Christmas Down Under – Gingerbread Homestead


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The Gingerbread House is a bit of a Christmas stalwart, complete with white royal icing forming icicles off the roof eaves. It’s one of those fantastic northern hemisphere things – it makes sense in that context to dedicate a chilly weekend to baking the components and then putting it together and decorating it. In my imagination there’s carols playing on the sound system, the snow’s coming down outside, an the amazing smell of gingerbread wafting from the kitchen.

The reality in an Australian context is a wee bit different – at least in my experience. It’s hot and humid and about 35 degrees outside, the romance of Christmas baking is well and truly dissipated, I’ve scalded myself with sugar syrup at least four times, and my gingerbread house has adopted a disturbing lean that would prevent it from passing even the most cursory building code inspection.

This year I contemplated having a go at Adrian Zumbo’s Gingerbread House until I actually read through the recipe and decided the effort-to-result ratio was waaay out of whack. Also I sobered up.

So what to do? My original plan was to buy the do-it-yourself Gingerbread House from Aldi, and maybe just amend with some of the techniques in the Zumbo recipe – the caramel crunch brickwork, for example, or the chocolate roof tiles, or edible toadstools to dot around the house.

And then I found this recipe.

No more snowy eaves, or high arched roof. This is an Aussie Gingerbread Homestead, complete with redback spider (even if it’s on the roof instead of the toilet seat in the outside dunny).  The recipe that follows is by Claire Brookman, the Deputy Food Editor from Super Food Ideas magazine, which describes it as “challenging” (if, by “challenging”, you mean “insanely time consuming”).

Now, up until now, the rule has been that I don’t post recipes unless we’ve tried them.  But I have to be honest and tell you that just typing out the recipe made me stress out, imagining how my version could appear in a “Nailed It” slideshow on Pinterest. It’s also possible that this little project will take longer than it took the original settlers to get a roof over their heads. So if I do actually give this one a go this year, I’ll come back and update with my own photographs … just don’t hold your breath.

Gingerbread Homestead 

Equipment: 

  • 35 x 40cm piece of MDF
  • 24cm square, 2mm thick cardboard
  • Templates – see end of the recipe.

Ingredients

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For the Gingerbread:

  • 450g butter, chopped
  • 1.5 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1.5 cup golden syrup
  • 3 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 3/4 cup ground ginger
  • 3 teaspoons allspice
  • 1.5 teaspoon baking powder
  • 10 cups plain flour
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

For the Royal Icing

  • 4 egg whites
  • 6 cups pure icing sugar, sifted
  • Colouring agent (if you want the visible icing to blend better with he walls and roof)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

To decorate:

  • 30 fruit flavoured or musk sticks
  • 16 licorice allsorts
  • 2/3 x 80g packet ice-cream wafers
  • 12 chocolate wafer sticks
  • 1 vanilla cream biscuit, halved, icing removed and discarded
  • 1 green jelly fruit ring
  • 5 Jols (sugar-free pastilles)
  • 18 red jubes
  • 18 green jubes
  • 2.5  x 160g packets strawberry flavoured sour straps (you’ll need 48)
  • 5cm piece honeycomb chocolate bar
  • 1 large white marshmallow
  • 18 chocolate mini drops
  • 2 rainbow sour straps
  • 2cm piece licorice strap, cut into 8 thin strips
  • 2 chocolate flake bars
  • 5 chocolate freckles
  • 3 mint leaves, halved horizontally
  • 1 red jelly snake (choose the smallest one you can, in keeping with the scale of the homestead)

Method:

  1. Make Gingerbread:

a) Place butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan over medium heat.
b) Cook, stirring, for 5 mins or until sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, then remove from heat.
c) Stir in bicarb of soda, then transfer to a large bowl and cool for 30 mins.
d) Sift ginger, allspice, baking powder and flour into a bowl.
e) Add half the flour to the butter mixture and stir well.
f) Add egg, stirring to combine.
g) Stir in the remaining flour mixture until a sticky dough forms.
h) Divide dough into five portions and shape into discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
i) Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced, and line two baking trays with baking paper.
j) Roll one portion of dough between two sheets of baking paper until 4mm thick.
k) Using the “front and back” template (see below), cut two rectangles from the dough, re-rolling the scraps.
l) Place on prepared trays and bake 12-15 mins or until golden and just firm to touch.
m) Stand on trays for 10 mins then transfer to cool on a wire rack.
n) Repeat steps (j) to (m) using the “side template” – you’ll need two of these – and cool as earlier.
o) Repeat steps (j) to (m) using the “roof” template – again, you’ll need two – and repeat the cooling process.
p) Repeat steps (j) to (m), cutting two components cut from the “roof side” template. (Only bake 10-12 mins)
q) Repeat steps (j) to (m) using the “awning” template – only one of these!
      2. Make Royal icing:
a) Whisk egg whites in a bowl until frothy.
b) Gradually add icing sugar, whisking until smooth and combined.
c) Stir in lemon juice and colouring, if you decided to go that way.
d) Cover icing with damp paper towel to prevent it from drying out

      3. Assemble the Homestead Superstructure
a) Pipe icing onto the edge of one ‘side’ piece.
b) Carefully attach to one of the “front and back” pieces
c) Place on MDF board (hold in place until icing begins to set), using glasses to help hold up sides.
d) Repeat process with remaining pieces, continuing to use glasses to hold walls in place while icing sets.
e) Pipe icing onto one top edge of the “roof” triangle.
f)  Carefully attach one “roof” piece to the triangles (hold until icing begins to set).
g) Ice top edges of triangles and first ‘roof piece’, then attach second ‘roof’ piece.
h) Set aside for 1 hour or until icing has set.
i) Meanwhile, pipe 4 lines lengthways across ‘awning’.
j) Arrange fruit sticks on ‘awning’, trimming to fit.
k) Set aside for 1 hour or until icing has set.
l) Arrange allsorts in 4 rows of 4 on a flat surface the size of the MDF board.
m) Pipe a little icing on top of each allsort. Place MDF board on top.
n) Reserve 1 wafer, then pipe icing to place the remaining wafers (trimming to fit) around the house for an elevated verandah.
o) Lightly score square cardboard 4cm in from 1 edge. Following score line, lightly fold cardboard.
p) Pipe icing around top of house.
q) Position cardboard over top of house with the folded piece overhanging the front. Set aside for 20 minutes.
r) Pipe icing around outside edge of cardboard. Carefully place roof on house (hold in place until icing begins to set).
s) Using icing, attach 2 chocolate wafer sticks on either side of each house corner.
t) Pipe icing in a decorative pattern on corners between sticks. Set aside for 30 minutes or until set.
 

    3. The Roof, Doors and Windows
       
 
a)  Using icing, arrange biscuits on front of house to form a door (hold until icing begins to set).
b)  Using a little icing, attach Jols to fruit ring to form a wreath.
c) Using a little icing, attach wreath to door (hold until icing begins to set).
d) Attach jubes to house with icing to form windows (2 at front, 2 on side, 3 on back and 2 on side of roof).
e) Pipe around jubes to define windows.
f) Trim about 1cm from 1 short end of each sour strap. Place 1 strap on a flat surface.
g) Pipe a little icing along 1 long edge. Top with another sour strap, overlapping by half. Repeat with 10 straps.
h) Repeat process with 10 straps.
i) Repeat process 3 more times to form shingles for roof. Set aside for 10 minutes.
j) Using icing, attach shingles to roof.
k) Trim end of honeycomb bar on an angle and attach with icing to back of roof to form a chimney

  3. Decorate
 a) Top chimney with a little icing and a marshmallow to form smoke.
b) Reserve 1 red and 3 purple mini drops.
c) Cut yellow strips from rainbow sour straps. Cut yellow strips into thin lengths.
d) Using the picture as a guide and a little icing, attach yellow strips and mini drops to roof to form Christmas lights.
e) Using a little icing, attach licorice and reserved red mini drop to front of roof to form a redback spider.
f) Using icing, attach 4 chocolate wafer sticks along front of veranda (holding in place until icing begins to set).
g) Pipe a thick strip of icing along back edge of awning, all over over-hanging cardboard, and a little icing on top of each stick.
h) Put awning into place, holding until icing begins to set (fill any gaps with icing). Set aside for 2 hours or until set.
i)  Cut flakes into three 6cm pieces. Place flakes in front of house to form steps.
j)  Arrange freckles in front of steps for path.
k) Place mint leaves in front of house.
l) Using a little icing, attach 1 reserved purple mini drop to top of mint leaves to form flowers.
m) Place snake on verandah.
n) Using a 5.5cm x 7.5cm kangaroo cutter, cut a kangaroo from reserved ice-cream wafer.
o) Using a little icing, place in front of house.

TEMPLATES – Print on A3 Paper

Front and Back Template Roof template

Awning Template

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~ by swalloworspit on December 8, 2013.

One Response to “Christmas Down Under – Gingerbread Homestead”

  1. Wow! Your bake is so pretty! =)

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