I love all things Christmas. Christmas movies. Christmas parties. Christmas lights. Christmas shopping. Even Christmas stress seems bearable. In fact, everything seems a little bit more joyful and a lot more purposeful when you add Christmas to it.
Take Christmas baking for example. A pinch of cinnamon, a sprinkle of sugar, a cup of wholemeal flour and a healthy dose of self-denial as you convince yourself that wholemeal flour makes it totally ok to have an extra piece of fruit cake (what are new years resolutions for?). Pure, unrefined sugary joy.
Christmas Eve has been amazingly quiet this year. With our massive Christmas breakfast, family friend Christmas dinner, Christmas carols, Christmas shoppings and countless Christmas catch ups behind us, and work finished for the year – I had an entire day to do anything. Naturally, I wanted to make a Gingerbread house from scratch whilst watching “Love Actually”.
Although extremely time consuming (probably set aside at least 6 hours if you are by yourself), it’s not actually that hard to make.
My sister, Hannah, and I made the dough the day before and had bought a 14 piece cake decorating set ($10) and a selection of lollies from Kmart (only $1 a packet) at the all-night shop at Westfield Chermside at 11.30pm (because why miss an opportunity to shop at midnight?). So, this morning, equiped with unlimited Pinterest inspiration of how to nail a Gingerbread house and this fantastic template, we were ready to go.
I love doing projects with Hannah because she is one of the most determined people I know and never balks at a challenge. She gets in, gets things done and makes things happen. It makes her an exceptional ginger-bread house maker and even better teacher. As I am forever coming up with strange ideas and little projects for us to do (Pinterest… enough said), this works amazingly for me.
One of the biggest challenges when making a gingerbread house for me has always been assembling the house itself. By time I get the house to actually stand up by itself, I am usually covered in crusted icing, have a pile of containers lying around that we used to try and convince my house to stay upright, and at least one roof panel slowly sliding down the side of the house.
Thanks to Martha Stewart, we decided to try assembling the house together using toffee. Aside from some minor burns on my fingers, it worked amazingly. It’s such a fantastic trick if you have ever had the same problem as me.
6 hours, one minor disagreement, two times through “Love Actually”, one load of washing sugar coated clothes and tea towels, and an amazing amount of fun later, we are the proud owners of a Gingerbread house too pretty and definitely too sugar-loaded to eat.
- 185g butter, chopped
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- 1 cup plain wholemeal flour
- 3 1/2 cups wholemeal self-raising flour
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup golden syrup
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 cups icing sugar (sifted)
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
- Lollies for decorating
- Templates (see below)
- In a food processor, place the butter and sugar and process until fully combined.
- Add the flours and the spices into the processor and process on high until fully combined.
- In a jug mix the eggs with the golden syrup. Pour this into the food processor while the motor is running and process until it is all combined.
- Turn out onto a lightly floured bench and knead until smooth. Divide into 4 pieces and shape into flat discs. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.
- Remove from cling film and knead until pliable. It might take a bit longer if using wholemeal flour. Roll out to 5mm thick and cut to the template shapes. Re-roll offcuts and cut as needed.
- Bake all pieces on baking paper for 15-20 mins at 180°C or until golden.
- Leave to cool on wire racks.
- When ready to assemble make the toffee by adding the sugar and water together in a saucepan on a low heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved or almost dissolved. Turn the heat to high and watch until the toffee turns a golden colour (don't stir). Once the toffee is ready, dip the sides of the gingerbread house in the caramel one piece at a time and assemble. Be careful not to burn yourself. You can use a paintbrush to paint the toffee on to the side of corners of the house to secure. The toffee should set within a minute, making a very strong structure.
- Once the house had been assembled, prepare the icing by mixing the icing sugar, cream of tartar and egg whites together and set out lollies for decoration along with the cake board or heavy cardboard.
- Take the icing and decorate the walls with lollies however you would like. Let your creative genius flow. The Gingerbread will keep for up to 1 week.
- For the decorations, we used musks, chocolate drops, white and milk chocolate freckles, mint leaves, raspberries, sour straps and liquorice all-sorts - but you can use whatever you would like.
- To make stain glass windows, cut out the shape that you want from the dough and fill with crushed boiled lollies before baking.
- Have fun!