Okay, when I said that December was gingerbread month for me, I wasn't exaggerating. At all. This past week was extremely gingerbread heavy for us, and there are plenty more recipes that I want to try... time permitting.
This past week saw a lot of this:
That would be little miss measuring ingredients for gingerbread cookie dough.
And we also did a lot of this:
That would be little miss giving her rolling pin a very good workout.
You see, we had two big gingerbread projects this week.
The first was for little miss's ballet class, where they had a holiday celebration and cookie exchange.
As soon as little miss heard that there would be a holiday cookie exchange, she immediately requested gingerbread. And who was I to disagree? I have a go-to gingerbread cookie recipe, and I am almost embarrassed to admit that it is the recipe from the first bottle of molasses I bought... but it has worked and gotten more rave reviews than any other gingerbread cookie recipe I have tried, so now it is my standard.
I wanted to try to think of a way to make these cookies special both for the holiday and for a group of four-year-old ballerinas, so here's what we came up with. Gingerbread girls. Dressed in tutus. Shiny, pink, sugary tutus. Little miss helped with the rolling and cutting, I piped the tutus, and little miss handled the sugar. I am no artist, but even I think these came out pretty cute. And the girls at ballet seemed to like them, too, so we were pretty pleased.
Our second gingerbread project this week was to prepare our second annual gingerbread house. I chose the Pixie House pattern from this site, as little miss has quite a thing for pixies and fairies these days, and we set to work. We actually use a different recipe for our gingerbread house than we do for our cookies. The recipe that we use for cookies includes baking powder, and bakes up beautiful and a bit puffy, and has a nice soft texture. Fantastic for a cookie, but not exactly what I would call construction-grade. For our house, I use this recipe, as it is specifically given in reference to building a house. I made a half batch this year, as I knew that this house would be a bit smaller than the one we made last year, and it actually worked out to be exactly the amount of dough we needed for our pattern.
A gingerbread house is a multi-day process, which is sometimes a little tough for an impatient preschooler, but little miss was actually really good about it. Day one involved making the dough and baking the pieces.
Day two is construction day, involving lots of royal icing, several soup cans, a lot of patience and quite a bit of mess (well, for us, anyway). Little miss's favorite part is positioning the cans to hold up the walls while they dry. My favorite part is when I see that it doesn't collapse as the royal icing sets.
Day three, though, is the favorite for everyone - decorating day. The decorating process begin with little miss repeatedly going through every single piece of candy that we have in the house and choosing which would be appropriate decorations for our gingerbread house. This process is actually repeated many times, until the final decorating day arrives. Once the candy is chosen and actually pulled aside, I try to let little miss handle as much of the decorating work as possible, including piping out the royal icing and choosing candy placement. Every once in a while I have to make a suggestion or two, based on candy weight (as in: "umm... I don't think that heavy candy will stay up on a vertical wall, no matter how much icing you put on it..."), but otherwise, little miss has total creative license.
The final result is a whimsical, fun house which will never win a prize in any kind of contest, but shows the true spirit of the baker and designer - that we are learning and trying and having fun with it. One day I will get better at making these, but for now, I am proud of our little house. As is little miss, who, as it so happens, took the final picture posted here. I think I have a budding food-blogger on my hands!