Honestly, I haven't had so much fun in ages and I live a pretty good life!
The combo of sweets, a bit of creativity and some quality time with number one daughter required to make and decorate a gingerbread house is hard to beat, and best of all, we get to eat it at the end!
I've been looking at the gingerbread house kit kindly sent to me by Gingerbread Folk for a few days, a little unsure of where to start. Vesmiester suggested we decorate it as a crack house so I googled gingerbread crack house and then decided - no! So not grandma friendly for Christmas Day.:)
The kit made it all very easy as I suspect making and baking the gingerbread must be harder than decorating it. The pieces fitted together really well and the kit also included royal icing and a piping bag to make it all happen.
I had a few questions for Karen Sharman who is one of the folk behind Gingerbread Folk.
Q. How long (apart from it being eaten) will the gingerbread house last and will it stay fresh?
A. Our Gingerbread Houses stand up and hold their shape no matter the climatic conditions. There are a number of reasons for this. Many people think that icing melts but Royal Icing being primarily sugar (no fats) would require a temperature of about 150 degrees Celsius to melt, so not much chance of that happening. In addition, Gingerbread Folk's unique egg-free royal icing is even more stable than the traditional recipe. Whilst gingerbread is hygroscopic (that is it absorbs moisture or loses it depending upon the air around it), the shape of your house would not change or deform (even in humid temps of Queensland) due to the strong icing cementing it together.
So how long will your house last? If kept in its packaging our gingerbread has a 9 months shelf life. It's an all natural product - honey and ginger act as a natural preservative. Gingerbread does not suddenly 'go off'. It will just become less spicy and dull tasting over time. Whilst we cannot provide a definite indication as to how long your product will last once the products are out of their packaging, we would recommend that the house is wrapped well in cellophane to protect from humidity and insects.
We really just let our imaginations go riot. Using jubes, bullets, licorice allsorts, confectionery flowers and some piping gels from the cupboard, it all came together in a snip. I found some cute Christmas figures and a Santa in the cake decorating section at Woolworths and they just added the finishing touches.
So here's how we made it
Find the Gingerbread Folk kits at Bread and Butter, Bulimba; In a Pickle, Coorparoo; Ingredients, Kenmore; Rosalie Gourmet, Rosalie; Superior Fruit, Graceville; The Fig Tree Deli, Camp Hill; Brookfield General Store, Bread & Butter by Brother Espresso, In a Pickle, Spring Hill Deli and Produce and Zone Fresh Windsor.
Still a bit scared of making your own? Kitchenware Plus at Loganholme has a one hour Gingerbread Demo on this Saturday at 9:30-10:30pm, 11-12pm and 1-2pm. Book on 344O 9555.
If you'd like to make your own gingerbread family, Wiltshire have an awesome kit of cookie cutters.The kit includes a gingerbread dad, mum, brother, sister and even a dog plus six disposable icing bags – which encourage neater decoration and take the stress out of washing up afterwards. RRP $8.98 from Big W – or call 1800 65 11 46 for nearest stockist details.
Here's a gingerbread recipe you could use for your own gingerbread house or for the gingerbread cookies.
· 75 g soft brown sugar, sieved
· 2 tablespoons golden syrup
· 1 tablespoon black treacle
· 1 level teaspoon cinnamon
· 1 level teaspoon ginger
· 1 pinch ground cloves
· 95 g butter, cubed (and a small amount to grease the baking trays)
· ½ level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
· 225 g plain flour
Ingredients for decorating:
· 50 g Smarties (optional)
· 1 egg white
· 1 cup of sifted icing
· Selected food colourings (red and green are great choice for Christmas!)
1. Pre heat the oven to 180 °C and grease two baking trays with butter.
2. Put the sugar, syrup, treacle, 1 tablespoon of water and spices in a large saucepan. Bring them to boiling point, stirring all the time.
3. Remove pan from the heat and stir in the butter and bicarbonate of soda.
4. Stir in the flour gradually until dough is smooth and manageable. Add a little more flour if you think it needs it.
5. Cover dough and leave in a cool place to become firm (approx. 30 minutes).
6. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to 3 mm thick.
7. Dip the Gingerbread cookie cutters into flour (to help prevent the dough sticking to the cutters) and press into the dough to produce your gingerbread family.
8. Place gingerbread cookies on trays (with a little space between each) and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the biscuits feel firm when lightly pressed. Be aware the smaller cookies may cook quicker.
9. Remove from oven, leaving biscuits on trays to cool for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.
Instructions for the decoration:
1. Place the egg white in a clean, dry bowl and beat until soft peaks form.
2. Gradually add icing sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
3. Divide icing into bowls for each colour you are using. Add a few drops of food colouring and mix, adding more if required for desired depth of colour.
4. Spoon the icing into the icing bags that come with the Wiltshire Gingerbread Family Cookie cutters (use a separate bag for each colour).
5. Snip the tip of the bag and pipe the icing onto the cooled biscuits.
6. A dab of icing under a Smartie will secure the family’s ‘buttons’!
Disclaimer: Ed+bk was gifted a gingerbread house kit from Gingerbread Folk and a cookie cutter set by Wiltshire.