December 18, 2011

Hänsel & Gretel Huus or how to make a gingerbread house

"Happiness is the smell of Gingerbread baking in the oven"

My father was American, my mother is British, I have travelled half way across the globe, I speak different languages and married my Italian Amore but at heart I'll always be Swiss. At home we trick&treat at Halloween, we celebrate Thanksgiving, Samichlaus leaves goodies by the chimney on December 6th, we have Christmas crackers along with struffoli for Christmas and the Befana accompanies Los Reyes Magos at Epiphany. That's why when Advent comes along I will religiously reserve a weekend to bake Wiehnachtsguetzli (Swiss Christmas biscuits) with my children.
This year we went the whole nine yards. We skipped the Zimtsternli, Brunsli, Chräbeli and Mailänderli and decided to make a Hänsel & Gretel Huus (Gingerbreadhouse) from scratch.

Here is the result:

Following is the recipe:

Gingerbread dough
You will need 4 portions of dough. Prepare 2 portions at a time. One half will serve as base. The other half should be enough for all cut-outs.

Ingredients for 1 portion:
300g flour
1 tbl spoon mixed spices (Lenkuchengewürz)
5 tbl spoon white sugar
150gr of honey (melted and cooled) or molasses
2 tea spoon of ammonium carbonate (Triebsalz) or baking soda
3/4 dl cold milk
milk for brushing

Place flour in a bowl, add spice mixture, sugar and honey. Disolve ammonium carbonate in the cold milk, pour into flour/sugar mix and knead quickly to obtain a soft dough. It should not stick to your fingers. Covered the dough and let stand, preferably over night.

- the gingerbread rises better if the dough has rested for the night
- you can even prepare dough several days in advance, in order for dough not to dry out put it in a plastic bag without tightening it or just slide the bowl directly into the bag
- remove dough from refrigerator half an hour before rolling and knead quickly

- roll out dough on a floured surface until it is 0,5cm thick
- cut the gingerbread very carefully according to drawing and place on parchment paper.
- double check dimensions are correct after having placed pieces on tray. The more precise you cut and bake, the easier it is to assemble.
- brush with milk

Cooking time:
10 to 15 minutes 180°C in pre-heated oven

Icing Sugar
120gr powder sugar
1 fresh egg white

beat, fill into a pastry bag and use as “glue” and for decoration. The thicker the mixture the better it sticks. Patience is needed when holding pieces together.

Roll out about half of dough as base. On top of base place walls and stick together with icing mixture. Hold on to walls until they stick together. A loose rubber band could do the trick as well. (Cut off elastic band carefully before you add the roof). Then stick the two roof bits on top of walls. Hold it until dry. This is the very important! Remember, you’ll be sticking lots of sweets on the roof. It needs to be solidly stuck to the walls. Cut the base of chimney in order to fit the roof. When dry stick some cotton wool in it for smoke.  Stick on door, shutters and decorate to your hearts delight.

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