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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.

Gingerbread houses are something I have made before and thoroughly enjoy so when the December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was announced I was thrilled. Instead of the usual snow covered gingerbread house I wanted to make something more in keeping with an Australian Christmas and six white boomers sprang (no pun intended!) to mind. Readers outside of Australia may not be familiar with the six white boomers which were made famous in the song of the same name. Six white boomers are white kangaroos which pull Santa’s sleigh across Australia.

While trying to work out a plan for a building- (budding architect that I am!!!) – I came across an article in our local paper regarding the auction of a local historic building. This building was a police station built in the late 1800’s and was the workplace of the father of former Prime Minister Sir Arthur Fadden. The auction has since been delayed and plans are in place to insure the historical value of this building. So I decided to pay tribute to our local history and create a gingerbread replica.

We were given two recipes to choose from and both were very different to what I would normally have used. But the point of the Daring Bakers’ challenges is to digress from your usual habits so I chose Y’s Recipe.

Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

1 cup butter, room temperature (250g)
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
5 cups all-purpose flour (750g)

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. Divide the dough in half and roll out between plastic wrap to about 5-8mm thick. Chill 2 hours or overnight.

2. Cut patterns for the house:cut two 14cm x 20cm rectangles for roof, two 12.5cm X 17cm rectandles for side walls of house; and two 17cm x 20 cm rectangles for front and back walls of house then measure 12.5cm along the 20cm side and draw two diagonal lines to the half way point along the 17cm side to form gables. Lastly cut two 17sm x 7cm for verandah roof and floor. I have cutters for the kangaroos and the gingerbread man. For the sleigh I freehand cut two sleigh shapes and two rectangles (front and back) to hold the pieces together.

3. Cut required shapes and transfer these to the paper lined baking sheet. I cut windows out freehand and placed crushed barley sugar in the window space to simulate glass. I cut the door freehand and baked the door as well (it’s then replaced when assembling). I also cut a little notch in the back wall to allow the insertion of a tealight candle or battery operation light.(This way the windows will glow – cute!) Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.

5. Preheat the oven to 375’F (190’C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes (I needed longer than this to account for the heat and humidity here at Christmas time) until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, if needed, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

Royal Icing:

2 egg whites
500g pure icing sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon almond essence

Break up egg whites in a mixer and gradually add icing sugar then flavour with almond essence. Transfer to airtight container. The royal icing can be kept in the fridge for several days but if you want to pipe fine work it is best used fresh before any sugar crytals start to form. Bright colours are best produced with powdered food colouring.

To assemble and decorate:

1.Cover a board or stiff cardboard with foil or strong paper. Decorate as much of the house as you can before assembly (so nothing slides off!!) and other pieces such as sleigh, santa and kangaroos. Apply royal icing to the bottom and sides of walls then, with a second set of hands, join all four side together and to the board. Reinforce with royal icing the inside joins and along the inside base then use cans to support the walls while they dry.
2.Glue the verandah floor to the board with royal icing and candy canes for verandah posts.Support the front verandah posts with cans tying with string until they dry. Also reinforce the verandah posts by piping icing from the floor up the post about
2 cm.

3. When dry, apply icing to edges to be joined to the roof. Put the roof in place and support with cans. Again use icing to reinforce where needed. It will dry like cement so it is your friend during gingerbread house making – use it well.

4. Glue with royal icing verandah roof to candy cane posts. I left the candly canes in their plastic wrap because the humidity was playing havoc and causing my cane canes to melt. Also apply icing where the roof joins the main house. I used chocolate bars as verandah railings. Finish decorating the house.

5. For the sleigh I glued candy canes to the board with icing then when dry added the sleigh sides and rectangle supporting pieces. Santa sits inside propped up with a blob of icing. The kangaroos are supported by pieces of chocolate and iced to the board. The reigns are fine royal icing loops but could be licorice. Light up the house with a tealight or battery operated light and enjoy! Merry Christmas!

It was fun planning and preparing this gingerbread house and I always find with Daring Bakers’ I’m pushed to think beyond what I normally do. Thank you Anna Anna and Y for hosting the December challenge. Check out more gingerbread houses from fellow Daring Bakers’.
From the sunny Land of Oz Down Under I wish you a very joyous and peaceful Christmas and would love to see you again in the new year. Thank you for joining me at “Marcellina in Cucina” in 2009. Who knows what 2010 will bring in the food blogging world!

The day before the November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was…
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