gingerbread to build with

As promised, let’s talk about the gingerbread part of that cake

I’d never constructed anything with homemade gingerbread, and I did zero recipe testing ahead of time, so I was feeling pretty nervous at the start. However, the process soon started to feel like old hat — mostly because I got lots of practice because I kept messing up (dang math!), but also because the recipe was so darn fantastic.

Here, let me count the ways:

  • It’s a snap to make.
  • It’s easy to roll and cut.
  • It holds its shape while baking.
  • It’s tasty. 
  • It’s sturdy.
  • It has a great shelf-life.
  • It’s fun to use!

The dough is super simple — no eggs or leavening agents — and once mixed, it gets stored at room temperature. In other words, there’s no finicky chilling/warming to mess with the dough’s usability. Once made, it’s ready to go.

Thanks to all the spices, the gingerbread is pretty yummy, and while it’s baking it makes the house smell like Christmas, but the texture is wonky — a weird tacky snappy that’s probably a result of all the corn syrup. But that didn’t stop me from dipping countless bits of the crispy gingerbread into the bowl of cream cheese frosting!

To shape, roll the dough out on floured parchment, cut the shapes you want (templates makes this step a breeze), making sure to leave a little dough around the outside edges to prevent the cut pieces from spreading. And then — this is the important part — immediately after pulling the gingerbread from the oven, re-cut along the scored lines with a knife or pizza cutter.

If you don’t, the dough will quickly harden into a rock, making any tidy last-minute trimmings an absolute impossibility. 

Trust me. This I know.

Once baked, cut, and cooled, the pieces can sit out at room temperature, uncovered, for days. I noticed a slight softening after a few days, but it was still firm enough to be absolutely trustworthy. 

Now that I’ve jumped into the world of gingerbread construction, I keep thinking of other things I might build: mainly, pimped-out gingerbread models of actual structures I know and love. Now that might be a baking project my husband and I could do together. 

No, I take that back. We don’t work well together so we’d each have to build our own structure. Ooo, how about a merry marital Christmas Construction Competition?

hot caramel is sticky and messy. . . and scary

Though considering he’s an actual builder, he’d have an unfair advantage. 

random ginger-beam supports because fondant is heavy

Gingerbread To Build With
Adapted from Serious Eats.

A single batch makes a very small amount of dough — enough to fill one cookie sheet. I recommend making at least a double batch, and maybe a quadruple or more, depending on the size of your structure. 

A half teaspoon of black pepper would be a nice addition.

175 grams all-purpose flour
56 grams brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 ¼ teaspoons ginger
1 ¼ teaspoons ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon salt
45 grams butter, room temperature
115 grams corn syrup
7 grams vanilla

Mix all the ingredients together. Cover with plastic and store at room temperature

Lightly flour a piece of parchment paper that fits the cookie sheet you’ll be using. Put the parchment on the table and the dough on the paper. Flour the top of the dough. Roll it to a ¼ inch thickness (or thinner), adding more flour as needed. 

Place the templates on the dough. Using a paring knife or pizza cutter, cut around them. Peel away the extra dough, leaving a small amount around the cut shapes so they don’t spread while baking. Scraps of dough can be re-rolled or mixed with a little water to make it pipe-able and then piped onto parchment in a variety of finicky shapes, like for porch railings and fancy curlicues and window frames, etc, and then baked. 

Transfer the parchment paper to the cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your dough, until the gingerbread is golden brown and firm to the touch.

As soon as the gingerbread is done baking, cut along all the pre-cut lines (they will be faint, since the gingerbread puffed a little while baking). Cool completely. Remove the pieces from the pan and store on a tray, loosely covered with a towel, at room temperature.

Adhere shapes together with sugar caramel: melt sugar over medium head until runny, and then dip the ends/edges of gingerbread into the caramel and then to each other. OR, use royal icing (or so they say — I haven’t tried it). To adhere fondant to gingerbread, use piping gel. To adhere gingerbread to foil base, use sugar caramel, and lots of it.

This same time, years previous: after two years, show and tell, the quotidian (10.12.20), the relief sale doughnuts of 2019, English muffins, the relief sale doughnuts of 2017, home, roasted red pepper soup, old-fashioned brown sugar cookies.

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