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Friday, December 25, 2009

Time for New Traditions

This year was the first time ever making gingerbread houses in my household. It was already a planned event, but imagine my surprise when I found out that The Daring Bakers was doing that as a challenge this month.

As a child, we had a tradition of the kids going to bed early Christmas Eve because we knew our parents had present to put under the tree (you can only fool kids for so long, especially when you don’t have a chimney on the house…lol). On Christmas morning there was family breakfast and then a ceremony, which consisted of bible reading, songs, praying, and talks of the real meaning of Christmas. After the ceremony was done, we were able to open presents. Everyone said their thanks for the gifts and then we had to clean all the trash from the floor before playing with any toys. Man, I really miss those days!

Now that all the children have left the nest, our tradition is to meet for dinner at my parents’ house. After dinner and cleaning the dishes we have a smaller ceremony, talent show, and gift opening. This dinner date on Christmas has a house full of people. There are my parents, their 4 children, and 12 grandchildren. My girlfriend, Gwen, comes if she hasn’t taken a trip back home to Baton Rouge and whomever my siblings may bring. Goodness gracious, someone call the fire marshal!

Seeing as how there was never a gingerbread house made in all the years of my life, I knew I needed to try it at least once. This go round I made Tish Boyle’s Gingerbread Dough and cut out enough dough for 3 of my kids. I put the houses together using Wilton’s royal icing recipe and quickly found that I was really green. I thought it would be fairly easy, until I noticed how warped some of the pieces were. After putting together the first two, I started on the last one. Well, this little mothersucker (yes I said it, mothersucker) didn’t want to stay together. Well, as you can see in the pics, it became a flat-top.

Even with all that, they got decorated and later demolished.

Gingerbread Dough
From The Good Cookie by Tish Boyle
5 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups unsulphured (mild) molasses
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt into a large bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the shortening and sugar at medium-high speed until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add the molasses, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until well blended, about 2 minutes. If your mixer has a splatter shield attach it now. At low speed, add the dry ingredients in four additions, mixing just until blended. Scrape the dough out onto a work surface and knead it gently a few times, until smooth. Divide the dough into quarters and shape into disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour, until firm (or up to 2 weeks).
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F.
Cut a piece of aluminum foil the size of a baking sheet. Place the foil on a work surface and place one of the dough disks on it. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the dough and oil it out evenly to a thickness of 3/16 inch. Remove the plastic wrap. Place as many pattern pieces as will fit on the dough, leaving at least ½ inch between the pieces (the dough pieces will remain in place on the foil during baking). Using a small sharp knife, cut the dough around the pattern pieces, being careful not to cut through the foil. Remove the pattern pieces from the dough. Remove all the dough scraps from between the pattern pieces and save to reroll. Carefully slide the sheet of foil onto the baking sheet. Repeat the process until you have cut out all the required pieces.
Bake the gingerbread, one sheet at a time, for 15-20 minutes, or until the dough feels firm to the touch. Carefully slide the foil off the baking sheet and onto a completely flat surface to cool (not onto a wire rack).
When the pieces are cool, carefully peel them off the foil. Store the gingerbread in an airtight container in a cool, dry place until ready to use (up to 2 weeks at room temperature; or freeze for up to 3 months).

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