Monday, December 15, 2008

Creating a Gingerbread House: Day Five

Yesterday was fun: More decorating, eating lots of candy, schmearing frosting over everything and taking photos!

We covered the base with aluminum foil. Our marshmallow snowmen didn’t stand up straight, even when we resorted to the glue gun instead of Royal icing. (Of course, part of the reason one of the snowmen didn’t stand up was because S. took a bite out of the bottom of him.) But we kept propping them back up again, and eventually it was the Royal icing that held. S. wanted to make an alligator pond in honor of our upcoming trip to Florida. Yes, we have an alligator cookie cutter. So now, there are several alligators at home in a snowy, candy-covered alligator pond.

We’re also quite proud of our reindeer pulling a sleigh. S. decorated the reindeer with green frosting and covered it in candy (so it has sort-of lost its resemblance to a reindeer.) The sleigh is made out of a paper muffin cup and has candy canes for runners. It’s full of toys; note the tiny cereal dolls among the candy toys.

Lastly, check out our licorice fence.

And we saw that it was good; morning and evening of the fifth day of gingerbread house creating. And then we rested….or we wanted to. But we had a very sticky kitchen to clear up.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Creating a Gingerbread House: Day Four

I never did find the stash of my daughter’s Halloween candy! I hid it so well from my husband and daughter, that I couldn’t find it myself. I’ve been know for similar trickery in the past, so it was more than pure dumb luck that I decided to stop at the store on the way home from the gym this morning. I picked up candy canes, gum drops, lots of licorice and the old fashioned Gloria Mix by Brachs, just in case I didn’t find the hidden candy.

After the baby was sleeping, S. again dragged her stool out of the closet and climbed up next to me at the kitchen counter – for the forth day in a row – on our quest to make a gingerbread house (that was still, up until that point, only large pieces of cookie on a cooling rack.) I, in turn, dragged my huge Kitchen Aid mixer out of the closet. (My limited counter space does not allow me to look like a true cook year round.) To make Royal Icing, we poured pasteurized Egg Beater egg whites into the mixing bowl and then mixed, measured and poured 14 half cups of powdered sugar into the whites, dutifully adding them one-by-one, beating after each addition.

A good friend told us the trick to gingerbread house assembly with less frustration: Use a hot glue gun. But when we plugged in the brand new one we’d purchased days ago for this specific purpose, it didn’t work. Another delay.

While we waited for my husband to get home from work, so he could go to the store for a new glue gun, we used the icing to decorate the sides of the house, cover every inch of the roof cut-outs with Fruit Loops and make marshmallow snowmen. (The snowmen turned out great with a gumdrop stocking hat, red licorice rope scarf, broken toothpicks for arms and a sliver of toothpick colored orange for the carrot nose!)

Then with glue gun in hand and help from my husband and lots of supervision from S., we finally had a gingerbread house! The glue gun left lots of tiny streams of glue or “spider webs” inside the house, but otherwise, it worked very well and dried in no time.

And we all saw that it was good; morning and evening on the fourth day of gingerbread house creating.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Creating a Gingerbread House: Days Two and Three

Thursday was day number two in the gingerbread house making process. Early in the day, before my baby’s nap, we squeezed in a trip to the supermarket to pick up ginger and parchment paper. I’ve never used parchment paper before. Mom never did. And it just seems that if my Mom was able to create the most delicious baked treats without parchment paper, I shouldn’t have need for it either.

At home, while the baby was sleeping, S. and I counted out almost SEVEN cups of flour using the spoon and sweep method. I scooped and S. leveled with the straight-edged handle of a frosting spreader. Leveling seven cups of flour with three-and-a-half-year-old style takes a very long time.

As I mentioned Wednesday, I had two choices of recipes, the very complicated one theat printed out onto six pages and the shorter Good Housekeeping one. Having decided on the shorter one, I reached into the fridge to pull out three sticks unsalted butter. Only one stick left. Well, bundling up both kids and myself in hats and mittens and big marshmallow puff jackets that make buckling carseats impossible, just to go to the store, was simply not an option. So I took another look at the long recipe.

Luckily, the long recipe had the same amount of flour S. and I had already tediously measured. So we continued to measure ingredients and mix using the Bon Appetit recipe. S. did a fantastic job using my mortar and pestle to crush cardamom seeds. Anything a three-and-a-half-year-old can smash is a good thing. The spice smelled heady and rich.

We got the dough mixed up and while it chilled, we measured and cut the house patterns out of paper. There were A LOT of measurements in the recipe so I did a quick sketch of each pattern and then measured, drew and cut. S. decided the house needed a garage, a garage door and a deck. So she drew and then cut some random shapes with her kids’ scissors.

Well, the parchment paper worked like a dream! Per the directions in the recipe, I rolled the dough out between two pieces of the paper and then laid the pattern on the top layer of parchment. Using a paring knife, I cut through the top layer of parchment paper around the pattern. After removing the top layer of parchment paper and the dough scraps, I simply slid the bottom layer of paper with the dough cut-out onto a baking sheet. I got two sides of the house baked Thursday.

Yesterday, we finished the other two sides of the house and the roof, in between calls to the doctor, a trip to the doctor (where we waited for an hour to see the pediatrician for five minutes and receive a diagnosis of ear infection for S.) But gingerbread baking and planning was a fantastic way to distract a hurting little girl.

And today is decorating day! Now, if I can only find S.’s Halloween candy. I stashed it somewhere in anticipation of this day of decorating the gingerbread house.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Creating a Gingerbread House: Day One

We received around four inches of snow last night. So today was a perfect day to stay indoors and bake.

Every Christmas since my eldest daughter has been born, I've wanted to make a gingerbread house from scratch with her. Since she's now three and a half years, I've decided she's old enough that it will be worth the trouble. My Mom made a gingerbread house with my sisters and me when we were growing up. But only once, hmmmm....

I searched around and a few other recipe sites for the perfect recipe. I found a very long and complicated one from Gourmet magazine (six pages when printed!) And then I found one for Golden Gingerbread on that claimed to be "easy."

I started pulling ingredients out of the cupboard. Now, I do quite a bit of baking, so I figured I'd have all the items needed for gingerbread; since many of them are pretty basic. I knew I even had a brand new jar of molasses somewhere. However, my jar of ginger looked quite a bit shy of the three tablespoons needed. Can't have gingerbread without ginger; so it looks like I'll be bundling the girls up to go to the store tomorrow...after the driveway has been shoveled.