Thursday, 11 December 2014

A Gluten Free Christmas Gingerbread House


It feels like ages since I last posted. I have been so busy with trying to fit Christmas prep in around work (where I have had to make some major decisions about direction in the last couple of weeks)......... and to add to it, we have had a sick child in the house..... hacking cough, temperature, awake half the night....... her worrying about whether she will make it to all the concerts, rehearsals and productions that are synonymous with Christmas. We are nowhere near clear of the drama yet, and in the grand scheme of world problems, it is a mere scratch of an issue. Nonetheless it is my excuse for not putting finger to keyboard and getting this out earlier. I'm sorry! But..........


This is so exciting..... we have a gingerbread house in the house. Our first in four years....... And we had such fun making it.

Thanks to winning the Family Foodies Challenge back in October with our Cake Pop Spiders, we were sent a Lakeland gingerbread house cutter set. Believe me, being gluten free, this was a more than perfect surprise. Thanks Vanesther.


This time of year can be so depressing with all the lovely, glutenous, Christmassy foodie treats on the shelves that we can't eat. One of the treats that gives me a lump in my throat every year, are the beautifully inviting boxes which encase the ginger bread house sets. These usually contain perfectly crisp, firm, already cut gingerbread biscuits, plus sweets and icing to construct your own magical, colourful, Christmas Hansel and Gretel-style cottage. These are of course wheat-based (at least all the supermarket ones are) and far out of our gluten-free reach.


My daughter always loved the shared experience, fun and creativity of putting together (and of course eating) the gingerbread house......... a seasonal tradition which was cruelly ended with the diagnosis of Coeliac. It's just not fair!

I have not (until now) tried to replicate the experience with home-baked gluten free gingerbread, as I am aware that the construction of a gingerbread house needs to be sturdy and hard wearing and definitely not a property that the wolf will blow down with a huff and a puff....... My experience of GF baking suggests the likelihood of a house which looks more like it has been hit by an earthquake, resulting in crumbled Greek-style ruins......... enough to put me off any attempt of success.


Winning the cutter kit gave me the boot up the backside I needed to 'get over it' and rise to the challenge of making a gingerbread house to rival the best of the glutenous architecture on the housing market and taste as good, if not better! Why should my little girl miss out? She deserves the return of our shared Christmas fun and it is my job to make sure it happens.......

Two attempts later and I think we have done a pretty amazing job......... Our achievement is no mean feat and we are very very proud of it. This was a two to three day construction job (by my reckoning, about twice as long as the average new-build), which means a quality finish.


The biscuits are firm, with an amazing 'snap'. Despite their sturdy structure, they are in no way 'tough', but instead melt in the mouth, with a comforting, creamy texture. The flavour is gingery warm, with a nice hit of seasonal cinnamon. The smell is pungently inviting........ the addictive aroma that is so unique to the rich, dark spiced molasses sweetness that you expect from a good gingerbread bake. Every time I go in the kitchen, it hits me and makes me salivate expectantly.


Putting the house together was pretty easy, although we needed two pairs of hands to hold the bits in place until the icing had set enough to take the weight of the biscuits. We struggled with the biscuit chimney, as the sides didn't quite come together well enough, so we ditched that bit and improvised with a pretty marshmallow instead.

The spare pieces of chimney biscuit became an impromptu sleigh.......... My daughter had the genius idea of using two candy canes for the runners and left over biscuit for the seat. Once decorated, it really looked the part and I think is one of the cutest bits of the scene. Unfortunately, the only chocolate reindeer I could find were Lindt, which contains barley malt extract (glutenous), so we made do with scottie dogs...


Decorating the houses turned out to be everything we hoped for........ inventive, fun, and quality together time. Somehow, my daughter managed to find various stashes of sweets around the house (must make a mental note of where she hides them!), which were perfect for creating a fairy tale feel. A sprinkling of meringue to create a snowy experience and oodles of glittery sparkles and we have the perfect treat.... all ready for Christmas Eve....... I reckon Santa could be in for quite a surprise this year!


Job done. We can now happily stick two fingers up at all those tempting glutenous gingerbread offerings in the shops....... Who needs gluten with a house this special?

I am sharing this lovely Seasonal delight with a number of Christmassy challenges :


Family Foodies with Vanesther at Bangers & Mash and Lou at Eat Your Veg. This month they are celebrating festivities by asking for all our favourite Christmas treats. This was the ultimate family foodie fun for me and my daughter and is one of those December traditions that we have missed out on for way too long.


Tea Time Treats with Karen at Lavender & Lovage and Janie at The Hedgecombers, who have a very festive December theme of Glitter, Sprinkles, Candles & Shiny Stuff. We must have used a good half a pot of edible glitter and a ton of sprinkles and sweets on this epic creation, so I think it should qualify!


Alphabakes with Caroline Makes and Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker. This is my second offering to December's 'X' challenge..... and yes, this one contains xanthan gum too...... But it is also very Xmassy, so seems appropriate to share.....










Cook, Blog Share with Lucy at Supergolden Bakes.

Recipe of the Week with Emily at A Mummy Too.





Christmas Foodie Friday with Casa Costello and Romanian Mum who have gone very festive and are keeping the link open right through to January.


Now I know this isn't technically cake, but I am also going to push my luck by offering it to the Love Cake December challenge and hope that seasonal goodwill will be forthcoming! Ness over at Jibber Jabber has called for a multitude of December Delights to be sent over....... Our beautiful little house is a December only venture (it will be long eaten by January), so hopefully it will qualify.


And finally (another sneaky entry attempt), I am sending some little trees, gingerbread people and snowmen over to Treat Petite (with Kat at The Baking Explorer and Cakeyboi) for their Merry Christmas share. Although they are part of a bigger creation (aren't we all?), these individual biscuits are there for the picking (providing you can prise them out of the icing) and make perfect personal offerings.



Gingerbread (enough to make a house, and several figures and extras)

Ingredients 

360g unsalted butter - room temperature
200g soft light brown sugar
80g molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs - room temperature
500g gluten free plain flour mix (I used blend A from this post)
3 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
4 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon fine sea salt

Method

  1. Cream together the butter and brown sugar with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy.
  2. Add the molasses and vanilla and whisk again until fully blended.
  3. Add one egg at a time and whisk until fully combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, weigh and mix together the flour, xanthan gum, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt, making sure any lumps are completely broken down.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until evenly combined.
  6. Transfer the biscuit dough to a large piece of baking paper and use the paper to wrap the dough well (use a large piece of cling film as a second layer to hold together and seal if needed). 
  7. Refrigerate the dough for an hour or so, to allow to firm up.
  8. Line three or four baking sheets with baking paper (if you don't have this number, then just bake the biscuit pieces in two batches).
  9. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
  10. Cut about a third of the cold biscuit dough and on a well-floured surface (with a sprinkling of flour on top of the dough also), roll to a thickness of about ½ cm/¼ inch.
  11. Use your house cookie cutters to cut template pieces according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer, and place the pieces on the baking trays.
  12. Chill the cut biscuit dough pieces for 30 minutes or so in the fridge (or about 10 minutes in the freezer), before placing in the oven. 
  13. Bake for about 15 minutes, swapping the trays part-way through to ensure an even bake.
  14. Turn the oven down to 170 C/325 F/Gas 3 and continue to bake for a further 10 to 15 minutes, keeping a very close eye to ensure the biscuit does not burn. Be patient. The larger pieces take quite a while to bake and dry out enough to get a good crisp bite, but will benefit from a slow drying process in the oven. If concerned the oven is too hot, then turn down a little further and leave the biscuit in there for slightly longer.
  15. Repeat this process until all the biscuit pieces are cut and baked and when done, place on wire racks to cool completely.

Royal Icing

Ingredients

Approx 200g icing sugar (you may need a little more, dependent on the size of your egg white)
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 large egg white

To Decorate : sweets, edible glitter, writing icing, sprinkles

Method

  1. Weigh and mix together the icing sugar and cream of tartar in a bowl.
  2. Add the egg white and beat with an electric whisk until smooth, glossy and thick. The icing should be stiff enough to hold its shape very firmly. If it isn't, add a further spoon of icing sugar and beat again.
  3. Use piped icing to construct and stick together the house and character pieces and to stick on sweets and decorate as you choose.
  4. Enjoy! Merry Christmas!!
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-14 unless otherwise indicated

23 comments:

  1. Such a gorgeous house - and gluten-free too! I have to say all the fun in putting one together is having the kids decorate it and go crazy with candy and chocolate. Fabulous – thanks for linking to #CookBlogShare

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  2. AMAZING! Such a FABULOUS entry for Tea Time Treats and all of the other amazing challenges you have entered too! I LOVE this, and it just goes to show you that GF treats don't have to be boring! Karen

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    1. Thanks Karen. I'm really pleased you like it! GF is NEVER boring in our house!!!

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  3. Ooh wow! Seriously, I'm just in awe of your decorating right now!!

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    1. Thanks Steph. If me and my daughter can do it, anyone can!!!

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  4. How that looks fantastic! The perfect christmas centerpiece. Love the christmas trees, so festive.

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    1. Thanks Katie. I think it will break my heart to eat it..... But I am sure I will recover!

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  5. Amazing! I made my first gingerbread house last year and found it made me very nervous - I was relieved it stood up! Making a gluten free one would be every harder so I am impressed at the feat of doing it GF and at your gorgeous decoration - love how your daughter has stashes - I think mine does too! Best wishes for getting everything organised and for good health

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    1. Thanks Johanna. I know what you mean! The bit where you hope the walls stick together and daren't let go.... just in case, is pretty scary! Best wishes to you too. Definitely the home straight now for the big day.

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  6. Wow this is stunning Kate! All the decoration is so beautiful! Very impressed!

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  7. Ah, one step ahead again!!! I bought some cutters at the weekend and plan to make a house next week when the kids are off and we have more time! I can't wait!!! I am so inspired by your decorations. You say meringue. Is that what you placed the house on to make it 'snowy'? WOW WOW WOW! I won't be photographing ours. It won't be up to this standard...never made one before!

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    1. You'll have loads of fun Vicki..... They are easier than you think (providing the biscuit is solid enough and the icing is 'gluey' enough). Just get a huge bowl of pretty, edible stuff and let the imagination run......

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  8. I want to make this too!! It is a joy to the eyes and it must be delicious too. I see many of these sets around, some better than others and they are a great idea to entertain little ones for Christmas. Beautiful, it looks like a nativity scene!
    Sorry to hear your little one is ill. It is that time of the year unfortunately. My ones have coughs and colds. All we can do it keep them warm and topped up with nutritious and healthy food. x

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    1. Thanks Alida. We're pretty chuffed with it.
      It's definitely the time of year for coughs and colds...... seems we all have it here now!

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  9. This is simply outstanding - you have put that gingerbread set to such amazing use! Talk about impressed! And of course a perfect entry for this month's festive #FamilyFoodies too, although I'm not sure it's fair to let you win again. But saying that, it is just soooo beautiful....

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    1. Thanks Vanesther. It was fab to win it and definitely gave me the boost I needed to make it! Thank you so much!!!!

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  10. That looks brilliant, and it sounds like you and your daughter had a lot of fun! Thanks for sharing with Alphabakes.

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    1. Thanks Caroline. You're welcome! Thanks for hosting....

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  11. What a fabulous Gingerbread House and all gluten free as well! We made a chocolate one this year from a Lakeland mould. It's such a shame to have to break into it but I find they disappear very quickly once the first piece of roof tile has been broken off! Thanks for linking up.

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    1. Thanks Ness. I know what you mean..... you really have to persuade yourself to break a bit off, but once one bit has been removed, the rest comes really easily!

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  12. Wow there is so much work in this - so intricate and beautiful! More than makes up for you not having one for 4 years. Thanks so much for joining in with #FoodieFriday Hope you had an incredible time x

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