Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Gingerbread house / Bulgarian Spiced Honey Biscuits + FREE Template



Building a house is a concept that everyone holds dear - when we are kids we love play houses, dolls houses, miniature homes, wendy houses, and when we're older we love decorating our homes. And that's been like that for ages - dolls houses were made since Egyptian times and flourished in the Middle Ages. Some bakers in the Middle Ages were specialising in shaping gingerbread houses and even formed their own guild within the Bakers' Guild. Reportedly only certified guild members were allowed to bake gingerbread houses in the 17th century in Europe, except at Easter and Christmas, when everyone was allowed to do so.

I personally love houses - real, doll's or dwarfs - and of course baking and decorating my own gingerbread house was a great experience and also created memories for me and my kids too.

It's a childhood dream come true - making a gingerbread house. The festive season really got me this year with baking especially after I found out a very good Bulgarian recipe for spiced honey biscuits by Yoana. They are perfect for a house as they do need a day or two or better three to soften as they are very hard when baked. But what a better dough to use for a gingerbread house? It needs to be hard so it doesn't crumble under the weight of all the imaginable and unimaginable treats that are pile on top of it. Plus I just love this taste - it's carries so much memories. Weird enough but smells and taste do carry memories right?

I have to admit I was a bit afraid to start as I thought making the template for the house will be difficult to make - I couldn't be more wrong in my whole life - even a first grader can make the template - the only thing you need is paper, pencil and a ruler. However, I will upload a free pdf of the template I drew in case anyone is feeling doubtful in their drawing skills like I was :)

I suggest when cutting the shapes to minimise detail - so cut the whole shape first and transfer safely on the baking sheet so it doesn't lose its shape - the house needs to have straight edges - it will make it easier to assemble after.
When the shape is on the sheet, then you can cut out the shapes of windows, doors and other openings and make sure when removing them they don't spoil the edges. (A little bit of unevenness is not a problem though).


For the window glasses I used clear boiled sweets - I would have used red and green or even yellow but didn't find any. The trick with those is to put a whole one sweet in the opening - it will melt and harden on itself - it doesn't need to be crushed (something I thought it needs, but it proved to be completely obsolete, so save time and just put the whole sweet in. The small windows needed a half sweet though.)

With the decorations - let your imagination and appetite lose - orange chocolate sticks, chocolate pretzels, marshmallows, jelly beans, sprinkles, and whatever more you want, all sticked together with royal icing. The mini gingerbread men shaped biscuits came in handy for setting the scene.

As did the 3D Christmas tree shape - that one was very easy to make - just cut a regular Christmas tree shape twice, then make an opening up to the half of the shape lengthwise - one tree from top to the middle, the other from bottom to the middle. The opening should be big enough as much as the thickness of the baked biscuit. But don't worry, because after they are baked you can use a small knife and alter the opening so the two shapes join together to make the 3D shape.

Ohh, and the assembling and especially decoration was So Much Fun!!! I admit I was jumping with joy and excitement up and down the kitchen when the baked Christmas tree cookie shapes came together as a 3D shape.

Recipe :


for the Houses and the Christmas trees
(makes 2 smaller houses or 1 giant one)

250 ml runny honey (or golden syrup)

200 g sugar

150 ml oil
2 eggs

1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cinnamon
the crushed tops of 2 clovers
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp chocolate extract
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

650 g plain flour

for the decoration:

1kg royal icing sugar
200 g orange chocolate sticks
200 g chocolate pretzels
400 g white marshmallows
some mini gingerbread men
melted chocolate 
400 g giant chocolate buttons
200 g white chocolate buttons
sprinkles (100s and 1000s)
200 g jelly beans 
clear (or coloured) boiled sweets to make the glasses
any other sweets that you like - candy canes and so on.



Method:

On the hob (or over a pan of water) very gently heat the sugar, honey and the spices until well dissolved. 
Remove from heat coll down a bit, then add the eggs and oil. Mix and start adding the flour and baking powder and start making the dough - it will be warm, soft and sticky - that is fine. 
Make it at a ball as much as you can and divide in two. Then flour a flat surface and roll in a 1 cm thickness. 
Cut out the genera shapes and transfer to a lined baking sheet carefully so the edges remain straight. 
When on the sheet cut out the shapes for windows and door. 

Cut out the Christmas tree shapes and transfer on the sheet, then cut the parts that will be used to join together. 

Place one boiled sweet of the required colour in the window opening to make glass.

Bake at 180C (160 C fan oven) for 10-15 minutes until golden and starting getting brown around the edges.

Leave to cool down completely before removing and starting the decoration - ideally on the next day.

Decoration:

Run your imagination wild! And check all the amazing Gingerbread house creations on Pinterest for inspiration!






Have a magical Christmas everyone! :)

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