Sunday, 13 December 2015

Small gingerbread houses with vegan royal icing (aquafaba)

Christmas is a time of giving.  It is not just about gifts for family and friends.  This Christmas I have also given time, cash donations, baking, singing, and, not least of all, gingerbread houses for fundraising raffles at a community run organisation.  It was only two years ago that I made my first gingerbread house.  So it is with pride and amazement that I tell you that this Christmas I have made four small gingerbread houses.

A few people have said it must have taken time.  I have blithely replied that it has taken a few years off my life.  Yet I don't want to live forever and am happy to donate those years for the satisfaction of having made the gingerbread houses.  After all, giving them away is probably good for my health when you look at the sweet stuff for the houses.  (Actually not all of the above sweetness went to the gingerbread houses.)

I only made three gingerbread houses for the raffle prizes.  The fourth gingerbread house was for us.  So the first three were made while Sylvia was either at school or asleep and I could focus.  By the time I had made the first three I had learnt a lot.  Which meant making the fourth should have been easy.  However decorating with Sylvia required patience and compromise.

I decided to make the gingerbread I made for the previous gingerbread house.  I know it held together and it tasted really good too.  I wanted a few small gingerbread houses rather than just one big one.  I found a template at BBC Good Food.

Four small houses was more work than one but more learning too.  In the above photo you can see the sticks from trimming the risen baked gingerbread to fit the template.  I trimmed them when they had cooled just enough for me to hold the template over them without burning my hand.  I read somewhere that it is best to overbake than underbake the gingerbread, the less rise the better and not too thick because that makes it heavy to hold up.

I wonder if I would have made these gingerbread houses if not for the wonder of aquafaba.  I had considered making a vegan royal icing for my last gingerbread house bit it was too challenging.  Now that I have had a few goes at beating aquafaba and sugar, I was more confident to try it this way.

I tried just substituting aquafaba for eggwhites and it was too runny (see top left picture above) so I added more icing sugar and some cream of tartar and it was stiff enough (see top right photo).  It was brilliant for decorating the houses with fine lines and dots.  (I still had a sore hard from all the icing.)  It was great for gluing the houses together.  And it hardened up as royal icing should so that it keeps a long time.

However when I tried to pipe snowy edges around the roof it drooped in a way that I am not sure the egg white royal icing did.  I wondered if it made a difference that I did the roof trimmings after keeping the royal icing in the fridge overnight and piped the decorations when the icing was fresh.  More experiments are required.  (As if I make gingerbread houses every day!)

I had the same worries that I had last time about the houses collapsing.  Yet they were pretty good, particularly as they were quite small.  The only problem was one wall had a crack in it.  I did a little bit of structural engineering with a candy cane glued behind it on the inside and it seemed to hold together.  I was pleased to find small silver cake boards in a $2 shop that cost me $1 each.

I used a medium nozzle in piping the joins between the walls and rooves.  This how-to-assemble-a-gingerbread-house video was useful in getting my head around how to put everything together.  I found that the rooves in the template a bit too small and were better when I added a bit of length in the fourth house.

I had decided to use candy canes along the joins of the walls and the top of the roof.  In my last house the liquorice I used where the walls met was not straight and the marshmallow on top was pretty horrid tasting.

I found myself in the supermarket chatting to staff about how to break candy canes and whether it was simple or needed a particular technique.  We decided Professor Google would know.  But after searching online, I found it was usually just a matter of chopping firmly with a good knife.  Occasionally they shattered but usually were a clean break.

Also above you will notice that I used the chopping board to wipe all those little bits of icing that get everywhere when piping.

Before decorating the houses, I looked around and scribbled ideas and then just did it.  It was a bit of trial and error.  I really liked the little love heart decorations on the roof.  I piped round tiles on the roof and stuck the hearts where the joins where.  I think I would try doing a more ordered front path with green lining the outside and red inside next time.  Sylvia added footprints to the snow.

And then they were done.  It took me three days.  Wednesday I made the dough before tea while Sylvia played with a friend and baked the pieces in the evening.  Thursday I piped decoration during the day and put together the walls in the evening with help from E.  Friday morning I put on the rooves and Friday night I made more royal icing (this time was more icing sugar all added at once - it was too thick and had to be thinned out) to coat the yard around the house with snow.

On Saturday morning I photographed the houses, wrapped them in cellophane and took them in for the raffle.  And then on Sunday we started making a gingerbread house all over again, as I had promised Sylvia.  This time we took it a bit slower.

I really love including Sylvia in baking but gingerbread houses require a lot of patience and precision that kids don't have.  Firstly I agreed to let her have a go at piping icing on the gingerbread.  She managed to pipe with such gusto that the piping nozzle flew out of the piping bag and splodged icing everywhere.  Which meant more icing on the rooves than I had planned.

We both had a go at drawing plans and arranging lollies on the gingerbread to develop a design.  It didn't quite work as planned.  I agreed to try lining the rooves with m and m's.  Sylvia was keen to do it but then thought it fine to threw a handful of lollies higgledy piggledy. 

So I managed to get some good piping done around and above the door but the piping on the back was pretty random.  Sylvia did the design for the short walls.  I was happy enough with my piping decorations but it was much harder with a 6 year old about.  Honestly, it took long enough without a 6 year old above.

One of the differences with the last house was that I made two batches of gingerbread for the first three houses with barely a scrap of dough over.  I used another batch for the fourth house with enough to make gingerbread men and snowman/  It amused me that I piped outlines around them and yet Sylvia had one with the icing facing the house.  I suggested the wee man turn around but Sylvia said he was looking at the house.  What can you do in the face of 6 year old logic!

So this is the gingerbread house we have at home.  I am planning on taking it down to my parents' house for Christmas. Sylvia is already impatient to eat it.  I am enjoying a little time to admire it.

I am sending this gingerbread house to Lucy and Lauren for Fabulous Foodie Fridays, to Karen (and Janie) for Tea Time Treats, and to Mandy (and Kirsty) for Cook Blog Share.

For more Christmas recipes at Green Gourmet Giraffe check out my Christmas menu ideas and my Christmas gift ideas.

Small Gingerbread Houses

Two batches of this gingerbread dough to make 3 houses (ie the same amount that the recipe uses to make one house.)  Make houses as per instructions but use below measurements for small houses and the vegan royal icing for an egg free icing.  If you want a completely vegan gingerbread house there are lots of vegan gingerbread recipes such as the ones at Vegan Dad or Two Green Peas.

Templates 
from BBC Good Food or use these measurements:
  • Side wall: 10cm wide x 5 cm high
  • End walls: a 10cm wide x 5cm high rectangle with a 9cm high pitch for the roof (ie the wall is 14cm high in total)
  • Roof pieces: 11cm high x 12cm wide

Vegan royal icing
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe and Geeky Cakes

3/4 cup aquafaba (I used the water off 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas)
1 tbsp cream of tartar
1100g icing sugar

Beat aquafaba until quite frothy.  Gradually beat in sugar and cream of tartar until you have a stiff mixture that holds its shape but can be stirred.  Keep covered with clingfilm while not using and keeps in the fridge in airtight container overnight but I think it might lose a little of its firmness.

NOTES: I tried making another batch of royal icing with 4 tbsp aquafaba, 1 tsp cream of tartar and 400g icing sugar.  It was too stiff and not good for my cheap beaters.  It probably would have worked better if I hadn't dumped all the sugar on the aquafaba at once but it was so stiff it was like modelling clay.

On the Stereo:
Dr. Demento Presents the Greatest Novelty Records of All Time, Volume VI: Christmas

36 comments:

  1. they are beautiful!!! Extremely well done, I am so impatient with such things because in my mind I have a beautiful image but the reality is really hideous as I am terrible (and impatient) with the piping bag!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Faye - I think I have the disconnect between what I think I will make and what I produce - I think I am getting better with piping and the royal icing actually is one of the easier icings to pipe!

      Delete
  2. Your Gingerbread Houses are absolutely darling, Johanna!!! Such patience, you really do amaze me most times!!!

    Thank you so much for sharing, Johanna...

    P.S. I received a tweet about a vegan cheese lady who sells nut cheese in London. For some reason, I immediately thought of you, lol...Here's the link to the article if you get a chance to check it out. (I know you're busy:)

    http://theholbornmag.com/2015/12/12/to-casheese-or-not-to-casheese/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Louise - this did take a bit of patience but well worth it - and the casheese looks interesting - would snap up a jar if I was in London

      Delete
  3. These are absolutely stunning! I only tried to make one once and it was a disaster (well, it fell apart but tasted great nonetheless...) Thanks for linking up with #CookBlogShare this week x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Mandy - I worry about them falling apart - in fact I was talking to one of the families who won the raffle today and had to stop myself checking if the gingerbread house was still standing :-) Our little house is coping with the heat so far

      Delete
  4. How fantastic. These are amongst the best gingerbread houses I've seen and it's hard to believe you only have 2 years of experience behind you! You may have inspired me to make this year the year I join in with gingerbread house creations - I never have before.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Kari - it is very satisfying and makes for a great showstopper!

      Delete
  5. They look amazing Johanna. Well done with the aqua faba experiment. Looks like it worked fantastically. I am very impressed (as always)!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Kate - I was pretty impressed with the aquafaba experiment - it seemed to have some limitations but some further experimenting might fix that

      Delete
  6. Wow - those are completely amazing Johanna. They are gorgeous cakes. It must have taken such a lot of time to do this. And I love that you donated most of them =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Kimmy - it did take a lot of time but I would do it all over again

      Delete
  7. You've done an amazing job, they look stunning! I love that you both had fun putting one together too, I know my boys would LOVE to do this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lauren - Sylvia just loved helping out even though her attention span is a little less than mine

      Delete
  8. This is SO pretty! I made a gingerbread house a few years ago with my little nephews and it didnt look anything like this lol!! I'm sure their decorating skill are up to this now - we'll have to try your recipe this year. Thanks for linking up to our Fabulous Foodie Fridays party xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lucy - I am sure your nephews would love another bash at it (yes pun in intended). A lot of this is beyond sylvia but she enjoyed being able to make choices and do some decorating

      Delete
  9. Oh wow these look amazing! I am always in awe of people who have the time and patience to create such delicious gingerbread houses. Keep an eye out as I am planning to add this to my weekly #CookBlogShare round up! Thank you for sharing with #CookBlogShare x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Kirsty - lovely to see how nicely you presented the photo in your round up - I spent years being in awe of others and finally did it and found I could - so I encourage you to try it and you might find you can (btw I still feel intimidated by seeing what others come up with in their gingerbread houses)

      Delete
  10. These are so cute Johanna! Love how you kept it to a red and green theme. I'm always tempted to throw in every colour! :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Lorraine - it was an effort to keep to the red and green and I thought sylvia was going to splash out into a rainbow of colours but we didn't

      Delete
  11. These are adorable. You should make gingerbread houses for every season - you're good at it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Maureen - once a year is enough :-) but I do love some of the other seasonal gingerbread houses I see during the year so never say never

      Delete
  12. Oh well done Johanna. These look adorable. I am so impressed. I've never even tried making a gingerbread house as I'm always fingers and thumbs with anything fiddly. I do love them though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Choclette - I am not a bit one for lots of fiddly work but it is worth it here

      Delete
  13. These look amazing! Good on you! I am yet to do anything christmas related, I feel like I've been so snowed under lately! I hope to get onto some festive goodies like this over the next week. Your piping bag looks really solid - what is it made of?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Caeli - Christmas sneaks up quickly doesn't it! We are now well and truly into it though I have fruit mince and just hope will get the weather to bake more mince tarts! The piping bag is made of silicone and is brilliant - I think it has made piping easier even if sylvia is able to push hard enough to send the nozzle shooting out :-)

      Delete
  14. Edible gingerbread houses? ... I thought the gingerbread had to be too hard to eat if the house wasn't going to fall down. I saw a full-size gingerbread house this weekend -- around 2 people could enter it. The aroma that it gave off was impressive! But I think your small and precise ones are more appealing!

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Mae - the last gingerbread house I made tasted great - but getting the balance between edible and stable always makes me a bit nervous. I'd love to see the giant gingerbread house - wouldn't it be fun to live in one though I think mine would have lots of holes and let the draughts in

      Delete
  15. Wow I love your gingerbread house! It's so pretty particularly with the co-ordinated colours! I also love that you used aquafaba - it's amazing stuff isn't it!
    Pinning
    Angela x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Angela - the aquafaba continues to mystify me as it just doesn't make sense but it works!

      Delete
  16. I am just catching up on my blog reading but this is truly spectacular, Johanna. I can imagine it would be difficult by yourself and even worse with Sylvia. I still think you both did an excellent job!

    ReplyDelete
  17. WOW! These are JUST adorable and SO pretty! THANKS very much for entering them into Tea Time Treats! Karen xxxx

    ReplyDelete
  18. They are so pretty, the Peachicks have asked to make them next year (think i'd better find some patience before then!!!) Have just discovered aquafaba for meringues- although so far the experimenting has not worked all that well!

    ReplyDelete
  19. خدمات شركة بسمة الرياض من افضل الخدمات المميزة التى تعطى الى جميع عملاءنا الكرام وتحقق مصلحتهم اولا فاذا كنت فى اى مكان فى الرياض وتعانى من تنظيف منزلك فاعلم جيدا ان شركة تنظيف منازل بالرياض هى افضل الشركات المميزة المتقدمه فى الاسواق والتى تساعد فى القيام باعمال التنظيف للمنازل فوق اى اعتار فلا داعى للقلق من شان التنظيف الان شركة تنظيف منازل تقدم افضل الكوادر البشرية المميزة التى تساعد فى انجاز مهام التنظيف بالاضافة الى التدريب المستمر حول القيام بالتنظيف من الداخل والخارج والحصول على افضل النتائج المميزة بالاضافة الى اننا نقوم باعمال التنظيف من الالف الى الياء على حسب رغبع واحتياج عملاءنا الكران فاذا ارد ان تشعر بكل ما تتمناه من التميز فعليك ان تتصل وتتواصل معنا على الفور فى القيام باعمال التنظيف للمنازل .
    لا تكتفى شركة نظافة منازل بالرياض بتقديم خدمة واحدة فقط فى اعمال التنظيف بل تقوم بالبحث داما عن كل ما هو متميز من اجل ان يتم انجاز مهام التنظيف الان فنعتمد على افضل الاجهزة المخصصه فى اعمال الجلى والتى تساعد فى القيام باعمال الجلى على افضل ما يرام وازاله الشقوق والفواصل والعيوب واى شىء غير مالوف وجوده فى الارضيات بالاضافة الى اننا نقوم بتنظيف المفروشات فى اقل وقت ممكن بالاعتماد على افضل الاجهزة التى تعمل بالبخار ومن اجل ان يتم تحقيق افضل النتائج المميزة بالاضافة الى اننا نعتمد على الاجهزة التى تعمل من خلال افضل الطرق المميزة فى تنظيف بالخارج فاذا اراد ان تقوم بكل ما تتمناه فى التنظيف فتاكد ان المعدات المميزه التى تساعد فى القيام بكل ما تتمناه هى الافضل من حيث التميز.
    اسعار شركة تنظيف المنازل بالرياض مميزه وفى مقابل جميع طبقات المجتمع بالاضافة الى ان الشركة تعتمد على عدد من الخدمات المميزة المتواجده فى الاسواق والتى تتم على حسب رغبه واحتياج عملاءنا الكرام وهناك عدد من الخدمات التى لابد من القيام بيها وهى التلميع والتعطير بجانب التنظيف لكى يتم الشعور بالتميز فاذا اراد ان تقوم بكل ما تتمناه فعليك ان تتصل وتتواصل معنا على الفور .

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for dropping by. I love hearing from you. Please share your thoughts and questions. Annoyingly the spammers are bombarding me so I have turned on the pesky captcha code (refresh to find an easy one if you don't like the first one)