With a little fun and imagination, you can create your own home sweet home. And you can find out how to do it in the December issue of Good Housekeeping magazine where Susan Westmoreland is the food editor. She demonstrates how to build one of the magazine’s winning gingerbread houses on “Today.” Check out the recipe, baking and building technique below.
BAKE OUR LITTLE RED BARN
You will need:
cardboard or posterboard, for patterns
1 batch Gingerbread Dough (recipe follows)
3 batches Ornamental Frosting (see below)
red, blue, black, and green food-color pastes
#2 (1/32-inch opening) writing tip
#4 (1/16-inch opening) writing tip
#7 (1/8-inch opening) writing tip
#10 (1/4-inch opening) writing tip
#60 (1/3-inch opening) leaf tip
disposable decorating bags
2 small artist’s paint brushes
14 packages (5 sticks each) Wrigley’s Spearmint chewing gum
4 packages (5 sticks each) Wrigley’s Big Red chewing gum
1 roll strawberry-flavor fruit leather
1 package (7 ounces) marzipan
1 large (1/8 inch) silver dragée
nontoxic felt-tip marker (sold in crafts stores)
2 lollipop sticks (6 inches long each)
1 piece (8” by 6”) foam core, at least 3/16 inch thick, for base
toy Christmas trees for decoration
GINGERBREAD DOUGH Recipe makes enough dough for one barn; use leftover dough to make decorative pieces, such as gingerbread ornaments to hang on your tree.
2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy or whipping cream
1 1/4 cups light (mild) molasses
9 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1. In very large bowl, with wire whisk, beat sugar, cream, and molasses until 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.
Copy diagrams (at left) and increase by 200%. Cut patterns from cardboard. In addition to patterns given, you will need to cut the following: 2 Barn Sides (8” by 4”), 2 Lower Roof Panels (9” by 2 1/4”), 2 Upper Roof Panels (9” by 3”).
ORNAMENTAL FROSTING RECIPE Yields: 3 cups
1 package (16 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons meringue powder (see note below)
In bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat confectioners’ sugar, meringue powder, and 1/3 cup warm water until blended and mixture is so stiff that knife drawn through it leaves a clean-cut path, about 5 minutes. Keep bowl covered with plastic wrap to prevent drying out.
Note: Meringue powder is available in specialty stores wherever cake-decorating supplies are sold. Or order directly from Wilton Industries, (708) 963-7100, extension 320.
ROLL DOUGH 1. Grease and flour 4 large cookie sheets (17” by 14”). Roll out dough, 1 disk at a time, on each cookie sheet to 3/16-inch thickness. (Put damp paper towels under cookie sheets to keep them from shifting while you roll dough. Placing 3/16-inch dowels or rulers on either side of dough to use as a guide will help you roll dough to uniform thickness.)
2. Chill rolled dough on cookie sheets in refrigerator or freezer at least 10 minutes or until firm enough to cut easily.
3. Use chilled dough, floured cardboard patterns, and sharp paring knife to cut all barn, cupola, and flag pieces on cookie sheets, leaving at least 11/4 inches between pieces, as dough will expand slightly during baking. Wrap and reserve trimmings in refrigerator. (For the back of the barn, it is not necessary to cut out a window.)
BAKE DOUGH 1. Preheat oven to 300F.
2. Brush pieces lightly with water before baking. Bake 25 to 35 minutes until pieces are firm to the touch. (Do not overbake or else pieces will be very crisp and difficult to trim to proper size. Smaller pieces will bake faster than larger pieces on same sheet; remove them as they are done.) Remove cookie sheets from oven.
3. While gingerbread is still warm, place patterns on top again and retrim if necessary. Let pieces cool completely on cookie sheets before removing.
PAINT FRONT, BACK, AND SIDES OF BARN, CUPOLA, AND FLAG 1. Prepare first batch Ornamental Frosting; tint 1/2 batch red. Remove 1/2 cup and fill decorating bag fitted with a #2 writing tip. Add about 1 tablespoon water to remaining frosting.
2. Use unthinned frosting to outline red sections of flag. Paint front, back, and sides of barn and cupola with thinned frosting; let dry. Fill in red sections of flag with thinned frosting; let dry. Reserve remaining red frosting in bag.
DECORATE FRONT, BACK, AND SIDES OF BARN AND CUPOLA 1. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons water to remaining 1/2 batch untinted white frosting; cover and set aside.
2. Make second batch Ornamental Frosting. Place 1 1/2 cups frosting in bag fitted with #4 writing tip.
3. Using nontoxic marker, mark door frame (3 1/4” by 3”), Z-shaped design, and window frame (2 1/2” by 2 1/4”) on front of barn. With white frosting in bag, pipe outline of door frame, Z, and window; let dry.
4. Beginning at bottom, pipe 6 horizontal lines 1/2 inch apart on sides of barn. Also from bottom, pipe 13 horizontal lines 1/2 inch apart on front and back of barn. For sides of cupola, pipe 2 parallel lines down sides; pipe 2 parallel lines down 2 sides of front and back pieces; pipe vertical lines on door frame; let dry.
5. Fill in window and door frames and Z with thinned white frosting; let dry. With frosting in bag, pipe parallel lines over top of each frame and Z; let dry.
DECORATE THE FLAG 1. Tint 1/2 cup frosting blue. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons water until spreadable. Paint blue section of flag; let dry.
2. Refit bag of white frosting with #7 writing tip. Pipe 6 stripes. Refit bag with #2 tip and pipe 5 rows of 6 dots and 4 rows of 5 dots for 50 stars. With white frosting, attach 1 lollipop stick to flag for flagpole; attach dragée to top of pole; let dry.
ASSEMBLE BARN 1. Prepare third batch Ornamental Frosting to use as glue when ready to assemble barn. Cover with damp paper towel and plastic wrap to prevent frosting from drying out.
2. Place 1/2 batch frosting in bag fitted with #10 writing tip; pipe along cut edge of foam-core base. Attach bottom of front, back, and side pieces of barn to foam-core base. Use extra frosting along inside seams to reinforce corners. Place some full soup cans or other heavy objects next to barn walls, both inside and outside, to support pieces while drying.
3. Assemble front, back, and sides of cupola on counter or other work surface, gluing pieces together along seams with a generous amount of reserved unthinned red frosting.
4. Assemble roof of cupola with a generous amount of unthinned white frosting, attaching pieces together along 1 3/4-inch sides and leaving a 1/8-inch-wide hole in center top to attach flagpole.
5. Let barn dry overnight. Store unused frosting on counter, covered with several layers of damp paper towels and plastic wrap.
MAKE AND DECORATE COW 1. For head, shape a tablespoon marzipan into a 1 1/2-inch oval, tapering slightly at one end. Shape 1/8 teaspoon marzipan into a 1/2-inch oval; flatten slightly for nose. Use toothpick to make nostrils. Press nose onto tapered end of oval. Use a small knife to make a slit for mouth. Roll 2 tiny balls marzipan for eyes; press to attach. Pinch area behind eyes to form ears. Insert lollipop stick into base of head, shaping excess marzipan onto stick to attach. Roll 2 tiny balls marzipan to form horns; attach to head in front of ears. Roll 1 rounded teaspoon marzipan into a 2-inch rope; attach around neck to form a yoke; let dry.
2. Paint cow head and neck with thinned white frosting; let dry.
3. Tint 1 tablespoon unthinned frosting pink and tint another tablespoon black. Thin pink and black frosting with water to painting consistency. Tint 1/4 cup unthinned frosting green and place in decorating bag with #60 leaf tip.
4. With small artist’s brushes paint features on cow face, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth as shown. With green frosting, pipe wreath around yoke; let dry.
5. To make bow: Cut fruit leather into an 8” by 1/4” strip. Tie into a bow. Cut two 3” by 1/4” strips; press to back side of bow for streamers.
6. To attach cow to barn: Pipe a line of thick white frosting along base and inside of window. Insert cow into window and attach; let dry. With small dab of frosting attach bow to wreath; let dry.
THATCH ROOF 1. Unwrap packages of spearmint gum. Cut each stick crosswise into thirds.
2. Using white frosting and #10 tip, pipe a thick horizontal line about 1/2 inch from base of each panel of barn roof. Attach gum pieces side by side in a row along the line. Pipe another line of frosting about 1/2 inch higher, and add another row of gum slightly overlapping top of row below. Repeat to cover all roof pieces; let dry.
3. Unwrap 2 packages of cinnamon gum. Using white frosting, pipe a thick horizontal line about 1/2 inch from base of one side of cupola roof. Cut one stick gum crosswise into thirds, then trim pieces at an angle to fit the base of roof. Attach pieces side by side in a row along line at base of cupola roof. Make 3 more rows with remaining gum, cutting pieces at an angle to fit and leaving hole in top for flagpole. Repeat process on remaining 3 sides of roof; let dry.
4. Insert flagpole into cupola roof; attach from underside with frosting; let dry.
5. Attach 2 lower roof panels to base of barn with ample frosting to secure them. Support with cans; let dry. Attach upper roof panels to lower roof panels as above. Add remaining spearmint gum to peak of roof, overlapping slightly.
6. Unwrap remaining cinnamon gum. Cut each piece crosswise into six 1/2-inch-wide pieces. Pipe a thick vertical line of frosting along one edge of barn side. Starting about 1/2 inch from base of the line, glue 1 piece gum. Add another piece gum about 1/2 inch higher; add more pieces slightly overlapping to reach top of edge. Repeat process along remaining 3 edges of barn.
7. Pipe frosting along front and back edges of roof. Attach remaining gum, overlapping pieces; let dry.
8. Frost bottom edge of cupola; attach to roof.
DISPLAY TIPS Display barn in a cool, dry area away from heat. To transport barn, place it in a box and cushion with bubble wrap to protect it while in transit.
Copyright 2001 by Good Housekeeping magazine. Susan Westmoreland is the food editor for Good Housekeeping magazine. For more information on building gingerbread houses and other great holiday ideas, you can check out the December issue of the magazine or visit their Web site at: www.goodhousekeeping.com