Merry Christmas 2015

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Cooking friends, I’ve been absent a lot this year – I’ve been having computer problems and even though I have an iPad, I find it difficult writing blog posts on an iPad. But, Santa (MrSuziwong & Miss23) bought me a MacBook Air for Christmas so I have no more excuses!

Even though I haven’t blogged much this year, I have been cooking up a storm since we moved in July; I just didn’t document it here.  This Christmas has been especially busy in the SuziWong kitchen – mainly gingerbread.  I present to you, my first ever gingerbread house.

I’ve tried a lot of new things in the kitchen over the past 6 months and biscuit baking has been one of those things.  I generally have never baked sweet things much; i don’t know why since I have a massive sweet tooth.

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It’s no so much the baking that I have enjoyed as it has been the decorating; the creative side of baking.

I have discovered a plethora of cookie/biscuit bakers on the WWW and it’s been a lot of fun as well as a lot of learning.  One of the most impressive cookie artists that I discovered is Tunde Dugantsi from Tundes Creations.  

I have fallen head over heels in love with her very traditional European (Hungarian) gingerbread designs.  And it is with her inspiration in mind that I created my red and white gingerbread house.

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I would have loved to have done a pretty photo shoot for you all (all two of you haha) but I’m afraid I’ve been so busy cooking that everything else has taken a back seat.

A few months ago I purchased my first gingerbread house cookie cutters and baked the panels. To be honest, the first set of biscuit panels were awful so I threw them away. I tried another recipe and had much more success.  I didn’t have to recut my panels after baking because the dough didn’t spread; I believe this is because I chilled the dough before cooking.  The issue I did have was warping.

To be fair, this wasn’t so much a cooking issue as it was a post cooking issue.  It was hot (Southern Hemisphere here) and I had the evaporative cooling on and the gingerbread absorbed a lot of moisture. So i put it back in the over with just the light on to try and dry it out…it worked until I brought it back out of the oven.

Eventually I purchased a 9 rack dehydrator and my moisture issue got a lot better. The next step was to paint the panels red.  1 egg yolk, 1 tbsp of cream or milk (cream makes the mixture thicker) and a little gel colouring.  Don’t use liquid food colouring as it will make the mixture too runny to paint with and just make your gingerbread soggy.

Pop the gingerbread panels back in the oven with the light on and let it dry or pop it in the dehydrator. Tunde says to pop it in the over for 1 minute at 170C – I did this but I didn’t like the results so I won’t be doing it again. The paint didn’t dry in 1 minute in the oven – the gingerbread just got a bit soft again. You could put the oven on at its lowest setting for a minute or two but keep an eye on your gingerbread; you don’t want it going soft again.

Pipe your Royal Icing details once the red paint is dry.  Learning how to create the different Royal Icing consistencies is a journey it itself. Two cookie artists that do it well are Julie M Usher and Amber Spiegle from Sweet Ambs.  I have both of their Craftsy classes. I use Amber’s RI recipe but Julie Usher’s practice.

If you, like me are new to icing with a tip and bag, you might want to practice on baking paper first. My piping on the house is atrocious, but all my piping has been done in the wee hours as it’s the coolest time of day here at the moment, so obviously at that time of night I wasn’t at my best haha

Now there are a couple of ways to create your pattern on the panels: use a scribe to scratch the design so you can trace over with your icing; draw a design on with edible pens or go it free hand with a picture as a guide.  I used option three and you can tell ahahahah

Pop your iced panels in the oven with the light on or in a dehydrator to dry them out.

When it comes to constructing the panels you’ll need a thick glue-like consistency of Royal Icing and either a cake board, a gingerbread base or a covered cardboard piece etc.  Google ‘gingerbread house construction’ and look for tips on helping you do it. The best tip I came across was to have a piece of card stock the same size as your two roof panels. Fold the card stock in half and glue, with icing, one roof panel to the card on each side of the fold. When that is dry it will sit on your roofless house and you can glue it down with icing.  I’m going to try this method next time because i had my roof panels fall off a few times before i got it into the dehydrator.

I hope my first-time attempt at a gingerbread house inspires you to have a go.

In the meantime,

Have a very

Merry Christmas

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