“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!