A house-building adventure

Tasting

HOUSE BUILDERS  Louis and Penny Cabot with the very tasty looking gingerbread house that they made. Pic: Redmond Cabot

Gingerbread houses are great fun to make and decorate together

Food
The Cabots

God willing, we will all have time to rest and give thanks to our world and all in it this festive season. Making time to cook together and share together is all the more important now, as it becomes less and less the automatic, default position.
Children bring people together, but that’s not to say us cranky adults can or should not also cook together! Memories are formed from planning an exciting event, executing it, and assessing it, good and bad....
Penny and Louis became interested in building a gingerbread house after seeing picture of one. So today, I’m sharing their version. It may be only one or two families who try this recipe, but wouldn’t it be an adventure to be one of those?! Or use our house-building adventure as motivation to get the kids around the table, cutting, rolling, mixing….

Gingerbread fun house
One can make this as complicated or as simple as one likes. We obviously took the simple root.
Basically, you are rolling out gingerbread mix into panels and baking them, and then assembling a house with these panels and icing sugar holding the walls and roof together. The glamorous decoration begins afterwards, with chocolate flakes, chocolate fingers, chocolate rolls, smarties and other sweets all combing to decorate a delicious Alpine shed!

What you need
The construction stage can be overseen by adults; for the decoration stage, definitely let the creative artists loose.

Gingerbread mix

  • 600g plain flour
  • 250g butter
  • 200g dark sugar
  • 7 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 tsp ground ginger.

House decoration

  • 200g flaked almonds
  • 2 egg whites
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 125g mini chocolate fingers
  • 1 mini chocolate roll
  • 1 packet each Smarties, fruit pastilles

What you do
Walls and roof
In a large bowl, sieve and mix the flour, ground ginger and bicarbonate of soda. Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup gently in a separate pan. Pour this liquid into the flour mix, starting in a well or hole in the centre and slowly mixing it all together to make a stiff dough (always add a small splash of water if it’s way too dry).
Cut out the templates of your house walls and roof using greaseproof paper (you can find tons of these online, just search ‘ginger bread house template’ and pick whichever one you fancy).
Roll out the dough to the thickness of two stacked €1.00 coins. Use the templates to cut your required sections – you will have to reassemble the dough and re-roll several times to get all panels required. Any leftover dough can be used to make small Christmas trees or any shapes to eat or hang on Christmas tree.
As each panel is made, slide it onto a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper. On the roof panels, use the best flaked almonds to create a tile effect.
Bake for about 12 minutes in a pre-heated oven 180°c or until slight browning takes place.
We over-cooked ours, waiting for too much browning, they kept cooking afterwards and the panels were a bit dry and hard. Twelve minutes should do you.
Remove from oven and allow to dry. Any minor alterations can be made while the dough is still soft, but not once its hardened.

Construction phase
Mix the eggs whites and sieved icing sugar with a wooden spoon, and when well mixed spoon into a piping bag. Simply pipe lines of icing along the wall edges. Once you have figured how all the panels fits together, stick them together (multiple hands helpful) and see how it all sits. Apply your sloping roof panels with an over-hang (these required supports from us while they dried). Allow to harden and dry – maybe 30 minutes, maybe outside (away from animals!).

Decoration phase
When the house is solid and secure, apply icing to the chocolate fingers and lay them horizontally on the side walls and vertically for doorways. Smarties, fruit pastilles and other treats are applied as required! The icing can be used to create dripping icicles. Cut a chocolate mini roll at an angle and attach it to the roof for chimney.
Dust the lot with icing sugar for final effect.
The edible gingerbread house will be good for about one week. Have a smashing time! Enjoy the memories.

— Redmond

The Cabot family live and work in Lanmore, outside Westport. Fresh, seasonal foods are their passion, from country markets to growing, making and selling. They love cooking and eating at the kitchen table, while Redmond and Sandra are kept on their toes with children Penny and Louis. Here they share their favourite recipes.