The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Structural Gingerbread for Gingerbread House

alabubba's picture
alabubba

Structural Gingerbread for Gingerbread House

I am looking for a structual gingerbread recipe that tastes good. It will only set for a day or too. Plan on having the grandbabies decorate it on christmas eve, then eat it on christmas day. I have a good recipe for structual gingerbread but its not anything you would want to eat. 

Anyone have a delicouse and sturdy gingerbread recipe they would like to share.

Thanks. 

Allan

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hi Allan,
I really like the taste of these gingerbread cookies.
With a good bake this recipe might bake into something sturdy enough?
http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/20950/gingerbread-sweet-rolls-and-cookies-too
(cookie recipe further down in the post)
Sounds like a fun thing to do with the grandkids!
:^) from breadsong

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I'll make taste improvements.  Deal?  :)

alabubba's picture
alabubba

Mini, I have used this recipe in the past. Holds up well, but contains no spice and is a real tooth breaker. Its the cookie equivalent of concrete!

http://easteuropeanfood.about.com/od/crossculturaldesserts/r/gingerbread.htm

Note no spices, no leveners. this is what makes it so good as a building material.

allan

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Gosh, without the spices it won't even smell good!  I have a better one that will build sturdy houses and scent the room.  It also tastes good.  If you want to add candied citron or orange  chop it up real fine with some of the flour or sugar in a small coffee mill or grinder so that the lumps are minimal.

The Austrians showed me lebkuchen (makes extreme stiff dough) made with rye flour and it is a great improvement, the dough is allowed to sit in the pantry or fridge (to ferment & soften) for weeks before rolling out.  I still make gingerbread houses, use house and building blueprints, made a double decker bus once for a shop window and copied cottages as gifts. I prefer to cut the shapes from the baked dough using a large cutting board, metal rule and a small sharp knife.  I get clean edges that way.  I will often make the original pattern from corrugated cardboard.  If I crank out about 20 houses at once, my cutting patterns can be quite elaborate.  I have also made some with tea candles inside.  The heat warms the gingerbread a little and releases more aroma into the room.    

The classic for little kids is an A-frame (two roof pieces, two end triangles, chimney pieces, base) as kids get older, encourage them to each make their own, one does have to give limitations as to size if you have limited amounts of dough.  The easiest way I found was to give each little architect one piece of cardboard the size of the cookie sheet.  Let them cut, measure & tape together the basic house.  Then start rolling and baking using the pieces on the hot dough.  In all the commotion, don't forget a base, something to mount the house on.  I often just roll out one thicker piece of dough without a shape, sort of oval or round and bake that by itself.  I will roll out the dough to about 6.5 mm or 1/4 inch.  If you want a shiny brown surface, brush thin egg yolk/water before baking and for an added effect,  sprinkle with castor sugar.

The other alternative is to cut the pieces first from dough and let them swell up in the oven.  Then piece the cookies together once they've cooled and become hard.  Make a pause between putting the house together and decorating it (so the frosting can set the joints) or it just might collapse under the weight. (another plus for the "A" shape)  With older kids, straight pins with large pearl heads work good as temporary nails to hold walls and roofs in place until the frosting sets or dries.  Leave the top half of the pin out & showing so it can be easily removed before decorating.  (Count the ins before and after using.)

Gingerbread House Dough

  • 2 3/4 cup sifted AP wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup molasses or honey
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 large egg
  • egg yolk from sack/1 tbs water for glaze

Mix thoroughly, wrap tightly and chill overnight or longer.  Roll out on oiled foil (or place on baking parchment) place on cookie sheet and bake at 300°C / 150°C for 20 to 30 minutes.  Place pattern on hot bread and cut immediately.  Lift carefully to rack and cool.   (Gingerbread should be very hard when cool.  If necessary, the pieces can be laid on cookie sheet and placed in the oven for 5 - 10 minutes longer.)  The roof will break off if dough is not thoroughly baked.

Royal Icing

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 lb confection sugar (I've used powdered)
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tarter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional, also can use lemon juice or more egg white to thin frosting)

Beat thoroughly in small mixing bowl until the icing peaks.  Put immediately into pastry bag.  Icing should be covered at all times with a damp cloth.  Frost the house.  This icing dries quickly and becomes very hard.   Even if you change dough recipes, this icing recipe is worth keeping.  I often mix up a stiff frosting and a runny one for ice-sickles and snow.

If egg whites are not desired, carefully use water a teaspoon at a time.  It will take longer to dry/set and not be as strong.  :)

Have Fun!  I always do!

Mini Oven

 

millionmice's picture
millionmice

Recipe worked very well!  Strong and delicious!  This is the only style of gingerbread I'll bake from here on.

Although, I'm glad I did a test run, worked out some kinks in the recipe.  Would suggest 200g icing sugar per egg white, the 150g in the recipe (1lb/3 in kg) set too slowly.

Also I added just over double the spice ratios suggested.  Per cup of flour I'd suggest 1tsp ginger, 3/4tsp cinnamon/allspice, 1/8 tsp tsp cloves.

If I make this again I'll refine it further and repost everything as weight ratios for a given house surface area.

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

Hi there, I can share one of a multitude of recipes for the Russian cousin of gingerbread called pryanik (could be translated as "spicy bite"). It smells divine, tastes marvellous, and although I never tried making gingerbread houses out of it, I'm sure it's tough enough for the job. Now I have to admit I'm no expert in gingerbread houses and I don't know what sort of thickness the finished gingerbread sheets should be, but at around 7 mm - 1 cm thick, this one will certainly stay put.

here goes:

  • 100-200 g sugar (see comment below)
  • 2 eggs
  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • 6-7 tablespoons honey (approx. 100-130 g)
  • 1.5 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 240-275 g flour (all purpose/plain or whichever type you use for cakes and biscuits)

RE amount of sugar: if using lots of glazing and other super-sweet decorations, I'd go for a lesser amount which makes a pryanik that's not too sweet. If not planing on having it covered in sweets, use more sugar. You don't need any brown sugar because the dough will look almost chocolate due to the way it's made, and the finished pryanik will be darker still.

Method (it doesn't take as long as it reads, honest! About 15 min preparation + 1 hr 30 min resting time)

In a non-stick pan, heat the honey and butter over a low-medium heat until all butter has melted and the mixture is at least 60 C. You want to coat the bottom of the pan with butter first before adding the honey and stir often to prevent the honey from burning. OK you could use a double boiler (if you must!), but that just takes aaaaaages.

While the mixture is heating, beat the eggs with sugar  till pale and smooth. In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients (start with the lesser amount of flour at this stage).

When the honey mixture is just beginning to bubble, slowly pour the egg mixture into it, stirring vigorously. Cook for a couple of minutes. You can try it with a tip of your finger (it'll only be warm initially), when it's just about hot to touch it's done. Or if using a thermometer, it should reach about 60 C or just over. At this stage, add the dry ingredients in 4-5 increments, making sure everything is well combined before adding the next bit).

Allow to cool and refrigerate for an hour.

Take out, dust the work surface with a little flour and roll out to about 3-5 mm thick. If the dough is sticky, knead a little more flour into it but don't exceed the 275 g total, or the dough will shrink too much during rolling and the finished pryanik will be too hard.  Roll out to approx 4-5 mm thick. The dough will puff up to about 1.5 - 2 times its original thickness, so make sure it's not too thick unless you want concrete slabs for walls ;-) That said, pryaniki are softer than gingerbread (but will hold their shape well because of the way the dough is "cooked" prior to baking), so even if the sheets end up too thick they'll still be chewy and tasty.

Bake at 170-180 C for 10-12 minutes (but check regularly because the thinner the pieces, the quicker they'll bake).

Replace honey for black treacle or molasses if you're after a more traditional gingerbread-y taste. You can also play .about with the quantities of spices or add other spices, but DO NOT MESS WITH THE AMOUNT OF CINNAMON as that will affect the taste.

So far as I remember, this amount of dough makes a sheet of approx 30x30 cm or a bit smaller so adjust quantities to suit your layout. Trimmings can be pressed together and rolled out again as many times as you want. I never have any leftover dough.

Pryanik keeps for at least a week (actually lots longer, but mine never makes it!). You could scale the recipe down to half and try it out before Xmas. It's also fabulous layered with jam or marmalade. Roll out as above, spread a thick-ish layer of jam over half  (leave a 1 cm margin on the edges), cover with the other half and press around the edge to seal.

As an idea, why not make a jam-layered floor for your house and plain walls.

 

 

EvaB's picture
EvaB

cookies, its for rolling the dough into the pan and baking, it has a sugar cookie recipe, but I'm going to try the gingerbread in the last post (Russian) and ice them. Its a rectangular opening with a word in the bottom and snowflakes around the word, there are 6 different words, Joy, Cheer, Peace, Merry, Noel, and Wish, I think they would be deluxe with pretty icing and sprinkles here and there and that lovely gingerbread taste. Hmm......... a nice light lemon fondant like petit fours!

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

wow Eva, some Russian pryaniki are made that way - rolled over a big wooden stamp with letters/patterns/pictures carved in it. The dough is first rolled over the mould then taken off it and baked tho, not baked in the mould.

mould

pryniki - some examples

 I haven't got a proper mould (they aren't actually available commercially I don't think) so I tried using stamp cutters with my pryanik recipe but unfortubnately it didn't work, the dough just rises too much. I tried cutting the baking powder in half, then it comes out too hard because with less rise, in takes longer to bake.

It may just work in your cake tin though because you'll be baking in the tin, I'm not sure, depends how big the words and patterns are. The grooves on my cutters were only about 2-3 mm thick and as deep so disappeared during baking, but I'm assuming the grooves on your tin are bigger than that. Don't make your pryanik too thick though, I'd say aim for an inch thick as a maximum.

alabubba's picture
alabubba

Mini, FoodFaciest. Thanks for the recipes. I will bake up a batch of both this weekend along with a recipe i found on KA website and see how they work.

Mini, is your lebkuchen recipe on the board? I am a sucker for anything rye.

Thanks

allan

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Mix to your preferences ap wheat/rye.  If you look for rye recipes, you will find many.   I've mixed some very stiff doughs (not crumbly) having to really work my muscles to get the dough together.  If you find you need moisture (after working for say 30 minutes) add more honey one spoon at a time or some egg yolk.  Do not add milk or water!  The warmth from your hands will help and patience.  Think how slowly honey runs off a spoon, it needs time.  When the dough is a uniform dark color, wrap the dough tightly and let it age chilling for at least a few days.   

Mini

I've mixed up my Linzer Cookies using the recipe from Inside the Jewish Bakery.  Got my cookie cutters out.  Have a small collection.  I think the kiddies will be more interested in stamping out cookies when they spy my trove.  Even grown ups walk by and lovingly pick up different cutters.   Wish I could read minds sometimes...

 

AnnaInMD's picture
AnnaInMD

cookie-making video and the baker used the "angel-wing" cutter  and hung her creations on the top of a coffee/chocolate mug for guests. Was really neat !    

FoodFascist's picture
FoodFascist

sorry Allan, forgot to say - my recipe will probably only work for a small-ish house because the resulting biscuit is quite soft.

Pryaniki used to make up a whole genre in Russian baking - there were figurines, flat molded pryaniki, ones with a pattern "chiselled" out with a knife, plain buns, among the best known ones. Recipes differed greatly from type to type and from one locality to another. However, a great many recipes were lot during the Revolution when bakery owners fled abroad or were killed, and others have been lost since old babushkas who still remembered traditional recipes passed away before ethnographers got to their little remote villages. I'd say only a handful of recipes remain, some "re-created" to suit modern taste and technology. Most home-bakers these days just ice them (love these ones!) However, the one thing Russian pryaniki bakers never did is make houses out of them. So for anything large-scale you might be better off following one of Mini's recipes, she seems to have a vast experience in construction :-)

alabubba's picture
alabubba

Mini, I baked a batch of your gingerbread up, Had to work in about 3/4th cup more flour into it to get decent consistency but the finished product is very good. Light but strong, not the best tasting gingerbread cookie recipe but it does taste good. I will post some pics of the fun when we build/destroy the house.

Allan

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

My mother had it before me.  I tend to add more ginger and use just a pinch of cloves and mostly rye flour.  Eggs tend to vary and so do oils.  Just make sure you have a stiff cookie dough and not a batter.   Also I have often decorated the sides before assembly adding window boxes and door frames, balconies and wall decorations.  Some fun suggestions might include using cookie cutters to stamp out doors or windows while the dough is still hot, the cookie then split to use later as shutters or a door.  Scrap edges can be cut into strips for fencing or trees.  Ragged scraps just tend to vanish during construction so I suggest feeding decorators & construction workers before working on the house.    

Depending on their ages and/or abilities you might need a frosting bag for each child as they work on parts separately.   Then you or an older child can frost them together when they have dried a bit.  Then the next round continues with the roof and base decorating.   Five year old's know basic house building when it's explained to them first and manage pretty well.  Many of them have already drawn a house on paper or made one with blocks or made a fort out of cardboard boxes.  Explain you need a pattern first and make one first from cardboard before rolling out the dough.  Older children can then be challenged to do more elaborate designs.  Great reference points can be made looking out the window.  

Plan on using for a centerpiece.   

I do believe it is good to dock the dough before baking, attacking with a fork or toothpick to prevent any large pockets of gas from bulging up during the bake.  

alabubba's picture
alabubba

I baked a simple house using Mini's recipe.
It was a wonderful evening and everyone had a fantastic time. The babies are just 2 and 3 and ate as much
as they put on the house. We made no rules, just showed them how to use the "glue" and let them go at it.
My daughters and son-in-law played with white chocolate and added their bits as well. Nana took the photos.
Later we drove around looking at Christmas lights until the babies fell asleep.
I hope all my friends here have a wonderful holiday filled with love, peace, and joy.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven
ahuitt's picture
ahuitt

I've always let my children run wild when decorating their gingerbread houses, but this year, I made one just for me - to decorate all by myself. I had so much fun! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

ahuitt's picture
ahuitt

Oops - here's the photo...

Gingerbread House