Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Gluten Free Gingerbread (for houses and men!)

A few weeks ago, my 11 year old mentioned that she'd never had a gingerbread man.  Around the same time, my 7 year old asked if we could make a gingerbread house - a task I'd never completed successfully.

Sure, we've bought the kits.  And failed at them.  Roofs collapsed.  Tears ensued (and the kids were bummed, too).  So, my nerves were fried as I set out to make (of all things) a gingerbread house that was gluten free!

I mean, come on.  Gluten free baking can be tricky.  Mistakes are expensive.  I couldn't even assemble graham cracker houses, what on earth made me think I was capable of gluten free, homemade, gingerbread!?  From scratch?!

My friends were pretty convinced I had lost my mind.  "Buy the kit, just let them decorate it."  "Make a gluten-free door and they can eat that part."  

cross contamination.  contact ingestion.  but... but... they can't EAT that!

So, I watched videos.  I read blogs.  I scoured pinterest. 

Then I mustered up the courage, took a deep breath, and tried it.

They came out of the oven fragile.  I slid the silpat onto a cooling rack without breathing, silently invoking all the holiest members of the holidays I could think of.  Dear Frosty... Please Rudolph... Oh, Santa... 

And guess what?

It worked!

They firmed up so beautifully.  We made royal icing.  It worked.  It all was going so smoothly.

Until I got cocky.  

I made one crucial mistake.  I didn't let the construction royal icing set up entirely.  Introducing the runnier color flow type royal icing into the equation caused a major structural issue.  Luckily one of the kids spotted our sliding roof top and we were able to salvage it.  

Note:  Typically, on my blog, I avoid all things with artificial food coloring.  Because of this, I went with Necco wafers for shingles.  Well, guess who changed their formula within the last month?  Yup.  So these ARE artificially colored - but who eats those nasty little flat antacid things anyway? :)

Without further ado...  the gingerbread!

1 1/2 cups of molasses
2 eggs
1/2 cup of Spectrum non-hydrogenated shortening
1 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
4 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt

Cinnamon or flour for dusting your rolling pin and counter top

Cream together the molasses, eggs, shortening, and brown sugar until smooth.  It took a little bit for my paddle to break down the shortening, but it's important.  The good thing is, you can see when it's worked in evenly due to the dark molasses color.

Combine the dry ingredients and add a couple cups at a time, working slowly.  This will be a SERIOUSLY thick dough.  Mix until all the white is gone and the dough is sticky and uniform.

Remove the dough from the ball, pressing out as much of the air as you can. 
Pat into a slab, wrap in saran wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour.


While that rests, print out your template.  You can use whatever you'd like.  
Note: the roof should be 2 pieces of 6 1/2 x 7 1/2 pieces.  You have to measure those. 
She didn't include that in the template. 

Preheat the oven to 350°

Dust your surface and rolling pin with cinnamon (or flour).

Roll to about 1/4" thickness.

With a board scraper (which I used) or a knife, cut out the shape of your house.

Transfer the pieces (you should have six) to a silpat (or parchment) lined sheet pan.

Bake for 25 minutes.

VERY carefully remove them from the oven, leaving them to cool on the baking sheet if possible.

Cool several hours until hard to the touch.

With the remaining dough, roll out again and cut out gingerbread men or other shapes.  This recipe yielded one Martha-sized house, 7 large gingerbread men, and 42 tiny gingerbread hearts (two of which I cut out of the peaked sides of the Martha house as a little window).


To assemble:

Make a batch of royal icing according to label directions.  
I used the Wilton meringue powder and their icing recipe enclosed in the lid.

Fill a piping gun or pastry bag with the thick icing.

Lay down a 1/2" or so of the icing on your assembly surface as your foundation.
(I wrapped a piece of cardboard in freezer paper here, but you can use a cake board, available at Walmart and craft stores).

Working slowly, assemble the four walls of your house with a thick layer of royal icing.

LET.  IT.  DRY. 

Trust me.

The roof was a little trickier, because it has to lay across the top peaks.  With a thick layer of icing on all connecting surfaces, I laid one peak on at a time, placing additional icing to the backside of the roof where possible.  Let it dry.  Did I say that?  Do it.  Seriously.

Also, royal icing dries hard, so don't leave it sitting out.  Put a wet towel over it or keep it in a container.

Once the house's structure is built, let it dry.  Again.  I know.  But do it.

We let it sit overnight.

With a thinner recipe of royal icing, you can go back in and glue your decorations.  I recommend a wilton squeeze bottle for this. I think they were $2 at Michael's 
and they have a cap so your icing doesn't dry out between sections.

Try something you've never dared before this holiday season!  You may be pleasantly surprised with the results.  And don't forget to invoke Frosty!

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