A Christmas Project: Mini Gingerbread Houses

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Gingerbread Header

These aren’t just any old gingerbread houses, they are mini gingerbread houses. Those close to me know I have a special love for all things mini (ok, not all), and if it’s a mini version of something that ordinarily comes in a larger size, well, even better. Mini graters, mini converse all stars, you get the gist. So, when I saw this recipe in the December issue of Good Food, it was a done deal. I also decided to add the snowman decorations from this cake and create a little winter wonderland.

Gingerbread Houses & SnowmenI was aware that this was going to be a fairly time consuming project but I figured if I got it right the results would be worth it. And they were. But I have to warn you guys, if you’re looking for an afternoon of leisurely baking, this isn’t the recipe for you! All in all it took me about 2 days including a good few hours of intense decorating. As I say, in the end, I was really pleased with the outcome and everyone who saw it loved it, which made it all worthwhile, but I didn’t feel like I could proceed without this disclaimer. Best to avoid the “thanks for stealing my weekend” comments and emails.

Gingerbread Close UpI have since found these (not mini) gingerbread house cookie cutters, and these, which would speed up the process a bit but sticking the pieces together and decorating is still quite time consuming. Alternatively, if you want just a little piece of the action you could use the gingerbread dough to make a batch of gingerbread men or cookies – I did this with the leftover trimmings and they were a big hit.

Gingerbread CollageIf you’re still reading I guess you’ve risen to the challenge. Good news. To make the winter wonderland pictured here, I halved the original recipe to make 2 houses and the only issue I had was that the walls on the cosy cottage (the one pictured below) were longer than the roof so I had to stick them on the outside of the front and back pieces rather than in between them as I did with the other house. It ended up leaving a good surface to stick the M&M’s on at the front and back of the cottage but you could try making the walls shorter if you wanted. According to the original recipe you can freeze the dough or the baked biscuits before assembling them.

Cosy CottageIf you do make them, please send me a photo!

Oh, and while we’re on the topic I couldn’t not mention these amazing mini mini creations I found over at Not Martha. A project for next Christmas, perhaps?

Gingerbread Close UpMini Gingerbread Houses (Makes 2)
(Adapted from Good Food December 2011)

 

INGREDIENTS

500g plain flour, plus a little extra
150g cold butter, diced
1 tbsp mixed spice
1/2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
225g light soft brown sugar
2 eggs
115g golden syrup
150g royal icing sugar¹
100g icing sugar
a few balls of regal icing, wrapped in cling film²
25g desiccated coconut
Selection of sweets to decorate (I used mini  M&M’s®, jelly sweets and some christmassy cupcake decorations) 
 
Snowmen (Makes 2)
(Adapted from Good Food December 2011)

 

INGREDIENTS

Ready rolled regal icing²
10 whole cloves, and a few spares
4 toothpicks, and a few spares
Black edible writing icing (or a thin permanent marker but in this case make sure no one eats the snowmen!)
2 food colours (for the hats)
Strawberry laces, sour punks or something similar (to make the scarf)

 

OTHER ITEMS

 A cake board (I used this 14” square cake drum)
Baking parchment
Thin card
Christmas cake decorations such as plastic trees or reindeer
 

 ¹ You may need more royal icing than the recipe calls for (I did) but if you buy a 500g packet of royal icing sugar you will have more than enough and some left over.

² I used one 450g packet of ready rolled regal icing to make the snowmen, the snow decoration on the top of the Swedish-style house and the icing balls which are used to support the houses while they are drying.  Ready-to-roll regal icing will work fine if that’s all you can find but you’ll need to roll it out yourself.

METHOD

Print out two templates (or one if you want to make two of the same house) – you can choose from Swedish-style, Cosy Cottage or Gretle’s Grotto. Use baking parchment to trace out the templates then stick on to card and cut out. The baking parchment is important as it stops the template sticking to the dough.

Mix about half of the flour with the butter in a food processor until there are no lumps (see the original recipe if you don’t have a food processor). In a separate bowl, mix the remaining flour, mixed spice, bicarb and salt. Combine the contents of both in another large bowl and add the brown sugar.

Whisk the eggs and golden syrup in a small bowl and stir into the flour mixture using a wooden spoon. Knead into a smooth dough using your hands.

Pre heat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Split the dough in half and on a sheet of baking parchment roll out one half until it is 1/4 inch thick.  Place the templates on the dough (baking parchment side down) and use a sharp knife to cut out 2 x front/back, 2 x side and 2 x roof pieces. You’ll need to re roll the trimmings a couple of times to cut them all out. Set aside any left over trimmings.

Gingerbread on baking trayTransfer the 6 pieces, on the baking parchment, on to a baking sheet or tray and place on a high shelf in the oven for 8-10 mins. Repeat the steps above cutting out the templates for the second house while the first house is cooking.

Once the pieces for the first house are nicely browned, remove from the oven and put in the templates for the second house for 8-10 mins. While still warm, place the templates over the gingerbread pieces again and trim them down to size.³ Use a knife or small cookie cutters to cut out the door and windows and keep the pieces you cut out to stick on somewhere else later. Repeat for the second house and leave all the biscuits to cool.

I used the left over dough trimmings to make a chimney for the cosy cottage and some gingerbread cookies. If I had known about these 3D Christmas trees, another Not Martha creation, I may not have been able to resist making one or two mini ones for my wonderland!

Next, sieve the royal icing sugar into a bowl and using a spoon mix in a few drops of water until you have a stiff mixture. Scoop the mixture into a food bag with a tiny bit of the corner snipped off (or an icing bag) and use this to pipe designs on the gingerbread such as dotted borders, tiles on the roof etc. If you’re a fuss pot like me, this part can be very time consuming so you may wish to keep the icing decorations to a minimum and use more sweets to fill in any gaps later on.

Once the icing decorations have dried, pipe icing along the edges of the side pieces and stick them to the front and back pieces. Pipe extra icing around the joints on the inside of the houses, hold them together with your hands for a few minutes, then use the balls of regal icing wrapped in cling film to support them while they dry.³ Cover any remaining royal icing and set aside.

After a few hours the icing should have set and you can then stick on the roofs. Again, you may need to hold these in place for a few minutes. Leave for several hours or overnight to dry fully.

Icicles on the Cosy Cottage

Icicles on the Cosy Cottage

The royal icing you made earlier should have kept but if not, make up a new batch. Again, scoop the mixture into a food bag with a tiny bit of the corner snipped off (or an icing bag) and pipe little blobs of icing on the back of the sweets and stick them to your houses. I also piped on extra icing decorations at this stage, such as icicles hanging off the roof of the cosy cottage.

 

Swedish-style gingerbread house

Swedish-style gingerbread house

 

If you’d like snow on the roof (as pictured on top of the Swedish style house), use a knife to cut two pieces of regal icing the same length as the roof (front to back) and about 2-3cm wide and cut out a wavy edge on one of the horizontal sides. Mix the 100g of (normal) icing sugar with a few drops of water to make runny icing and spread a thin layer on top of the pieces of regal icing with a brush or spoon. Sprinkle with desiccated coconut and use your fingers to press on the coconut and help it stick. Then apply a thin layer of the runny icing to the back of the pieces of regal icing and stick them to house, lining up the straight horizontal edge with the top of the roof piece on each side. Pipe royal icing along the top of the house, where the two roof pieces meet, to fill in the gap. Leave to dry.

Snowmen

 

While the houses are drying you can start work on your snowmen. Cut enough regal icing to make 2 large balls, 2 medium balls and 2 small balls. I made one snowman slightly smaller than the other so the balls were all different sizes. Roll the balls and push them together to make the two snowmen using a bit of the runny icing to help the balls stick together if necessary.

Cut the toothpicks to the right size and stick into the body of the snowmen to make their arms. Push 3 or 4 cloves into each snowmen for their buttons (I pinched the middle out of the cloves on the bigger snowman before sticking them in so the four points on the bases of the buds were more prominent, just a small detail!) Using the black writing icing or marker, dot on the eyes and mouths and place a clove stem (bud completely removed) on each snowman for their nose.

If using strawberry laces, plait three laces together to make the scarf for one of the snowmen or if using sour punks (as I did because I couldn’t find laces in Bahrain!) just cut a thin piece long enough to go around the snowman’s neck and tie at the front.

To make the hats, use a tiny amount of food colouring to colour a couple of small pieces of regal icing then mould with your hands into whatever kind of hat you like adding details with a toothpick if you wish. Push your thumb into the bottom of the hats to create a little curve then use some of the runny icing to stick them to the snowmen’s heads.

Finally, you can make a base for the snowmen to sit on by cutting out a wobbly circle of regal icing, brushing with runny icing and sprinkling with desiccated coconut as was done for the snow on the roof of the gingerbread house.

Now to put it all together. Almost there!

Winter WonderlandUsing the back of a spoon, roughly cover the cake drum with the left over royal icing (or make more if needed) moving the spoon in a circular motion to create a snow-like effect. Carefully position the gingerbread houses on the board and jiggle them very gently to help them stick to the board.  Next, brush some runny icing on the back of the base for the snowmen and stick it in the desired spot. You can then use a little more runny icing to stick the snowmen to their base.

Finally, if you have any plastic trees or other decorations stick them to the board. If they won’t stay, you can create little bases for them too out of regal icing.

And you’re done! The gingerbread will keep for a 2-3 weeks so if you want to make the houses ahead of time, keep them on display and then eat them over Christmas that should be fine.

Now you can sit back, relax and admire your creation – although I suggest you keep a wooden spoon nearby to ward off passing grazers!

³ There are pictures on the Good Food website illustrating these steps. Click on ‘see this recipe step-by-step.’

 

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