Introduction: Fractal Gingerbread House
For all the math geeks who want to celebrate the holidays in their own way, try out the Fractal Gingerbread House. There may not be infinite surface area, but why not make your inedible masterpiece an ode to a beautiful pattern instead of some dumpy looking house?
So let's get our geek on and make a gingerbread Menger sponge.
Step 1: Menger Sponge
A Menger sponge is a 3D fractal that starts with a cube. In each iteration the surface of each cube is divided into 9 sections and the middle section is pushed out.
In the next iteration, you look at the smaller subcubes of the original cube and repeat the same process.
in the picture below you can see the same process. With this gingerbread fractal we'll be making a level 2 Menger sponge and using decoration to make it look like a level 3.
Don't worry if that doesn't make sense, we'll move out of math geek territory now.
Step 2: Make Some Gingerbread Dough
Here's my totally untasty recipe for gingerbread.
7 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups solid vegetable shortening or unsalted butter
1 cup (packed) brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups molasses
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder.
Beat the shortening or butter at medium speed until it's light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and beat to blend. Beat in the eggs one by one, and then beat in the molasses. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually stir in the flour mixture.
Divide the dough in thirds, wrap in plastic and chill for 3 hours.
Adapted from this recipe.
Step 3: Roll It!
Take out a chunk of gingerbread dough and roll it between two pieces of plastic wrap or wax paper. Roll it so it's 1/4 of an inch thick.
Step 4: Transfer and Cover
Transfer the dough onto a piece of parchment paper and put a piece of plastic wrap on top of it.
Step 5: Use the Template
Drop the template onto the plastic wrap and use it as a guide to cut out the pieces. The small squares here were going to be used as a guide for the last step, but that never happened. For this you need to cut out the edges, the 8 medium squares, and the large square.
Also cut out 24 squares the same size as the large square in the middle of the template.
Cook these for 20-25 minutes at 350F. Let cool on a wire rack.
Step 6: Start With a Small Cube
On your work surface, assemble a 4-sided box with the square pieces.
Step 7: Start the First Side
Set up one side of the final shape and use another square piece to bridge it with the interior cube.
By the way, this is all being done with a glue gun. It's cheating, but I was never going to eat it anyway.
Step 8: Finish the Four Sides
Repeat this process until you have all four sides up.
Step 9: Make a Tunnel
On one of the sides, use three more square pieces to finish one tunnel "entrance" into the cube.
Repeat for the three other sides.
Step 10: Going Up
Use four more square pieces to go up to where the top will be.
Check the height. You will probably have to make some cuts on the square to get everything to fit.
Step 11: Success!
OK, sort of a success. Gingerbread being what it is, these aren't the most precise squares and the edges have a bit of a gap, but it's there.
Step 12: Add Frosting
The frosting recipe is easy.
- Take 2 egg whites.
- Keep adding powdered sugar and whisking it until it resembles caulk
- Be happy knowing you'll never be eating this
Add it and decorate it the way you want and ta-dah! Enjoy the holiday spirit and revel in your inner geekiness at the same time.
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