It hasn’t been a good day in the kitchen here at Hotly Spiced Headquarters.
I wasn’t going to make a gingerbread house this year; mostly because the December 25 deadline is hurtling towards me at a frightening pace and in the last few weeks I’ve been incredibly busy and I know from experience that gingerbread houses are enormously time-consuming and when you’re well behind and haven’t actually started your Christmas shopping you start to think of things you can omit from the schedule as a means of making up time.
But when Arabella asked me if I was going to make a gingerbread house, Alfie overheard and ran into the room saying, ‘You are, aren’t you mum? You are going to make a gingerbread house, aren’t you?’ And I looked at his little face and there was such an expression of hope and expectation mixed with alarm at the very notion that there may not be one this year.
So on Friday I bought the ingredients with Alfie picking out the sweets he wanted stashed inside of it and yesterday I made the gingerbread, rested it in the fridge while I cut out the paper patterns, then rolled out the gingerbread, cut out the shapes, baked them then rested them on a wire rack while I headed off to Christmas drinks then Carols by Candlelight.
Today Carl took the boys to the Blue Mountains. I had the house to myself and while I knew I should have been commencing my Christmas shopping, I instead made a batch of royal icing and began assembling the gingerbread house thinking it would be a lovely surprise for when Alfie returned.
It has been a very hot day and quite humid and I noticed the gingerbread wasn’t as hard as it normally is, especially one of the roof pieces. I wondered if I should re-bake the roof piece to see if it would harden but instead thought it would be okay if I reinforced the underside with some criss-crossed skewers secured with royal icing.
So the process began and the day got hotter and hotter and there was a warm wet wind blowing through the house and the royal icing was taking longer than usual to harden. But I finished the little house complete with windows and a chimney and a front door and a little path up to the front door and Christmas trees in the front yard. I was preparing it for a photo shoot but thought I’d first take a photo on my i-phone, then have a shower before shooting it to show you.
I came out of the shower and this is what I saw.
That roof piece had imploded taking the rest of the house down like a deck of cards.
I’ve been making these for many years and I’ve never ever had this happen to me. And it’s the same recipe. A few years ago I started assembling the house and had to abandon it halfway through because of an emergency dash to hospital. I wasn’t back for two days (Alfie had ripped his toenail off and fractured his toe requiring surgery which got in the way a bit). Walked in through the door, picked up the icing bag and carried on like I’d never been missing.
As for today, I’d love to blame the humidity and the heat and while I believe they did contribute to today’s disaster, I think I undercooked the roof piece so it didn’t harden properly. It was too soft for the weight of that chimney.
So…there’s no gingerbread house this year but the pieces, well, not one for display at least but if anyone would like some, it does taste pretty good.
And for the recipe and a look at how this gingerbread house should look, please have a look at last year’s effort.