This Christmas post is inspired by an afternoon of fierce competition, in the lead up to last year’s celebrations. My wife and I were invited to a gingerbread bake-off, we really didn’t know what to expect as the invitation was very mysterious.
We walked through the door to find construction in full swing, the smell of gingerbread wafting out of the oven – which for the day was turned into a prefabricated gingerbread panel manufacturing plant. The oven was pumping out panels of all shapes and sizes ready to be incorporated into amazing architectural marvels. There was a miniature of the local stadium, Santa’s grotto and a castle. We managed a small but accurately reproduced bus shelter complete with a stained glass window made from a red hard boiled lolly, crushed and added to the pane just before popping the ginger bread in the oven.
Have fun creating your own mini masterpieces!
Before you commit to a design, make a pattern out of paper to check it will fit together nicely. Use royal icing as the cement for your little houses, as it will set to the hardness required to hold the house together. If you have any leftover dough, you could make some gingerbread cookie tree decorations. Just decorate in a festive fashion and stick a loop of string on the back with a little icing.
Makes a whole villageGingerbread
1kg plain flour
2 tbsp mixed spice
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
450g light soft brown sugar
3 large eggs
225g golden syrup
2 egg whites
2 tbsp cold water
1 tbsp strained lemon juice (no pips or fibre)
310g icing sugar
1. In a food processor combine flour and butter until there are no lumps remaining (if you don’t have a food processor rub the butter into the flour). Do not beat more than necessary as incorporating too much air will result in puffy, less structurally sound gingerbread.
2. Put the mixture in a large bowl, add remaining dry ingredients and stir through.
3. Combine the eggs with the golden syrup and add to the dry ingredients. Mix and turnout onto a floured bench and knead until soft and smooth. Wrap in cling film and place in the refrigerator to rest.
4. Now the fun part! Get some paper and start designing your template, or have a search on the internet there are heaps of ready made templates.
5. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured bench to about 4mm thick, place your templates on the dough and carefully cut around them with a small sharp knife then place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
6. Bake for about 8 minutes or until the gingerbread is lightly browned, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
7. Add all the royal icing ingredients into a bowl and beat until thick and shiny, spoon into a piping bag or a small lunch bag, snip a corner off the bag to pipe out icing.
8. Join the four walls of the house together, with the icing let it set, once solid stick on the roof sections, you may need to hold these pieces in place for a few minutes so the icing can set.
9. Decorate with all your favourite decorations, as much or as little as you like!