The weather these last few days has been truly frightful. As I had some time on my hands - and absolutely no inclination to venture out anywhere - it gave me the chance to do some baking. With Christmas fast approaching (is it really a month to Christmas Eve?) I also wanted to have another go at making gingerbread. And this time with the objective of trying my hand at a Gingerbread Cottage for the first time.
A couple of months ago, I bought a Gingerbread House Cookie Cutter set from Wilkinsons, as I thought it might make it a little easier to manage. The set includes cutters for the walls, ends and roof sides, with some additional ones for angels, stars, trees, gingerbread men etc. I suspect it's like many that you can get on the high street. The cutters are a little flimsy - particularly the larger ones - but while this is definitely not an heirloom set, they did the job for me.
The gingerbread recipe I used is in the current edition of the BBC Good Food Magazine, but you can also find it on line here. Be warned, it makes a lot of gingerbread! Not a problem for me, as I love it and am gradually working my way round the family to convert them to its gingery delights (Ben being the only one to have fallen for its charms at the moment). But even so, I had enough to make the gingerbread house, and army of little gingerbread men, some other Christmassy shapes, along with a few more gingerbread spoons using silicone spoon moulds. I still managed to have about a quarter of the mix left over.
The recipe gives a much more manageable dough than I found with the one in the new Great British Bake Off book, Showstoppers (see my post here), which tasted great but was a nightmare to handle. The GBBO one is made using a method which melts the sugar and syrup together, then the dry ingredients are stirred in. The BBC one I used for the cottage involves cutting cold butter into the flour in a processor, then adding the other dry ingredients, and finally the eggs and syrup to mix. I found this easier and the resulting dough was definitely easier to handle.
For the cottage walls, the dough is rolled out quite thickly (the recipe suggests the height of two stacked one pound coins), but I think mine was a little thick. It was still a little soft after cooling, so I put it back in the oven for five more minutes. That seemed to do the trick. It is also amazing how much the dough spreads as it cooks, so it is important to trim it to size again after it has been out of the oven for a few minutes but is still warm and soft.
|Soup tins come in very handy!|
I've got to be honest though - I wasn't really going for neatness this time. Just hoping that the cottage sides and roof would stay up! The chimney was cut from cutters in the Wilkinson set - I don't think they are quite in proportion, or fit properly, so I ended up having to use big splodges of icing to fill in the gaps. At least with icing you can always pretend it's a blizzard!
For the little gingerbread men, I rolled the dough much thinner. As a result, not only did they cook really quickly (about 6 minutes) they have a lovely crisp texture. I had lots left over, and have other plans for them!
Anyway, I guess this marks the start of Christmas preparations in our house. I used a little set of led lights in the photos above and below, and now that they are out and lit up, I can't bear to put them away again. Next week will see us celebrate Mike's birthday, and then we'll really get down to preparing for Christmas.I love the build up, planning and anticipation.
I can't wait to see how Sam reacts to the decorations and tree. I suspect we will need the baby equivalent of an armed guard to keep him away from the baubles and lights!
As kindly suggested by Karen of Lavender and Lovage, I am entering this into this month's first birthday challenge for Teatime Treats. Karen runs the challenge jointly, with Kate of What Kate Baked. This month's theme is a celebratory one, and as the very first Teatime Treats was based on ginger, then this may well be very apt. The round up will be published at the end of the month on Karen's lovely blog, Lavender and Lovage.