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Home is where the gingerbread is

(Published Nov. 26, 2007, 3:51 p.m.)

Building a gingerbread house may be complex but is worth it for the holiday spirit.


The Food Dude is off this week, but will return soon with new recipes.

In the meantime, for those who are adventurous in the kitchen and have a little extra time on their hands, we've found the following gingerbread house recipe on the King Arthur flour Web site.

We've condensed it here, but there's a link to more details at www.kingarthurflour.com






3/4 cup (6 oz.) buttermilk

6 tbsp. (3 oz., 3/4 stick) butter or margarine

1 cup (8 oz.) brown sugar

1/2 cup (6 oz.) molasses

1 large egg

5 cups (21 1/4 oz.) King Arthur Unbleached

All-Purpose Flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ginger

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

In a large saucepan, heat the butter in the buttermilk until it is just melted and remove from the heat. Add the brown sugar and molasses and beat in the egg. Whisk the spices, salt and baking soda together with one cup of flour. Add this to the wet mixture and mix until incorporated. Add flour one cup at a time until you have a smooth, stiff dough. It should be stiff enough to be flexible, but not crumbly or sticky. Divide the dough in half, wrap it in plastic and flatten it out before chilling in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Checklist of pieces for housebuilding

-- Two long side walls, with windows cut out

-- Cut a door out of one of these walls between the windows; save the cutout piece or use scrap dough to cut another with your template

-- 2 gable end walls, with the point on top

-- 2 roof panels

-- People

-- Trees

-- Architectural details of your choice, such as chimney pieces or shutters

Cut and bake the pieces

Use a utility knife or scissors to cut out templates. These can be placed on the dough and used as a guide to cut out the shapes for your pieces.

Take one of your bags of dough out of the refrigerator, and preheat the oven to 350°F. Divide the dough into two pieces. Put one of the pieces back in the refrigerator while you work with the other half. If you have a cookie sheet with no sides, you can roll your dough out directly on it. If your cookie sheets have edges on them, turn them over and roll out the dough on the back. You can also roll out the dough on a piece of parchment paper, and use the paper to transfer the dough to your baking sheet.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle that's about 1/4-inch thick. Roll your dough as evenly as possible, covering as much of the baking sheet as possible. Cut out two side walls, and put windows and a door in one of them. Pull the cutout piece up off the baking sheet carefully and collect all the scraps. You can use them to roll out more pieces or people later.

Take the reserved piece of dough out of the refrigerator and roll it out. Cut two roof panels into that piece. Take the reserved scraps of dough and roll out, cutting two end panels from it. You can cut a window into these if you want. Use any remaining dough to cut out people and trees to decorate your scene. If you have a cookie cutter for a snowman or sleigh, those would work too. Bake the gingerbread pieces at 350°F for 15-18 minutes, until the edges just begin to brown. Remove them from the oven and place the pan on a cooling rack. After 10 minutes, run a spatula under the pieces to free them up from the baking sheets. Allow the pieces to finish cooling on the cookie sheets completely.

Assemble the house

First, take a serrated knife and trim the edges of the walls, so any bumpy parts are squared off. This will allow for better contact between the surfaces that are going to be joined together. Next, pipe a generous line of icing along the bottom of one of the side walls. Place it on your board, and use a prop to hold it upright.

Pipe another wide band of icing along the bottom inside edge of the wall to reinforce it. Repeat this process with one of the end walls, making sure to put some icing on the vertical edge where the walls meet. Check to make sure the two walls are at right angles before the icing starts to set.

Decorate with frosting.



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