Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Great Gingerbread Disaster

I had a major culinary catastrophe recently. I blog about it because it was my greatest baking failure to date. Right up there with the time my dog ate half of a homemade pineapple cake.

But in seriousness, my sister and I took on the daunting project of building a gingerbread house this Christmas. I decided we should bake the whole thing from scratch – none of this graham cracker nonsense. I searched the net but the recipes I came up with weren’t very helpful. They were targetted more at veteran gingerbread makers looking to add an extra story or fine details like gingerbread crown molding to perfect structures. Few provided basic instructions for beginners like us, who would’ve been happy with a clapboard shack so long as we could pile tons of candy goodness onto it.

Our house was doomed from the beginning. The gingerbread planks to our humble home distorted in shape as they baked. One piece nearly burned. They tasted ok – not very sweet, but that was OK given the amount of extra sugar we loaded on in the form of frosting and candy. The pieces hardly fit together, and our frosting was more like white sludge than a firm glue to hold the pieces together.

Luckily, we somehow managed to have a crumbling structure to put candy onto by morning. Our Christmas miracle! And boy did we load that thing up with all kinds of chocolates and teeth-rotting edibles – almond M&Ms (love them!), twizzlers on the roof, Hershey’s Kissables, candy cane pieces. And these funky little peppermint malt balls – though I think we ate as many as we used on the house.

But our baked abode did not last. Within minutes of putting the last candy touches on it, the roof gradually caved and then the walls imploded. A perfect Florida gingerbread house, perhaps – post-hurricane.

I will not accept pastry defeat. Anyone out there have suggestions for how to do better next time?? Stronger gingerbread? Better icing? Tips for making the template?

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