Monday, December 22, 2008

Gluten-free gingerbread house completed!

Normally my posts are fairly brief.  So, for people wanting to make their own GF Gingerbread house here are the highlights.  People interested in my saga can read the bottom part.

  • Here is the gingerbread recipe I used.
  • Here is the book where I got my design.
  • My royal icing recipe, rolled fondant recipe and pre-made gum paste were either Wilton products or recipes.
  • The shingles are made from slivered almonds and held in place by royal icing.
  • I used M&Ms as my cobblestone walkway.
  • I built the fence and anything else pink or purple out of fondant and royal icing.
  • The shrubs and tree toppers came from a store-bought pack of holiday marshmallows.
  • I used GF ice cream cones as a base for the Christmas trees.
  • The snowman is made out of gum paste, but could easily have been made from fondant. His hat is a Rollo and royal icing.
The main thing is be creative and use what you have on hand.

The gingerbread saga:

Oh, I thought, this will be fun, I'll make a gingerbread house.  I'd worked with gingerbread in my pre-gluten days.  How hard could it be?  My astute boyfriend, Cliff, pointed out that I'd had trouble with the structural integrity of rolled-out GF cookies in the past.  What would keep the gingerbread house from crumbling.  "Ha!" I scoffed "I've learned from the sugar cookies in the past.  This will be a walk in the park."

Wrong.  The first night, I worked on the dough, I realized my dream of a gingerbread picket fence was dying.  The dough was tricky to roll out and even trickier to get onto the pan.  I was rolling it out onto wax paper.  Parchment paper might have worked better, but I was out of it.  After I'd roll it out and cut out the pattern, I'd place the cookie pan over the wax paper with the gingerbread on it, slide my hand under it and flip all of it so the gingerbread landed more or less in the pan.  Smaller sections could be moved without this procedure, but once I cut out windows, the big sections were very fragile.

I gave up for the night after making a front of the house that looked more like a dilapidated version of the Alamo than a gingerbread house.  I went at it again the next night and came up with some better results.  I then cut gingerbread men from the remaining dough.  It might have been smart to make a couple of duplicate sides, roofs, etc. in case of later accidents.  But I didn't.

Realizing that my fence was not going to happen out of gingerbread, I thought of alternative materials.  It's possible to find GF pretzel sticks, but they are kind of crumbly, too.  So, I decided to make it out of fondant.  I made up a bunch of the stuff with Cliff's help, rolled it out and followed the fence-making instructions in the book.  Fondant is sort of like clay and needs time to air dry.  I made a few extra pieces in case of breakage and set it aside to dry overnight.  It takes fondant about 1-2 weeks to fully dry.  I also made the shutters and decorations for the gate and arbor.  The book suggested using gum for the shutters, but whenever I can, I like to make the food myself so I know what's in it.  Also, I cut the candy canes to size.

The next day, I started with the assembly.  I made a double batch of royal icing.  Over a week ago, a friend cut a piece of plywood to size for me and Cliff drilled holes for the candy canes to go in.  Also, I found a $5 string of lights at home depot and glued them onto the board so the house can light up. 

As per directions from the book, I piped royal icing onto the board and got ready to set up the first three walls.  I thought I had it, but somehow the two sides fell onto the board and broke into a few sections.  Trying not to panic, I got out my royal icing and went for it again.  I was able to repair the sections and salvage the house.  I got the three sides up and added the back.  I looked a the roof and realized one section had split completely in half.  I royal icinged it back together.

I added the roof and miraculously it held.  I finished the rest of it off according to the book - adding shingles made of slivered almonds row by row and making a snowman from gum paste.  The book called for a black jellybean for the top hat, but I couldn't find any GF ones so I went with a Rollo.

Two more batches of royal icing later, I'd put the snow on the ground and managed to erect the fondant fence.  It is very fragile, but looks the part.  Exhausted, last night at 10 PM one of my friends absolved me of making gum paste cobblestones and I cheated and went with M&Ms.

This morning, I plugged it in and miracle of miracles, it lit up.  It's not perfect, but as Cliff and I keep saying - that just means you can eat it and try again next year!


onlysometimesclever said...

Well, it looks great. I LOVE the gate.

Just curious if you also used my recipe suggestion of using dowels as a guide to help you roll out the dough. Also... you may have missed the bit where I suggest rolling the dough out on nonstick foil, then sliding the foil directly onto your baking pan. Doing that would have saved you so much trouble!! No dough-warping.

Still, it looks absolutely wonderful.

Jen Friedberg said...

Sigh, that's what comes from baking when you're sleep deprived - the missing the foil tip. As far as the dowels, I didn't have any on hand, but I haven't had a lot of trouble getting my dough to roll out evenly. I usually roll out my dough on a small kitchen island, so I don't think dowels would stay up there very well. I am looking into getting some of the rings to go around the end of my rolling pin, though. I have some on a smaller pin for rolling fondant and they're great.