 1/2 cups (1663g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger


1. In very large bowl, with wire whisk, 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.

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.)

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 (149C)

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 of the shapes you cut.

9. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size.

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.

Y’s Recipe:
Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons gingerbread
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.

2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.

3. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.

4. [I rolled out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1/8 inch thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.]

5. Preheat the oven to 375’F (190’C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

Royal Icing:

1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren’t using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

Simple Syrup:
1 cup (200g) water
1 cup (200g) sugar

Combine in a small saucepan and heat until just boiling and the sugar dissolves. Dredge or brush the edges of the pieces to glue them together. If the syrup crystallizes, remake it.

Adaptation of a recipe by Antoinette Savill taken from The Gluten, Wheat & Dairy Free Cookbook

Gluten-Free Gingerbread

2 tbsp golden syrup

55g dairy free margarine

20g sugar

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp ground cardamom

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground ginger

1 free range egg

130g rice flour

100g buckwheat flour

100g potato flour

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/GM4
  2. In a large bowl, combine the golden syrup and margarine, then melt them together in the microwave. Allow the mixture to cool down, then add the sugar, bicarbonate of soda, spices, egg and all the flours.
  3. Beat with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes.
  4. Transfer the dough onto a floured board and knead the dough with a little extra flour until you can roll it with a floured rolling pin. Roll out the dough until it is thin enough to cut out the shaped you require.
  5. bake for 12 minutes, or until the edges are firm

10 responses to “Gingerbread House (Daring Bakers Challenge Dec 09)

  1. Wow, that is a really impressive house (despite the trouble you had constructing it) with those greek style pillars! Love it! And that gaudi version… well, that is just brilliant!

  2. wow you’re ambitious! They turned out beautifully. I think that’s why we only do them around christmas, because they’re always at least a little frustrating

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