Sunday, 16 December 2012

A ginger bread monster!

This weekend is the annual village Christmas Pantomine and party. This year young Master Vander-Cave has a part in the panto. He has been attending weekly rehearsals and is looking forward to playing the part of...... The magic carpet! He is also playing a market trader but that's not his main part you understand. Gemmy and her family are coming to stay for the weekend so they can also enjoy Master V-C's public acting debut! As mother of one of the actors I felt duty bound to produce something just as theatrical and impressive as my son will be on Saturday. The only festive option I could see which would fit the bill would be a gingerbread house! Having never made a gingerbread house before, I discussed my ideas with Mr V-C, who quickly jumped on board with this project and gave his technical drawing skills an outing to design the aforementioned house. From here on in I need you to remember that men think "bigger is better". Mr V-C decreed that this house needed to be big enough for all the children to have a piece and the size will be what makes it amazing. So, yesterday morning I found myself rolling out 34cm high front and back panels for the house, only one of which would only fit on my biggest baking tray at a time. Therefore I had to cook each piece on a separate baking sheet! The rolling, cutting and cooking took all morning and there were several moments when Mr V-C's name was mud! In fact, when one of the roof panels burnt, I found myself stamping my feet and growling in exasperation! Temper tantrums by 30 something women are not becoming, and I do not advocate this behaviour generally but I did feel better afterwards!

It took both myself and Mr V-C to stick the house together with copious amounts of royal icing and some flasks for wall supports! I had several "fridge and pray"(see Great British bake off for this reference) moments during this exercise and spent the next few hours anxiously watching the walls for signs of subsidence whilst I decorated the roof. The roof took 8 bags of jelly tots to decorate and once decorated, the tricky mission of getting the roof panels in place and the icing to set was all that was left to do. As architect of the house I felt it only fair that Mr V-C should hold the panels during the most delicate stage of the operation. bless him he had to hold the panels in place for a good 10 minutes before we were confident that the roof had stuck. The finished result is not as tidy as I would like but for a first attempt it's not bad and the size definitely counts as impressive!

Lets just hope it tastes as good as it looks!

Ginger bread house
This recipe was modified from the BBC good food website recipe. I must point out that the dough is quite wet and greasy and I initially thought I had got something wrong but stick with it and it will come out fine! for their template clicke here

250g unsalted butter
200g dark muscovado sugar
7 tbsp golden syrup
600g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tsp ground ginger
4boiled sweets

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.

Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan.

Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger into a large bowl, then stir in the butter mixture to make a stiff dough. If it won't quite come together, add a tiny splash of water.

Cut out your template. Put a sheet of baking paper on your work surface and roll about one quarter of the dough to the thickness of two £1 coins.

Cut out one of the sections, then slide the gingerbread, still on its baking paper, onto a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, re-rolling the trimmings, until you have two side walls, a front and back wall and two roof panels. Cut out windows in the front wall and place boiled sweets in the holes to make stained glass windows. They melt during the baking process and set as 'glass'. Any leftover dough can be cut into Christmas trees, if you like.

Bake all the sections for 12 mins or until firm and just a little darker at the edges. Leave to cool for a few mins to firm up, then trim around the templates again to give clean, sharp edges. Leave to cool completely.

Using royal icing as 'glue', stick together the walls of your house. Use a bowl or 2 as supports for the walls. Leave to set for a few hours before adding your roof. When adding the roof you may need to hold the roof panels in place for a few minutes until no slippage occurs.  Remember to remove anything used as temporary wall supports from inside the house. Decorate in any way you fancy!

Update: When we got to the party with the house it was decided that it would be auctioned to raise money for a local charity rather than just let the children loose on it. The house raised £18 and the winning bidder (our very generous neighbour) then gave the house to the children to eat. Below is what it looked like after the children had had their fun with it!
And Finally, I must mention the brilliant actors from last nights performance. It was the best production they have ever done. Our locals clearly enjoyed themselves as much as we the audience enjoyed it. Well Done ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. I particularly enjoyed the flying carpet whizzing across the stage and Abanazar's ad-libs during the ring scene!

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