There is no denying that I am a proud Harry Potter nerd. Honestly, Ten years or more of my life has been spent being involved in that story whether through the books or the movies so I thought I would make a tribute to the best building in the whole series: The Weasley Family home or more formally “The Burrows”. I love it because it has an amazing DIY feel to it. Much like myself, they are on a close budget, they have to make do with things that are not perfect or they make it work somehow. Mrs. Weasley makes her family home knit sweaters for Christmas and they reuse books and clothing, just like me! In my mind that house is kept together with magic, duct tape and love.
I am not an excellent cook, but I do like to bake. This gingerbread house, which I actually made a year ago, is the first gingerbread house I have made as an adult. I remember making them as a child with my mother and adding a lot of white icing and gumdrops and loads of sugary bits. However my gingerbread house is not about the candy it's about the gingerbread. Lots and lots of tasty Gingerbread.This house stands at just about 2'-9" tall and used 4 double batches of gingerbread to create. I also changed the spice equation on my grandmother's recipe to be heavy on the cinnamon, light on the ginger, with a little added nutmeg and no cloves.
As I mentioned above, I did make this gingerbread house a year ago, and not knowing I would be entering it into this contest or onto instructables, I did not take the kind of photo documentation that the folks here at instructables are accustomed to. I put my thinking cap on and decided to use my other skills to attempt to make up for that. I did an approximation of my template for this gingerbread house on AutoCAD and to help demonstrate the steps I painted some watercolour renderings. It's a bit of an artistic instructable! Why not!?
This baking endeavour took me 40 hours, a fair bit of money and ingredients as well as a small piece of my sanity! I do a lot of crafting, embroidery and craft swaps and this was not in my regular arsenal of skills so it was a major challenge for me. If want to see what I usually spend my time doing - you are most welcome to peruse my blog at your discretion.
This is what you will need to accomplish this:
To make the model:
To make all of the gingerbread:
There are 4 double batches to make this which is a massive amount of ingredients. This list is the final tally of what you will need. I will give you a more specific per batch recipe once you get to that step.
To make the royal icing:
Again this cumulative for the whole house
To decorate and shape the gingerbread before and after baking:
I have a background in theatre, so I am familiar with making models. I decided to make a model of the gingerbread house out of foam core. Using reference images of the House, the first thing I did was draw out on a large sheet of paper my estimated size of the house, my initial sketch had the finished house at about 5 feet, which was insane and not going to happen, so I just about halved the size and drew it at the height of 2’9” tall. I then used that sketch to figure out the size of my foam core pieces.
As I said before I made some templates, a facsimile of what I originally did. These are my approximated pieces. I did this on AutoCAD this week to show people how made this, so if you use this as a template to make your own, please double check and make your own foam core pieces because I haven’t put these drawings specifically together before, and I am positive there are things that are not perfect. (Pay attention especially to the angles on the roofs) The scale is about 3/16" = 1'-0", when this is printed on 8-1/2 by 11 paper.
I put together the foam core pieces with tape, checking to see that they all fit well together. Starting at the bottom I worked my way up to the top until I had the all of the pieces made and looking like the original reference.
I then labelled each piece, took the model apart and used each individual piece for my gingerbread template.
I used a little hand mixer for some of this, but sometimes it got too much for that! So most of the time I just ended up doing it with my hands, and boy were they sore by the time I was done!
Mix together the butter until it’s creamy smooth. Put the sugar into that and mix until it gets kind of fluffy and light. Mix in your eggs one at a time, then add Molasses and
Mix the dry ingredients in a separate large bowl– Flour, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and Salt. Little bits at a time, add in the dry mixture to the wet, till you get a nice dough. Wrap that puppy up, and put it in the refrigerator for 1 – 2 hours. Use this time to reflect or perhaps get inspiration and watch a Harry Potter Film.
Sprinkle a bit of flour on to your dough rolling surface, find two pieces of anything that can be your thickness gauge on your gingerbread. ( I used some leftover foam core) Stick them on either side of your roller, so that you don’t get any thinner than that thickness with your roller, a nice even surface pays off in the end. Split your dough up and start rolling it out. Use the foam core pieces from the model to create your gingerbread shapes. I used a very sharp paring knife to do all of my cutting and it worked out really well.
This is also where I added in some detail on the gingerbread, I took the template off, then I added in wooden slats on to the surface of the gingerbread, I used a dull butter knife to add grooves into the gingerbread which would give it a bit more detail once it’s baked.
Bake that until it’s pretty stiff, I put mine in for about 18 minutes. Once you take them out of the oven, take the template that you made the shape from and double check that they are the same. Before the Gingerbread cools is a great time to chop off any weird bits that have happened from baking. Once it hardens it’s very difficult to change the shape. Do not lift up off of the tray until cools as this may end in catastrophe.! Occasionally I would use the parchment paper as a sliding surface and take the pieces off of the tray and slide the parchment onto another surface. This I would do with extreme caution. I let them cool over night especially the larger pieces because I wanted them to be really hard and stiff. If you don’t want to wait that long just absolutely make sure they have cooled completely.
The two huge pieces ( top sides) I baked for another 10 minutes on a lower temperature.
I know there is a bit of a debate over making royal icing with raw eggs or not with eggs. But when you are talking about a 3 foot tall gingerbread house you need it to stick together. What a lot of websites recommend when working with raw eggs is to make sure that you use properly refrigerated, clean, grade A or AA eggs with intact shells and to avoid contact between all of the bits, so the yolk, egg whites and the shell. It tasted great and no salmonella when we made it, however do note that it is a risk.
To make the royal icing: whip confectioners sugar and egg whites together until you get a nice even consistency. Here is my trick in order to hide my icing. I tint it the same colour as the gingerbread. I add a brown food colouring to my icing, so that it looks very similar and doesn’t stand out. My technique is also helpful for hiding the icing, I try to put it on as clean as possible, so the mess and the bulk of the icing is on the inside of the piece I am working on.
Using a large portion of the foamcore I made an organic earthy shape in which I covered in tin foil and taped down to the underside of the shape.
Now we start to build!
The "bottom" pieces which are the foundation for the whole thing are the first pieces to go on.
I then put a load of icing on the bottom edge of the “bottom” section of the house and propped it up with canned items sticking the "bottom" to the base. I put together the four walls and placed a bead of icing down the back of the seam between the two walls. Once I had my four base walls setting up I left those for a day to TRULY harden. This I feel was crucial. The bottom section was the foundation for another 2 feet of gingerbread, so it had to be solid.
In the mean time while the bottom section was drying I started to put together my “top” section. The Top side pieces were so big that they needed reinforced icing and gingerbread braces on the back of them. I essentially put this part together like a box and let it dry unattached to the rest of the house.
After the bottom section was dry, I added on the side window extension, I then “Stuccoed” the entire bottom section and the base with icing that had been tinted a light brown. Once that dried I then started to put together the “bottom” roof section.
As this is still part of the foundation I wanted this on really well so I put a gingerbread piece ( let's call it a tab) on the inside of the bottom of the roof section so that when it was on an angle it wouldn’t slide down the wall. It also helps to keep the roof level or square(ish). I let this dry completely. Then I put icing all along the top of the "bottom" section wall and placed my two side roof pieces on. Having the tabs there held them in place. Then I put icing at the top connecting the two roof pieces.
Then I added a couple gingerbread bracing pieces on the inside of my roof. ( Those are the three tabs on each side in the picture) so that when I put the front and back roof pieces on they had more surface to adhere to and they wouldn't just push inside the house.
I then coated all the seams with copious amounts of icing and let that dry overnight before I put the "top" section on.
Once both the bottom and top sections were dry and the first roof was on, I prepared to put "top" and "bottom" together. If you can see from the picture, there are cinnamon sticks holding up the front end of the house. The cinnamon sticks go through a hole in the front roof section so that they are touching the base. I wanted to be extra careful in weight distribution as I was very worried the whole thing would fall apart. As it turns out, once I had glued the top section to the bottom section there was so much surface area covered that the weight wasn't an issue at all, barely any weight actually sat on the cinnamon sticks, it just all somehow magically worked out! Which is great because after spending the amount of time I had to get to that point, I was very worried the whole thing would collapse. Lucky for me, It faired amazingly!
While the top and bottom section were setting, I put together all of the window and roof extensions which protruded from the house. I made each one of these, seperate from the house, allowing them to set before I attached them. I didn't put the roof sections of the window extenstions on until I put the windows on to the house. Once these were set, I attached them and put on their roofs.