The Daring Baker's December Challenge

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.
That picture there is obviously not food. Or a gingerbread house. What is it, you ask? Why it's my school's library. Geisel. Why does it look like something from Attack of the Tomatoes? Because it is! An evil scientist's laboratory I hear. But what does it have to do with gingerbread houses? Let me explain.

I go to a college where people like to study. A lot. I understand that people study at all colleges but my college is especially well known for the... dedication of it's students (nerdy-ness). Around finals week you can find students camped out in the library with sleeping bags, stashes of food, cans of energy drinks, coffee cups and candies. The library is practically a home for them during finals week. I had to hurry up and finish the challenge during the end of my finals week because I had to leave the country for Winter break, so when the idea that Geisel is a home for many stu
dents struck me, it was PERFECT. College students basically live in the library during finals week- It's their "house". So, my gingerbread "house" was to be my school's library, Geisel.Another reason why I chose Geisel was because of the architecture. I've made a regular gingerbread house before so I wanted to try something a little more challenging. I'm a
communications major- not a structural engineer- so I decided that there was no way this
building could be hollow (cheating? I'm sorry! but look at it!). I cut out patterns for each of the levels of the library and used those to make giant pieces of gingerbread. I then stacked them in order to make the shape of the building. I made the royal icing and slathered the entire thing in attempt to fill in the cracks and give it a smooth finish. It was much more difficult than I expected- way different than icing and decorating a cake. Overall, since I only had a ver
y limited amount of time to make my gingerbread "house" I guess I'm pretty satisfied with being able to make an odd structure out of food but as far as the aesthetics of it go, I'm not very pleased since it's not smooth and pretty like fondant or buttercream. It tasted delicious though despite not being a gingerbread fan. Happy Holidays!

Gingerbread House(s)

Preparation Time for Y's Recipe: 5-10 minutes to mix the dough, 2 hours to chill, 5 minutes to roll, 10 to cut and 15 minutes to bake. Estimated 4-7 hours from start to finish including chilling.

Equipment Needed:
Stand or handheld electric mixer (not required but it will make mixing the dough a lot easier and faster)
Plastic wrap
Rolling pin
Parchment paper
Baking sheets
Cardboard cake board or sheet of thick cardboard
Foil, if desired
Small saucepan
Small pastry brush (optional)
Piping bag with small round tip, or paper cornets if you're comfortable with them

Anna's Recipe:
Spicy Gingerbread Dough (from Good Housekeeping)

2 1/2 cups (500g) packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (360mL) heavy cream or whipping cream
1 1/4 cups (425g) molasses
9 1/2 cups (1663g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoon(s) baking soda
1 tablespoon(s) ground ginger


1. In very large bowl, with wire whisk (or with an electric mixer), beat brown sugar, cream, and molasses until sugar lumps dissolve and mixture is smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and ginger. With spoon, stir flour mixture into cream mixture in 3 additions until dough is too stiff to stir, then knead with hands until flour is incorporated and dough is smooth.

2. Divide dough into 4 equal portions; flatten each into a disk to speed chilling. Wrap each disk well with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until dough is firm enough to roll.

3. Grease and flour large cookie sheets (17-inch by 14-inch/43x36cm)

4. Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time on each cookie sheet to about 3/16-inch thickness. (Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help roll dough to uniform thickness.)

5. Trim excess dough from cookie sheet; wrap and reserve in refrigerator. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheet in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.

6. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (149C)

7. Use chilled rolled dough, floured poster board patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all house pieces on cookie sheet, making sure to leave at least 1 1/4 inches between pieces because dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. Combine and use trimmings as necessary to complete house and other decorative pieces. Cut and bake large pieces and small pieces separately.

8. Chill for 10 minutes before baking if the dough seems really soft after you cut it. This will discourage too much spreading/warping of the shapes you cut.

9. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until pieces are firm to the touch. Do not overbake; pieces will be too crisp to trim to proper size.

10. Remove cookie sheet from oven. While house pieces are still warm, place poster-board patterns on top and use them as guides to trim shapes to match if necessary. Cool pieces completely before attempting to assemble the house.

Y's Recipe:

Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.

2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.

3. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.

4. [I rolled out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1/8 inch thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.]

5. Preheat the oven to 375'F (190'C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

Royal Icing:

1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren't using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

Simple Syrup:
2 cups (400g) sugar

Place in a small saucepan and heat until just boiling and the sugar dissolves. Dredge or brush the edges of the pieces to glue them together. If the syrup crystallizes, remake it.


  1. Hehehe... that is the most awesomely structured gingerbread "house" I've ever seen! Way to go on this month's challenge, you rocked it out! Can't wait to see what you create in the New Year :)

  2. Very creative!! That library in real-life is an amazing structure. Great job on your gingerbread piece! :)