Gingerbread House

IMG_20141223_143952‘Tis the time to be merry, to slurp on Gluhwein and munch on mince pies. ‘Tis also the season to plunge drastically out of your depth in the baking department. Our attempt: the Gingerbread House. Here’s the how-to, inspired by a recipe from the queen of edible festive cheer, Mary Berry.

Building the House

*375g Unsalted Butter

*300g Dark Muscovado Sugar

*900g Plain Flour

*150g Golden Syrup

*2tbsp Ground Ginger

*1tbsp Bicarbonate of Soda

Turn up the oven to 200C. Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a pot, meanwhile sifting everything else into a large mixing bowl. Once this is done, make a well in the flour and pour in the melted gooey mixture. Stir everything together and then knead into a stiff dough. (I’d never kneaded anything before. If you knead help, watch this.)

Split the dough into 5 equal blobs, and split one of those in half again making 6 blobs in total. Roll out each onto grease-proof paper until it’s just under 1cm thick, then cut out the walls and roof parts using this handy template. (I only found the template after my baking attempt, so I hope yours will be slightly more symmetric than mine.)

Bake each part in the centre of the oven for 7-8 minutes. If you’ve got a fan oven, lucky you. You can do a few at a time. If not, do each separately to ensure none burn/go soggy. Ain’t nothin’ worse than leaky gingerbread roof.

Decorating

*3 Egg Whites

*675g Icing Sugar

*3tsp Lemon Juice

Whisk the egg whites to a froth, then add the icing sugar slowly. Finally, add the lemon juice and whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Use an icing pack, or a sandwich bag with a hole cut out, as I did, for a more rustique look.

Decorate as you wish with smarties, glitter, chocolate, gummy bears and any other E-number loaded, gaudily coloured item you can find.

Finally: the tricky bit. If you’re Mary Berry, I’m sure you can put together a gingerbread house with ease using some simple icing cement. If you’re me, or any other non super-human, it often requires some serious architectural insight, and the use of various sized cocktail sticks. A savvy tip for keeping the roof from sliding off is to drill tiny holes along the two top edges of the roof, and stitching through a ribbon/string, creating a kind of book that can rest happily on top of the structure.

After all this work, the last thing you want to do is eat the damn thing. Fortunately, gingerbread improves with age (a few days), so place it in the centre of the table for all to see and post it on a culture website to make sure everyone knows the amount of effort that went into making it.

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Claudia Knowles

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