Monday, 13 December 2010

Making Gingerbread Houses with LexEats

I have always wanted to make a gingerbread house. It's Domestic Goddess baking, Blue Peter model house making and Grand Designs Goes Hansel & Gretel all rolled into one!

I don't know why I've never done it before other than that I found it too daunting, I guess.

So when Lex announced her special gingerbread house making supper club dates, I signed up. Quickly. Before I could chicken out.

A few days ahead of time, Pete helped me mix together and roll out the dough and I carefully cut out my wall and roof slabs, cutting simple door and windows and scalloped roof edges. Pete kindly baked my slabs whilst I was out gallivanting at The Chocolate Festival and Bar Boulud. I was really pleased with the careful shaping, even thickness and pretty colour.

On Sunday at noon I took my place in Lex and Johanna's open plan kitchen diner and, after being welcomed with mugs of delicious hot soup, we got to work. Somehow, in transporting my slabs, one of them had cracked, so my first act was to affect a sugar-cement fix, embedding pieces of wooden skewers into the icing on the back of the slab. I left that piece to dry and started assembling the rest of my house. I was soon slathering sugar-cement all over the place (myself included) and raising the walls. To my delight, the fix held and all four walls were eventually up.

GingerbreadHouse-5289
My house, with fellow builder, Craig, behind

My first roof slab went on well and I was feeling happy.

And then disaster stuck.

I pressed down a little too firmly when pushing the second roof slab onto the sugar-cemented gables and it snapped vertically down the middle. Aaaaaargh! Disappointed with myself, I tried another fix job with more skewers and icing and left it to dry on the windowsill.

We paused our efforts for a fantastic starter of cured salmon with toasts and salad (with fresh leaves and herbs and a really special maple syrup dressing) followed by a selection of mains including roast lamb, honey glazed ham and an array of salads and vegetables.

GingerbreadHouse-5292 GingerbreadHouse-5294

When the sweets came out I was excited but had absolutely no design ideas or thoughts on where to start. I began with the (unbroken) roof slab and affixed stripes of chocolate fingers, sherbet chewy straws, jelly tots and smarties. I quickly realised I had no unified theme in mind and my first efforts weren't too pretty so I randomly decorated the various walls in completely different and un-matching styles!

The first time I tested my broken roof panel, it quickly sagged along the break again. And the same the second time. I was starting to think I'd have to take my house home in pieces and fix it at home.

Finally, I slathered an absolute tonne of sugar-cement on the top surface and used long strawberry chews to hold it together along it's width. And after I let that dry a while again, I used three skewers laid across from gable to gable to take the slab's weight before (carefully) pushing it into place.

GingerbreadHouse-5301

Inspired by another participant's Chapel Of Love, I adorned the entrance side of the house with a simple K *heart* P. The snowman was added later, inspired by a similar one by yet another participant (though his original had a lovely smile and three buttons down his belly).

Delighted as I originally was about how neat and well-shaped my slabs were, my finished house, I freely admit, is ugly as hell. But I had such great fun making it (breakages and all) that I don't mind at all. And once Lex had wrapped it all up in cellophane tied with ribbons, even mine looked a little more glamorous!

During the decorating, we were treated to mulled wine sorbets and later, a truly marvellous home-made Christmas pudding with nutmeg custard. The flames when it was doused in rum and set alight burned tall, fierce and long! And it was really delicious.

As well as my house I made a gingerbread man and a gingerbread woman.

gingercookiecutter
Does this look wrong to you too?

Unhappy with the shapes of the cookie cutters I had been able to find in the shops (all of which seem to have amputated legs) I searched for some images I liked online, adapted them to create my own paper templates and carefully cut mine out by hand. Yes, it took me a while!

I decorated them very simply and quickly, after finishing my house. I think they came out rather better!

GingerManLady-5298 GingerManLady-5306

I had such a lot of fun (and was really inspired by some of the more elegantly decorated houses that some of the other participants created) that I'm determined to try again, perhaps scaling down the size and coming up with a design in advance.

Menu-5283
The Gingerbread Supper Club menu

Click here to see Lex' recipe, templates and guidelines to create your own gingerbread house.

Thanks, Lex and Johanna, for a really fun afternoon and delicious meal. You are both wonderful hosts!

20 comments:

Quay Po Cooks said...

Lovely work! I am sure they taste as good as they look.

Ute@HungryinLondon said...

that's amazing, so pretty. too pretty to eat actually.

LexEat said...

Your house was amazing! and i love your K&P gingerbread people!
Thanks so much for coming along and helping to make it such a fun weekend.

Foodycat said...

My mum made a gingerbread house as my birthday cake one year - the roof was all done in Flake. I seem to remember that not a single flake lasted until the singing of Happy Birthday!

linguinadc said...

Yes you had fun for sure...and the house is amazing! Congrats!

Kavey said...

QuayProCooks, thank you, they taste pretty nice but if I was making for eating only and not building, I'd prefer a softer chewier recipe and with a little more ginger and some additional all spice or five spice flavours. These taste decent but mostly are perfect consistency and smell and colour for making the houses!

Ute, I don't think I will eat the house, I think I'll admire it for too long for it to still be edible!

Lex, thank you my dear, it was wonderful!

FoodyCat, haaa flakes would look good on the roof. Must have looked all sad by the day without it's roof logs!!!

Linguinadc, thank you, so kind of you!

Vintage Macaroon said...

I'm so going to do that next year! Well the intention will be there, much more fun with friends I think.

Kavey said...

Definitely a GREAT social activity, absolutely!

Craig said...

Was a fun afternoon Kavey & good of you to use my head as a chimney!

Think we're going to get our nieces/nephews to destroy the houses on Christmas Day and tuck in.

Really got me in the Christmas spirit, roll on the 25th...

Kavey said...

Ha I had to use that pic, it just makes me giggle.
Lovely to meet your other half too, her chapel of love was quite the business!

Keith said...

I was giggling all the way through reading that, with you, not at you of course! Good job on the house (and your gingerbread mini-mes). - very impressive. The mire I read about the multitude of supper clubs in London the more curious I get. We've never been but something like this sounds like just the ticket. The participation aspect (although Lolli is fiercely competitive) and having the chance to have a bit of a laugh might be enough to persuade us to sign up for one at some point.

Kavey said...

Keith, glad to entertain... it was certainly a lot of fun! I don't know if there are other interactive supperclubs available - let me know if you come across any?

Dom said...

oh, that looks awesome! I don't think I've ever had a gingerbread house. Partly because the urge to smash it and scoff it would just be too great.

Food Urchin said...

Excellent work Kavey, ok ol' Kevin McCloud might have got snotty about your construction methods but this all sounds like great fun. When is the next one?

Kavey said...

Dom, you can smash and eat it later!!!

Daisy, I think Kevin would have been horrified at the escalating costs of the additional building materials required for the repair jobs! :)

bron said...

Kavey that's great. My theory is that gingerbread houses have higgledy piggledy little shacks deep in the woods as their original model and yours reflects their true origins. Can't imagine how you'll ever break it

Kavey said...

Bron, ha, yes mine might be hard to break!

Dom said...

IT'S ALL MINE!!!

Rita said...

This brings back memories of Christmastimes when the children where small, so much fun...
and well done Kavey !!!

Kavey said...

Dom, so glad you enjoyed it and love your idea of using leftover gingerbread for cheesecake base!

Rita, my first ever, never did this as a child! Such fun!