Posted by: edibleplanet | December 18, 2010

Making a gingerbread house

the gingerbread houseGingerbread houses are a great Christmasey thing. It appears to have started in Germany and spread to Norway and Sweden or possibly the reverse, it was a long time ago. It has since caught on big time in the United States. According to tradition the Christmas elves move in on little Christmas Eve, the 23rd of December and move out on New Year’s Eve. We’ve always eaten it on Christmas night,  evicting the poor elves early!
This year we had got some Swedish kits into the shop and I decided to make up a kit to see how well they worked.
Since my gingerbread was already premade I first dried it in an oven for five minutes as suggested and left it to cool. On the box it said to make the ‘glue’ for sticking the pieces together, out of melted icing sugar. I melted a cup of icing sugar until it was golden brown and thick. I should have then waited for it to cool but eager to get with construction I started sticking my house together. It wouldn’t stick. Just as I thought it was together, it would collapse. A few harsh words were said. I decided to try using the royal icing as glue. I had made half the recipe from the Edmonds book. I had even added the glycerine (we have some in the cupboard for making bubble mixture). It turns out glycerine actually helps the royal icing not to set hard, so I probably shouldn’t have added it. The royal icing wasn’t setting fast enough to hold my house together. But now my melted icing sugar had coolled down and it was really gloopy. I brushed it on the edges with a pastry brush, as well as bringing down the summer temperature in our kitchen by opening up the doors and windows. I guess in Sweden and Germany, these would be made in much cooler conditions. The icing sugar glue worked perfectly. I didn’t need all of it though and next time I would only do half a cup of icing sugar. It was reassuring when sticking it together to see that the commercial kits don’t achieve perfectly straight edges either. As I waited to see if it would hold together, I couldn’t help but wonder if it would survive an earthquake, after recent events in my city.
Once my house was altogether and relatively firm, the fun could begin with the decorating. It was great fun doing the royal icing because since it is snow, it doesn’t have to be perfect and it was a nice touch to add little hanging icicles of icing off the side of the roof. Of course the finishing step was the sprinkle through a sieve of icing sugar for that last snowfall.
Next year, we’ll go the full distance and make the gingerbread too and I love the idea of crushing boiled sweets and putting them in the window holes while the gingerbread is cooking to form coloured glass windows.

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