mini gingerbread houses

Christmas happened on Sunday at our place. I spent the morning dancing, marshalling and handing out mince pies and medals to the Santas On The Run, and then came home to help cook our Christmas dinner. It’s no mean feat, cooking a roast with all the trimmings for 10 people, but the cooking team did good – and the best thing was that we could sit in our food coma states whilst the others did the washing up! Bliss 😉 We swapped Secret Santa presents (Santa brought me a bottle of vodka and a box of chocolates – what more does a girl need?!) and topped it all off by watching Love Actually.

So. Much. Food.

Since then I’ve been in the library, finishing off and handing in five pieces of coursework. Now I’m free! (and in serious denial about January exam revision)
So, let’s talk gingerbread. I end up buying it a lot on my journeys to and from uni; it’s always rock-hard and only made salvageable by dunking into a cup of tea. This gingerbread isn’t like that though – it’s soft and buttery, with a subtle hint of spice. I did toy with the idea of trying to recreate our student house in gingerbread, but it’s five storeys high and on a hill… maybe not such a good idea for my first construction project!
Instead, I was inspired to go mini by these two posts: Molly Yeh’s insanely amazing gingerbread farm and this site’s edible snowglobes (and anything in miniature is infinitely more cute, right?) 
Gingerbread recipe from Taste.com.au

Ingredients:

Gingerbread biscuits:

  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 100g dark brown sugar
  • 125ml golden syrup
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 375g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp bicarb. soda

Decorations:

  • 130g icing sugar + 1 tbsp cold water {this is a good starting point for the icing, if you need more it’s very easy to top up}
  • Chocolate buttons
  • Mini chocolate fingers
  • M&Ms
  • … anything else you fancy using!

Method for basic gingerbread:

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the egg yolk and syrup; beat together. 
Sift together the remaining dry ingredients and add a little at a time to the butter mixture, stirring as you go. The mixture will seem very dry once you’ve added it all – resist adding any more water – tip it out onto a clean, floured surface and knead for a few minutes. It will slowly come together. 
Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Now’s a good time to make templates or find cookie cutters. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper. 
Divide the dough in two and return one half to the fridge – it’s easier to work with one half at a time. Roll out between two sheets of greaseproof paper to a thickness of about 0.5cm. Cut out desired shapes and line up on the baking trays. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
Makes around 30 biscuits.

How to make mini houses:

Firstly, I drew out my templates on scrap paper and then traced around them on greaseproof paper. Half of the dough in the recipe above made the pieces for 3 complete houses and a couple of little trees. Here are the dimensions for my little houses – although feel free to use whatever measurements you want!
For one house, you need:
  • 2 x side pieces (5cm by 6cm)
  • 2 x roof pieces (4.5cm by 7cm)
  • 2 x end pieces (a square of 5cm by 5cm, topped with a triangle that’s 3cm tall – so the whole piece is effectively 8cm tall by 5cm)
You can cut out little shapes in the middle of the pieces to form doors and windows – either fill them with crushed up boiled sweets to get a stained glass effect, or fill them with a little piece of foil as I did so that they don’t lose their shape during baking. If the pieces have spread out unevenly during baking, it’s pretty easy to trim them whilst they’re still warm. 
Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the water; mix together to form a very stiff, glue-like paste. You want it to be really saturated in order to stick everything together. Spoon it into a plastic sandwich bag, cut off one of the corners and you’re good to go. 
Start by joining the side and end pieces together with lines of icing – leave them to set before putting the roof pieces on top. You won’t want to move them after construction starts, so do this on a chopping board or whatever you’re going to present them on. Use icing to fill in any gaps between pieces.
Now for decoration: for one house, I piped U-shapes on the roof pieces, and stuck M&Ms on the joins. To achieve the choc-button roof tiles, pipe a blob of icing onto the back of each button and stick onto the roof, starting at the bottom and working your way back up to the top so that they overlap each other. You can cover the joins with a row of buttons on top. I used a couple of mini chocolate fingers to make a door, with an M&M doorknob. The choc fingers would also work well as chimneys 🙂
You may need to make more icing at this point (especially if certain housemates have been not-so-subtly eating it as they walk past), but for the third house I aimed for an icicle/snow drift look. I piped icing off the edges of the roof pieces and let them drip down a little.
I finished off the scene by joining the houses with a path of choc buttons, adding a couple of my little gingerbread trees and dusting with a healthy amount of icing sugar 😉
In other news, I have a shiny new Facebook page for Tolley Bakes here (or click on the F symbol on the left hand side of my homepage) – so if you want to follow along with my baking adventures, there’s now an even easier way to do so 🙂 
Christmas is now less than a week away – so I’ll take the opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and I hope you have a lovely holiday. I’m going to be away for a couple of weeks, so I’ll see you all in the New Year. Here’s hoping 2015 is a good one! 
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