Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gingerbread

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.

They offered two distinct types of gingerbread recipes and I tried both of them. I made a full batch of the Scandinavian version known as Pepparkakstuga (right) and half a batch of the Spicy Gingerbread from Good Housekeeping (left).

I also made a template and made two identical houses out of each type of dough.
Here is the Pepparkakstuga after baking.

And here is the Spicy Gingerbread after baking.



This is the Pepparkakstuga house all decorated.

And this is the Spicy Gingerbread House with all of it's sweet decor.

You can tell that the Spicy Gingerbread is much thinner and much crispier than the Pepparkakstuga. I also found the flavor of the Spicy Gingerbread to be a little better. It has ginger and molasses for flavoring which make the flavor really strong. The Pepparkakstuga tastes more like a spice cake turned cookie and a little too dry. For me an ideal gingerbread for eating would be a molasses flavor in a slightly chewy cookie....which is neither of these.
The Spicy Gingerbread was also easier to build with because it was so flat and light weight. Overall I think the Spicy Gingerbread wins my vote. But here are both recipes so you can decide for yourself.
Pepparkakstuga
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 (I had to add extra to make it moist enough.)
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.
Royal Icing:
1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract
Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren't using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. It will dry very hard once piped on to the house.
Spicy Gingerbread
2 1/2 cups (500g) packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (360mL) heavy cream or whipping cream
1 1/4 cups (425g) molasses
9 1/2 cups (1663g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger

1. In very large bowl, with wire whisk (or with an electric mixer), beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.
2. Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.
3. Grease and flour large cookie sheets (17-inch by 14-inch/43x36cm)
4. Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16-inch thickness. (Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help roll dough to uniform thickness.)
5. Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.
6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (149C)
7. Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimmings as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately.
8. Chill for 10 minutes before baking if the dough seems really soft after you cut it. This will discourage too much spreading/warping of the shapes you cut.
9. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size.
10. Remove cookie sheet from oven. While house pieces are still warm, place poster-board patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary. Cool pieces completely before attempting to assemble the house.

4 comments:

Lauren said...

Great job on this challenge! Both of your houses are amazing - how fun to try both recipes =D.

Pontch said...

Cute Houses
Happy Holiday :)

silverrock said...

Hehehe... looks like someone went to town on the icing :) Mmm... I love my gingerbread with extra, extra icing and a cup of icing on the side :P Way to go on this month's challenge. Your gingerbread houses look fantastically delicious

Anna said...

Way to go trying both doughs! The houses look scrumptious :)