Saturday, December 12, 2009

I'll get you Martha Stewart...and your little gingerbread house, too

Every now and again, I let out my inner Martha Stewart. I keep her in a very, very tiny box and today, I let her out. A few weeks ago, my friend Lori talked about how she started a tradition of making gingerbread houses with her kids. I thought "oh, what a wonderful kids will LOVE that!" I looked up recipes and construction processes and found a good one on and set out. I have two kids and knew they'd want their own house, so I reduced the template by 50% and voila, a house just the right size for them.
I love baking, so making the dough and cutting out the pieces was super simple. Then came making the caramel and house construction. I'll just say it now, it was a real goddammit*.

I've never made caramel before, so either I screwed up the simple "bring to a boil and reduce to simmer and let brown and thicken" instructions OR C&H Baker's Sugar just isn't intended for caramel making. I'm going with the latter, because I followed the instructions and it didn't brown and it barely thickened. Now I had this picture in my head that the construction would be simple. After all, the pictures on made it look so easy. Silly me...I'd forgotten that Martha has a load of minions to do her dirty work...oh and great camera work to fudge the angles to make it all look effortless.
Well, I didn't have great camera work or a censor to bleep out the f-bombs I hissed as I tried to put these houses together, but I did have my mom and a G&T. My mom helped me hold the stupid little houses together and then sat outside in the cold with me to hold them together to let the cold harden the caramel. Geesh...these are the things the recipe (and Martha and her minions) don't tell you. Kinda forgot that in the instructions, didn't ya, Martha?
While the houses cemented, I made the royal icing. Now I halved the 5-cup recipe and yet the stuff just seemed to expand. If my math is correct, halving a 5-cup recipe should produce 2.5 cups of icing. Right? Noooo...I still have what has to be 2 cups in my refrigerator! I just kept piping that stuff all over the houses--I made gloppy trees, I sealed up the seams, I piped patterns on the roof, and more and yet...I still have enough royal icing to cover a couple more houses. I nearly squirted the stuff in the kids' mouths a la canned whipping cream.
The kids set out to decorate their houses with crushed candy canes, Christmas colored Junior Mint minis (a new discovery), spiced gum drops, and holiday candy corn. They did well and are very excited about their houses. Here is their handiwork:

Will I make gingerbread houses again? I can confidently say NO WAY. It's just not worth the aggrivation. I'll make gingerbread cookies and decorate those and skip the construction. Martha and her wannabes can have it. Martha is now safely stuffed away again and every time she asks to be let out, I'll remind myself of today's experience,
For all my complaining, the kids are happy and quite pleased with their masterpieces. Hopefully, the memory will stay with them...sans mom's quiet cursing, of course.
Merry Christmas to all and to all happy baking!

*A few nights ago, a waitress at 0/8 Seafood Grill in Bellevue shared a hilarious story about how her mom would describe people being a "goddammit". It was hysterical, so now when the situation calls for a colorful descriptor, I'm usin' it: these gingerbread houses are a real goddammit.

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