Homemade gingerbread house.

The Christmas season has arrived and with it comes a never ending list of craft and food ideas. Toddler permitting, I’m hoping to be able to make a few festive treats to show here.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a stay at home mum, so in order to fit with the one salary budget, there will be a lot of homemade gifts in my household this year. So, watch this space! For now though, I’m going to combine both food, craft and my most popular post to date my homemade cardboard dolls house, with a…

Homemade gingerbread house…

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First things first, the recipe I use isn’t exactly gingerbread, but tastes just as (if not more) christmassy. Spiced black pepper bread house just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it!

For the dough you will need:

  • 600g plain flour (plus more for dusting)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 2 tsps ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2.5 tsps freshly ground black pepper
  • 200g soft unsalted butter
  • 200g dark brown sugar
  • 2 larges eggs beaten with 4 tablespoons of runny honey

In a food processor, combine your flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and pepper. With the motor on medium speed, slowly add the butter and sugar. Then very slowly add the egg mixture. Do not use all the mixture up if you find the dough comes together before it’s been used up.

Split your dough into four balls, flatten a little into disks, cover in cling film and store in the fridge until needed. The most important thing about a gingerbread house is to draw out your design first and create template of your walls. A simple design is best as a gingerbread houses detail and wow factor come from the decoration.

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Cut out your templates. Lightly flour your surface and rolling pin. This is important so you dough does not stick to the surface. Roll out your first disk till in it around 2mm deep. Place your chosen area over the dough and cut around the shape. I use a pizza roller cutter but any sharp knife will do. You can decide here where you’d like to cut out your windows and doors, or you can ice them on later. Continue until you have two of every template and transfer onto a lined baking tray. Depending what size your house is, you may have to do these in batches, so I recommend not to start rolling out all your parts at once.

Place in a preheated oven of 160c (fan assisted) for 10 minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. This should only take 10 minutes. Once you have all your pieces baked and cooled its ready to start icing together.

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Find a very sturdy base to mount your house. I’m using a spare tile we had lying a round. You can buy good large cake bases though from most cookery shops.

For the icing you will need:

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 500g sifted icing sugar (powdered sugar for all my US readers)

Place the egg whites into a large mixing bowl and slowly add the sugar stirring every so often. The mixture should get quite stiff but don’t add all the sugar if you think it’s going to be too still to pipe. Once all mixed and your happy with the mixture, fill a piping bag or gun with your icing. For the wall gluing I would use a nozzle the same thickness as you wall. If you have more icing than will fit in your piping bag/gun, put the rest into a small airtight container or cover with clingfilm. Lay your four walls out on your base to show how big your footprint will be and pipe the outline. Take your first piece of wall and again pipe along the bottom edge and two sides and stand in place. I found that my icing was thick and secure enough to hold this in place but if yours isn’t find something like a small box or some glasses to hold it upright. Repeat this for each wall until you have the outside shell of your house. Leave to dry for at least an hour.

Once dry pipe another thick line around the four top edges of your shell. Take your first piece of roof and secure in place. Pipe icing down the central line of the roof and then secure the second piece in place. Secure with books or boxes or even a little masking tape if you have to and leave to dry completely again. You may also wish to add a chimney once this is dry. For this, follow the same rules as before.

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Now the fun bit. Collect all the sweets, sprinkles and cake decorating pieces you want and use the remaining icing as a glue and painting tool. I think all gingerbread houses look great no matter how messy or neat they are. Its definitely fun to do with your kids or some friends instead of cupcake decorating parties. The more sweets and icing you use the tastier it will be when you eventually come to eat it! I’ve been a bit more of a fancy pants because I wanted to test my icing skills as I’ve not got the most steady hands. I also baked some window frames with leftover dough, painted them with a bit of watered down icing and carefully stuck them with icing inside the house frame. I think I did well considering it’s only my second attempt at building one.

Happy house making!

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Also, if you have dough leftover why not get some star, snowflake or any shaped cookie cutter and make some Christmas tree decorations. Just roll out the dough as before, cut your shape and make a hole in the top to put string through before baking and then ice and decorate when cooled. The combination of the spiced smell and the aroma of a real Christmas tree is just wonderful.

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Salty Sweet Chocolate Covered & Cinnamon Sugar Dusted Pretzels.

If you are a real foodie like me, you will have noticed a current trend for salt in desserts. Salted caramel and chocolate recipes in particular.  Although, in my household there is a bit of a divide in opinion as my hubby isn’t so keen.  I on the other hand love it!

When I was researching my chocolate truffle recipe I discovered from chefs and chocolate connoisseurs that a tiny pinch of salt is supposed to bring out the flavour of the cocoa.
Although it seems to be a recent trend in the UK, it’s a traditional addition to sweet baking over in the US.  And today’s recipe is an old classic combination…

Salty Sweet Chocolate Covered & Cinnamon Sugar Dusted Pretzels.



The original beloved combination is usually for the small crunchy pretzels covered in chocolate. As much as I love them, I don’t fancy standing around for hours sculpting 100s of tiny knots which, let’s face it, will be devoured in a matter of minutes. I would however still recommend to buy these from the supermarket and dip in melted chocolate yourself. Yum!

Today’s recipe is for the larger soft pretzel that you can eat warm from oven for breakfast or linger over the strange flavour sensation with a cuppa or cold glass of milk.

I will admit the recipe is a tad technical but trust me it’s all worth it in the end.

Ingredients

For your basic soft pretzel

  • 450g Strong White Flour
  • 150g Strong Brown Flour
  • 1 level tsp fast-acting yeast
  • 2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
  • 375ml Warm Water

Today I have used my gorgeous Kitchen Aid Artisan Mixer with the dough hook attachment but you can also knead by hand.

Dough Hook

Sieve the two flours together in your mixer bowl and then add your yeast, sugar and salt.

Mix together the warm water and oil in a jug.  With the mixer on its slowest setting add the liquid slowly until you form the dough.  Let this need for about 10minutes.

Oil a large bowl and place the kneaded dough inside and add another coating of oil.  Cover with a damp clean cloth or cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1-3hrs until it has doubled in size.

Now for the technical bit…

You will need the following:

  • 2 oiled baking trays
  • A little flour for dusting your work surface
  • 2 clean tea towels
  • Small glass or water (for finger dipping)
  • 75g Bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 litrewater
  • Large pot
  • Large Slotted spoon
  • 1-2 tbsp Sea Salt (ground)

Once the dough has risen, knead it a little for a minute or so and then divide into 12 pieces.  This division makes 12 large soft pretzels.  I have made a number of different sizes today so the smaller you go the more you will get.

As you roll out and sculpt each pretzel place the rest of the mixture back in to oiled bowl and cover.

For the sculpting. Roll out your dough into a long strip to about 1-2cm in diameter.  The thinner you go the crispier the result.  Now follow the photographs to get your shape.  To seal at the end, dip you finger in some water and coat the tips and press in place.  Place your finished form on your baking tray and cover with your clean tea towel.

Pretzel Sculpting

Today I also made some bit size pieces by simply rolling the dough out to the long strip and cutting into 2cm bites. You get about 10 per 1/12 of the mixture.

Leave everything to rise a bit again under you tea towels for about 10 minutes.  While this happens preheat your over to 220C.

In a large pot mix the water and bicarb.  Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer.  Then, three at a time, poach the dough for 30 seconds per side.  (This poaching gives the dough a coating that results in the dark brown finish of the pretzel). Remove the dough with your slotted spoon draining as much water as possible and place on your baking tray.

Before Oven

Once all your little sculptures are lined up, sprinkle with your sea salt and bake in the oven for 10 minutes, turning over halfway through cooking.

After Oven

For the toppings.

Cinnamon Sugar Dusted.

  • 15g butter melted
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon

Whilst still warm from the oven, brush the pretzels with the melted butter.  Mix the caster sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle over the pretzels and enjoy straight away.

Cinnamon Sugar Dusted

Chocolate Covered.

  • 100g Milk Chocolate
  • 50g White Chocolate (optional)

Leave your pretzels to cool.  Melt the chocolate in a microwave.  Dip your Pretzels in the chocolate and place on a lined tray to set.  If you are too impatient like me, place in a fridge or freezer.  Then for purely decoration purposes, melt the white chocolate and flick a few stripes on top using a teaspoon.

Chocolate Covered.

And for a mixture of the two and perfect for a dinner party dessert.

Pretzel Bites with melted dipping chocolate.

Using all the same ingredients from both recipes.  Coat your bite size chunks while warm with your butter, sugar and cinnamon.  Melt the chocolate and place into individual pots.  Then get a cocktail stick or skewer and dip away!

Bites with Melted Chocolate