Sunday, December 27, 2009

Daring Bakers' December Challenge - Gingerbread House

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.

“Hoooo boy” is what I thought when I first saw this month's Daring Bakers' challenge. A gingerbread house. It sounded exciting, but it also sounded like a lot of work. And I had precious little time to get this done before leaving on my trip.

But eventually, excitement took over, and I have to say, I had a blast doing this challenge. I had never made gingerbread, let alone built a house out of it. But it was such a fun seasonal activity, I think I'll make it a Christmas tradition!

We had two choices, for the dough. The one from Good Housekeeping called for molasses and cream, while the one from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book called for butter and boiling water. I chose the first one, because it seemed more straightforward, and I'd been looking for an excuse to use the molasses in my cupboard.

A lot of Daring Bakers complained that the dough was too dry, and I have to agree. After resting it in the fridge overnight, I found that it was absolutely impossible to roll: it kept crumbling in all places. I didn't want to start over and waste all the ingredients I had used, so I tried to salvage the whole thing by adding water. I knew my dough might come out tough, but I was willing to take the risk.

I let the dough rest another night, and it was much easier to work with the next day. Using the paper template I had made, I cut up the separate roof and wall pieces, and used the leftovers to make mushrooms and bunnies. Why mushrooms and bunnies? Because those were the only more-or-less appropriate cookie cutter shapes I had on hand. I figured I would make this a forest-themed house. Call it “Bunnies on Mushrooms,” or something.

I made the mistake of making my roof exactly the same size as the corresponding pieces of the house, when in fact I could have made them bigger, to ensure a more comfortable fit. As a result, with the uneven shrinkage and bloating my pieces suffered in the oven, my roof came up a little short. I had to fill the gap with royal icing, which was what I used to glue the rest of the house together. I was afraid it wouldn't hold, but I have to say, royal icing is solid stuff.

For the decorations, I used marshmallows and Holiday M&M's for the roof. Predictably, the marshmallows dried up and were inedible within a few hours. But I wasn't really planning to eat the house anyway. To be honest, the mushroom-shaped cookies I nibbled didn't taste very good: they were tough, and rather bland. But we had been warned that the dough was more suitable for decorating than for snacking on. Usually, my baked goods taste good, but look bad. For once, it was the opposite.

Overall, I'm fairly pleased with my House of Bunnies on Mushrooms. It's a little rustic (more of a shack than a house), but not bad for a first try. I did have a little bit of trouble assembling it, and it even fell apart a couple of times when I tried to manipulate it before the icing had set (which is why one of the walls is a little damaged). But it held together in the end, and I really couldn't ask for more this time around.

I have been asked what the bunny on the roof is doing. It isn't about to commit suicide, if that's what you were thinking (although I have to admit, it did end up tumbling off the roof at the end of the photoshoot, breaking its ears off in the process). I figure it's either being the lookout, or it's planning on stealing the chocolate carrot the other bunny is standing on (you can't really tell from the picture, but yes, it's a giant chocolate carrot leftover from Easter). My interpretation depends on how cynical I'm feeling.

So thank you, Y and Anna, for this lovely holiday challenge! Thanks to you, my apartment looked a little more Christmas-y this year.

Check out the other Daring Bakers' gorgeous gingerbread houses here. And if you feel up to making a post-holiday gingerbread house of your own, you can find the challenge recipe here at the Daring Kitchen.

Happy holidays to everyone!


  1. Yes, the thickness of the pieces tends to ruin paper-designs :-) But you did it, congratulations! And I like the mushrooms :-)

  2. Omg those mushrooms and bunnies are to-die-for adorable! Great job!

  3. Love the bunnies and the shrooms! I like that it's rustic....I too had problems and broke a whole wall, but man royal icing is amazing...more like spackle. Great job!

  4. Loving the bunnies and mushrooms... and the marshmallows on the roof! Well done!

  5. Valerie, I love the bunnies and mushrooms! They are the perfect addition to your beautiful house =D.

  6. Cute!

    The bunny on the roof is the lookout so no one comes and swipes the magic mushrooms. *nods sagely*


  7. LOL, i had the same problem with my roof. and i love your mushrooms, especially the red icing, it came out so shiny and smooth. this is a beautiful gingerbread house, good job!

  8. So CUTE!! I love the little mushrooms and those bunnies are adorable! :)

  9. Great house, so cute. Love the bunnies and mushrooms and the cresent moon windows.

  10. O I love your little bunny house!! I had hoped that the first recipe would be better in the dough department then Y's recipe (which I used) but apparently it is not... Hmm.. I am determined to find a good recipe for the gingerbread as I kind of liked making this. Yours looks absolutely very cute!

  11. Oooh Waw,...Valérie!! You did an amazing & outstanding job!!! I so love your gingerbread house,'s so funny & ooh so lovely ,..the bunny,..hahahhahaha,...


  12. Just too cute for words ...

  13. Val, you so rocked this challenge! Love the bunnies and mushrooms, although I was sure you'd use chocolate bunnies! LOL Regardless, it turned out so cute and so clean! Hope you have a wonderful New Year!

  14. Totalement irrésistible ta maison en pain d'épices - je craque pour les lapins!

    Je te souhaite une bonne Année 2010 Valérie!
    De la santé, de la réussite, de l'amour et de délicieux moments gourmands pour toi ainsi que pour les gens que tu aimes!

  15. Appreciate the effort you put into details especially the roof tops, mushrooms, and bunnies! Love them!

    Happy new year, Valerie!

    Sawadee from Bangkok