The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.
In one of my previous posts, I mentioned joining this community and, well.... I'll just let the pros explain what I've gotten myself into.
In November 2006, Lisa of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice decided to challenge themselves to bake pretzels for the very first time using the same recipe. They each went ahead and posted about it on November 18, 2006.
Having enjoyed that experience tremendously, they decided to try it again the next month, this time choosing to bake biscotti. And to make matters even better, they were joined by a few more food bloggers.
As the months went by, their baking group continued to grow, until it was finally decided that this "little baking group" had to have a name and The Daring Bakers were born!
Today, The Daring Bakers span the world as bakers of all nationalities come together once a month to try something new in the kitchen!
Alright, the official reveal date was actually supposed to be on the 27th of December, but I've been away in India for the past 2 weeks ( a little scary, but fun all the same). Oh well, better late than never right? ;-)
When I first found out about my challenge I was ECSTATIC. I was hoping 'the powers that be' would make us do a gingerbread house since I've always wanted to make one but never found the guts to do it. I really wanted to start immediately, but the challenge was released during SPM, and I don't think the parents would have been too happy with their baby girl building houses out of cookies when she should be cramming for chemistry and physics. So I waited. Impatiently. Newbie that i was, I had big plans to make a grand ol' traditional Malay kampung house complete with window carvings, balcony and STILTS. Yep, you read right. I wanted this baby to be supported by STILTS. In case you've never seen one of these before, youcan see a few here
So, I did my reasearch (maybe I did it during SPM, maybe not) and realized that all the houses I saw had one thing in common. They were all FIRMLY attached to the board. Not a stilt in sight. I was to be the pioneer on making gingerbread houses on stilts. Consultations with other DB members occured (these people are fantastic by the way) and my excitement grew. I started drawing rough sketches (maybe or maybe not on my Chemistry paper) and thinking of support systems (maybe or maybe not during my Physics paper). I figured that could support the bottom with a gingerbread structure and make the stilts out of Rice Krispee treats. All systems were GO and i couldn't see any problems that could possibly arise. I was ready to start building as soon as my last paper ended.
And end it did. But plain and simple, I procrastinated.
Prom was the following week and my India trip 2 days after that. The house was to be given to a lovely friend of mine who was having a Christmas party that I wouldn't be able to attend due to the trip. After my last paper, I hate to say it, but I got LAZY. I was going out, reading books, hardly spending any time in the kitchen. Before I knew it, it was 3 days till the house had to be presented. Despite this, i still tried to forge on wih my original kampung house idea. How hard could it be?
Eventhough I simplified my design, I still had trouble. My pieces kept shrinking during baking. then again, everyone in the DB forums seemed to be complaining about how their pieces shrank. A LOT. I'm not quite sure what i did wrong, but I'm guessing i worked the dough too much (dough these days.... You can't work em' too much or they shrink on you and bake hard and funny. Next thing you know, they'll be wanting healthcare benefits and paid leave).
My walls also kept breaking. Well, ok not just the walls. The roofs broke too. Infact, they all broke soo many times that I had to keep remaking new walls. If I'm not wrong, I think only one wall from the original batch made it to the complte house. The rest of the pieces (Broken and crumbling) were fed to my very grateful dogs.Eventually, I had 4 passable walls and to somewhat solid roof pieces that could be used. By now, it was evidet that I wouldn't have time to carry out my Grand Kampung house, so i setteled on making a traditional 4 walled strucure instead. Darling brother went out and bought me M&Ms to use as decor. I made a batch of royal icing, and proceeded to build my house.
Boy was THAT a doozy.
The walls kept falling over, regardless of how much royal icing I piped to hold it together and how many glasses I used to support it while it dried. By the time it was ready for the roofs to go on, it was 11 p.m. the night before delivery (Coincidently also the night before prom). Oh, and for all you prospective Gingerbread architects out there, word from the wise.
DON'T throw away your templates.
You might need to make more walls, and if your new walls don't match up, it's gonna be hard putting your roof on. Whenever I tried, the roof would push the walls apart and the whole structure would collapse in on itself. A couple of stressful hours later though, my house looked....passable.
Ok, so it's not my best effort, far from it even. I feel a little guilty actually, seeing as this is my first challenge and all. But I did the best I could given my time constraints. At any rate, Su (my friend) seemed to like it, and at the end of the day, it was gonna be eaten right? ;-D
I used Y's Scandinavean gingerbread recipe:Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas http://astore.amazon.com/thedarkit-20/detail/0816634963
1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]
1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.
2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.
3. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.
4. [I rolled out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1/8 inch thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.]
5. Preheat the oven to 375'F (190'C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.
I decreased the cloves to 2 teaspoons and the flour to 625g, as suggested by some fellow DBs. I rolled the leftover dough out nice and thin and baked it. That tasted really good, kinda like the spice biscuits we used to get from IKEA.
And thus ended my first challenge.This is something I'm gonna be making into a annual tradition for sure. I wonder what my next challenge is going to be?
Oh, and by the way:
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!