Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Gingerbread Birdhouse

Once upon a time there was a sparrow. The sparrow was flying through the forest, trying to outrace the snowstorm that was following it South. Sparrows normally flew South for the winter, but this Sparrow had missed the train, it had been injured and now tailed behind, fighting against the cold.

As it dropped beneath the forest's trees, snow began to fall around it. Worried, scared, the sparrow flew faster. It didn't see the human house up ahead, too concerned with the snow falling around it.


The Sparrow flew into a window of the house, not aware of it's difference. Suddenly, a young woman appeared at the window, her eyebrows knit in worry as she looked on the fluttering sparrow. In an act of mercy, she gathered it into her hands and nursed the Sparrow back to life.

But she couldn't keep the bird outdoors. She knew it was a free creature, and needed to be outside. The bird, luckily, hadn't been badly injured in it's hurry, only dazed. But knowing the snow storm outside, the woman went about baking a tiny gingerbread house for the bird, filling the kitchen with the aroma of spice and Christmas.

When the snow stopped she put the gingerbread house in the window sill, cracked just enough to allow the sparrow access to it from the outside world. Of course, the sparrow eventually recovered and left, flying North again to join it's kindred when the frost melted. Yet, as soon as the first snow begins to fall, the woman bakes a gingerbread birdhouse for the sparrow, in case it decides to stop on it's way South.

-- I love Winter. I love telling stories infront of the fire, and making Gingerbread houses and decorating a tree and lighting candles. I like giving gifts and all the food that Winter means. I love the Holidays! It's so much fun.

Over the weekend Jeff and I took it upon ourselves to make another gingerbread house. Last year we made a Gingerbread Townhouse which I don't know if we took pictures of it. I certainly hadn't really been doing a food blog at that point. This year we wanted something smaller, something super cute, and suddenly it came to me. A gingerbread birdhouse! After scouring the internet, we found a design we generally liked. Google Images, and, well, Google itself can mainly be credited for this entire gingerbread house. Though, of course, we did all the work in making it and translating picture and wood to ginger and bread.

(Jeff creaming the Gingerbread, because I forgot my electric hand mixer)

First we made the gingerbread. It took a lot of beating, and I added a little extra ginger. Last year when I made gingerbread I didn't have molasses -- this year, I brought mine from Savannah back to LA with me. I think it may have been starting to turn, but I'm not sure, I haven't had much experience with molasses. None the less, it was used and the gingerbread looked much much more like gingerbread than last year. While I was mixing stuff, Jeff started designing the templates, which we then cut out together while it chilled. After going to a party and letting the dough chill for like... 5 hours, we returned and rolled it out and cut out the pieces, then baked them.

We then painted them with edible paint and baked them again.

I made the royal icing while we rolled out the first batch to cut out. As you can imagine, beating the egg whites was terrible (without a hand mixer), but between the two of us we got it down. I also ran out of powdered sugar, and so it was thinner than last year's icing... but it made it way, way more manigable and it dried so much prettier. We had to hold the pieces together longer, but I think it's a welcome sacrifice.

Then came the decorating!

(Some of the Edible Paint and Drippy Drippy Icing)

Mostly it's the snow, with some hot tamales, snow caps, and big sugar crystals. Overall, an amazing Gingerbread adventure with happy happy results and a huuuuge post to go with it. Hurray! I ued these sites to get recipes for the Edible Paint, Gingerbread House, and Royal Icing.

- http://ecochildsplay.com/2008/12/06/how-to-make-a-gingerbread-house-recipe-instructions/
- http://www.elise.com/recipes/archives/004212how_to_make_a_gingerbread_house.php
- http://www.brownielocks.com/cookiepainting.html

Gingerbread House

3 cups flour
3 cups bread flour (I ran out of flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
5 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups dark bown sugar, packed
1 cup molasses
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium sized mixing bowl whisk together all the dry ingredients.
In a large mixing bowl, begin creaming the butter with the dark brown sugar. Cream until fluffy and well combined. Beat in the molasses, eggs, and vanilla extract. Beat until well combined and smooth. Add in half the flour mixture, mixing completely. Switch to either your hands or a rubber spatula and mix in the rest of the flour mixture, folding and mixing until completely combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
Once chilled, seperate the dough into halves and roll out to 1/4" thick on parchment paper. Cut out pieces (or men or cookie shapes), including windows and/or doors, and bake for 10-15 minutes, checking at about 8 minutes for smaller pieces.

Allow to cool completely before assembling.

Royal Icing

3 egg whites
about 3/4 a box of confectioners sugar (is what I used this time)

Beat the egg whites until foamy and slowly add the confectioners sugar, beating all the while until creamy and slightly stiff. Stick in the fridge, and cover with a damp paper towel to keep moist. To use, pour into a pastry bag and squeeeeeze.

Edible Paint

1 egg yolk for each color
1/8 tsp water per egg yolk
food colouring for each color (we used blue, green, and red)

In a seperate container for each colour combine the egg yolk, water, and amount of food colouring to generate the colour desired. More food colouring will making brighter/darker colours, less will make ligher colours.

Depending on if we can recover the template from the trash or not, I might post it up on here. If so, check back here for a link to the birdhouse template.


Anonymous said...

This is adorable. You did a wonderful job! Merry Christmas :)

gaga said...

How cute! It looks great. Happy holidays!