Yeah. Gingerbread houses. Such a fantastic WIN by Anna and Y - I've never made one, but they always looked like so much fun! Doing that Daring Baker thang is so worth it some months. I do have to admit, there was dissension in the ranks on this one though. Not from my mom, who had been notified that we were tasked with gingerbread house construction the day after I would arrive home, but from my dad. My mom was quite excited about the mixing and the chilling and the rolling and the baking, but my dad stood unimpressed through the whole ordeal.
You see, I get my baking from my mom, but I get my love of eating from my dad. Seriously, this man has two breakfasts every day! He is why I begin talking about lunch while eating breakfast, dinner while eating lunch, dessert while eating dinner, and breakfast the next day while eating dessert. This used to weird out the fiance, but he's luckily joined in the food-loving and meal-planning, so I've decided that I will actually marry him. As you might realize, he's rather relieved about this.
But getting back to the gingerbread house constructing, since that's sort of the point (right? that is the point, isn't it? because if all you really want from me is rambling, I am so there. I've got that part down.). While Mom and I are rolling and baking, Dad is hovering. "So when do we eat them?" "Well, you don't really want to eat them - they're a bit tough for that." "Well then what's the point?" I attempted to explain that decorating gingerbread houses is fun! and creative! and family friendly! but he just wasn't buying it.
So I hate to break it to all of you, but I gave up. I constructed and decorated my mini houses (based off of Not Martha's stencils), which by the way? WAY harder than you might think! You have to set one "door" piece on its face, and pipe lines of royal icing on the edges. Then you pick two "wall" pieces and set them on the royal icing, balancing them so they stand straight up, perpendicular to the table. Then pipe lines of royal icing on the back of the other "door" piece and set it on top of the walls. Slooooowwwwllly slide it out of the way while you assemble a few more houses, then test to see if the royal icing is dried and the four pieces are cemented together. If they are, set it upright and glue on one "roof" piece followed by the other. Weep because while you were careful in your cutting, your mother was not and every piece she cut ended up lopsided because she squished them in transferring them from cutting board to cookie sheet.
So yeah, sounds like fun, right? I must be crazy, because it seriously was. A baker's dozen of mini gingerbread houses later, I proudly looked at my mini village. Until, that is, my dad walked through and said, "I still don't get it." Sigh. Needless to say, I just cut my losses, decorated them, and took them home to Wisconsin with me. I think my desk at work needs a bit of belated Christmas cheer anyway!
Oh, oh! And the technical details - I used the gingerbread recipe recommended by Y, from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book. It was a bit spicy to actually eat, but smelled amazing while baking and assembling. The dough was a wee bit dry, so I probably dribbled in an addition tablespoon or two of water. It rolled out incredibly easily, and there was minimal shrinkage in the oven. All odd angles and mis-aligned pieces are due to my mom and my ineptitude when it comes to precision baking.
And now for something completely different! Christmas dinner was 100% chosen by me, and a 50/50 job with my Dad. Is there anything better than cooking and baking with parents? Because the Christmas cookies? Made 'em with Mom. So here was the menu:
Prime Rib with an Herb Crust (Serious Eats seriously pulled this one out for me - perfect medium rare, and a mere 1/4" of seared meat around the outside)
Roasted Beets with Orange, Thyme, and Rosemary (because I like having vividly pink fingertips, I swear)
Hashed Brussels Sprouts (for serious, it was the most. popular. dish this Christmas - whoda thunk? oohhh, and we added capers - definitely a good move)
Mashed Potatoes (because Christmas isn't Christmas without mashed potatoes)
Poached Pear and Almond Souffle Cakes (oh so wonderfully light after all of the dinner-type foods)
As for cookies? We had cinnamon almond cookies, chocolate ginger biscotti, and jam thumbprints around the house this week. I restrained myself from making macarons, sables, or anything else. Let me tell you, that was DIFFICULT. Only things that made it easier? Attempting to explain to my father why meringue powder was so necessary I had to cart it from Wisconsin to Indiana, while he tried to explain why he doesn't own a scale. Bad father. Bad, bad father.
In sum, a wonderful Christmas. I think I'll just ignore the high winds and freezing rain and the fact that the fiance was in Jamaica with his family (hee - it rained there half the time too...) and focus on what really mattered - family, friends, and food. So Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and lots of love to all!
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.