Gingerbread House Part 1, the Recipe

Its been a while since I last put a post up so I’m actually writing about our Christmas tradition in the middle of July. Embarrassing I know. Still better late than never I suppose. In this post, I’ll cover off the gingerbread house recipe and baking process that I use to create the pieces of gingerbread used in the construction of the house.

The Christmas season pretty much uses up all my time preparing for the holidays and doing fun stuff with the family. One of the pieces of that preparation is the annual Gingerbread House build. This is something that we do every year. I’ve posted pictures of the houses from previous years here.

This year, I decided that I would document the creation of the house rather than just posting the pictures of the final project. Though, as I mentioned, I’m only actually getting to that 6 months later!

The gingerbread house recipe that I used here (and every year) is the same one that my father used when I was growing up. It is simple, straightforward, and creates a solid but tasty substrate for building the house. The only real challenge in making the recipe is how solid it is. It makes mixing it by hand a chore and by traditional mix master nearly impossible. Luckily, if you have access to a strong mixer, a KitchenAid in my case, that has a dough hook, it can handle the mixing duties just fine. So, without further ado – lets get going.

As I mentioned, the recipe is straight forward. The amounts shown below are for a single batch but I use two batches to make the house each year.

  • 1 cup shortening (I use vegetable shortening)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp ginger

In a large pot melt the shortening and remove from heat. Transfer to the bowl of the Kitchen Aid and, using a dough hook, add the sugar and molasses. Sift 4 cups of flour with the remaining ingredients and add gradually into the molasses mixture while running the Kitchen Aid on low. Continue to mix the dough while working in the last cup of flour. The dough will be crumbly but do not add liquid. Divide in half and wrap in foil. Make a second recipe of dough and refrigerate both.

When ready to bake the dough, remove from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. If needed, you can place it in the microwave for a few moments to soften the dough but be careful not to overheat. Roll out the dough to about 1/4″ thick and place on a silpat on a cookie sheet. Mark out the house pieces with a sharp knife but do not cut all the way through. Leave the excess dough in place.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until deep brown. Remove the gingerbread from the oven and retrace the lines with a sharp knife cutting fully through. Let cool and separate the house pieces from the off-cuts.

Don’t throw away the off-cuts! The tradition in our house is to not break into the gingerbread house until Christmas day so the off-cuts are the only chance you’ll get to taste the wonderful gingerbread before then.

Next installment, we’ll put the house together!

Cat Themed Birthday Cake

Well, my little girl has just turned 9 and in the tradition we have been following for many years, she was allowed to pick what she wanted her birthday cake to look like. Her decision was a cat themed birthday cake which is not surprising as she’s asked for a lot of animal themed cakes over the years. If you are interested in seeing any of the others, have a look here.

As you can tell, the design is pretty tall so it wasn’t very feasible to make the whole thing out of cake. Instead, I turned to one of my favorite sculptaple materials for cakes – Rice Krispy Treats!

I started with a base of chocolate cake covered in chocolate icing. I sculpted the cat out of warm Krispy treats and then popped it in the freezer to firm it up. Finally I dropped it on the top of the cake leaving room for the lettering.

From that point, it was just a matter of piping on icing to form the fur, eyes, lettering and other details. I used a comb tip while piping on the white base layer. This allowed me to use the direction of the piping to suggest the shape of the body and fur. I then used a fine tip with chocolate icing to simulate tabby markings on the cat.

Overall, I think it turned out pretty well – and it was delicious.

Of course, the birthday girl got to have the first piece. Her selection was perhaps a bit morbid but appropriate given how close to Halloween we are.

But don’t worry, it rest was handled pretty quickly and I can assure you there was no suffering! Just lots of happy, full tummies!

Thanks for reading!

Scary Brownie Eyes for Halloween

Halloween is upon us as are the parties that people have at this time of year. We were invited to a party this weekend where we were asked to bring along some “scary” food. So we are bringing some Scary Brownie Eyes for Halloween!

Here is how we put them together.

The Ingredients

The ingredients are pretty easy. You’ll need the following:

Some Two Bite Brownies…

Some Candy Eyeballs…

Chocolate Icing…

And any assorted other colors of icing for details I’ll discuss later…

Putting Things Together

The idea is to make the brownies look like they each have eyes peering out of them. Doing this is actually pretty easy.  Start with the brownies and put a dollop of chocolate icing to hold the eye in place.

Now drop the eye on and press to adhere.

Next, we piped chocolate icing on to form the upper and lower eyelids.

For the final touch, and to make the eyes as creepy as possible, we used a variety of different color icings to simulate blood, pus, or other bodily fluids dripping out of the eyes. Delicious!

As you can tell, this is well suited to assembly line production and, using that, the girls and I managed to put together a lot of these in very short order. So we have a good collection of brownie eyes for the party and some extras on top of that.

Happy Halloween!