A Darwin Escapes Sweet Holiday Treat
So it’s getting towards that time of the year again and at Darwin Escapes we can barely contain our Christmas cheer. So I figured what better way to celebrate my favourite time of the year by enjoying a Gingerbread House with a bit of a Darwin Escapes twist.
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
I figured that the traditional Gingerbread House concept could use a bit of modernisation in the form of a Gingerbread Lodge, to this end I would have to choose a luxury lodge to draw inspiration from. After a good look around (and frankly being spoilt for choice) I settled on the Casa Di Lusso which offered some lovely wide patio doors for my front feature, lots of space to ensure that my structure would be stable enough (and making sure there’s the most amount of gingerbread to eat after!) and plenty of interesting features for the icing to do its work. The Casa Di Lusso by Prestige is a perfect fit for my tasty little holiday treat, so it’s time to get to work on a template.
1. Make your template
Once you’ve chosen your design it’s time to draw up a template. Feel free to do this freehand but as I wasn’t feeling that brave I decided to make a template for my gingerbread and then cut it out. Based on the dimensions of the Casa Di Lusso I created a to scale version of the lodge which you can use for your own version here. Now that you’ve got your design sorted it’s time to assemble your ingredients.
2. Gather your ingredients
I ended up using a variation of Mary Berry’s recipe which ended up solving the eternal gingerbread dilemma: how do you make the structure strong but also end up with gingerbread that is still tasty.
I decided to follow Mary’s recipe to the letter as I’m not exactly fantastic in the kitchen, which involved using the following ingredients:
Ingredients For the Gingerbread
- 75g unsalted butter
- 300g dark muscovado sugar
- 150g golden syrup
- 900g plain flour
- 1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2 tbsp ground ginger
Ingredients For the Icing
- 3 egg whites
- 675g icing sugar, sifted
- 3 tsp lemon juice
For the size of the structure I made I found that I had quite a lot of excess gingerbread mixture, I would recommend using around ½ of the amount above. Similarly the amount of icing I ended up with was WAY too much, about ⅓ of the amount above is more than sufficient. I also found that the lemon juice didn’t really do anything for the taste and added nothing in terms of rigidity so I didn’t bother adding any.
3. Turn up the heat
It’s time to get stuck in! Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan on a gentle heat, if you’re too eager with the heat it’ll burn and taste rubbish! This can take a little while so it’s a good chance to get ahead with the next step (whilst also remembering to stir the mixture in the pan). Grab yourself a mixing bowl to sieve the flour into whilst also adding the bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger. Once this is all mixed together make a small well in the middle ready to add your liquid mixture that’s in the pan.
By now the contents of your pan should be looking quite dark and gently bubbling which means it’s time to pour the two together and when cool enough, knead to a dough, something a little like this:
4. Roll it out
It’s time to make that big mass of mixture into something we can use! Empty the contents of your mixing bowl on to a chopping board ready to knead. Using the palm of your hand to push down, try and squish the mixture together to make it’s structure a little tougher, something a little like this:
I’d recommend using some more flour here on your hands and board to make sure the mixture doesn’t stick to your rolling pin, as you now roll out the mixture to an even thickness ready to cut out the shapes for your gingerbread lodge!
Top tip: if you’re getting hungry already, try and avoid the temptation to eat any of the mixture. If you couldn’t resist, head back to 2. and gather more ingredients!
5. Cut it out and pop it in
Ready a tray for the oven by lining it with baking paper before using your stencils.
Using your stencils from earlier, cut out the shapes of your gingerbread lodge with a butter knife and delicately place the shapes on your oven tray. I’d recommend using a palette knife if you have one or a spatula if you don’t as the shape will still be quite soft at this stage.
Pop all your shapes in the oven at 200C (fan 180C) or Gas 6 for around 10 – 12 minutes and a further 5 minutes to cool after.
This waiting time gives us an opportunity to get going with the hard bit; the icing!
6. Icing time
This can get a bit tricky. Referring back to the ingredients for the icing before, we’ll start by getting our egg whites. I cracked the egg and used the shell to drain off the whites into a cup to get the tricky part out of the way first. Now use a whisk to mix the egg whites until they’re frothy. I cheated and used an electric mixer but you can get similar results from using a wooden spoon. Gradually add the icing sugar a small amount at a time until you get nice solid peeks in the icing. Don’t be tempted to add extra icing sugar if it isn’t working out quite right as you’ll end up with a clumpy mess!
Top tip: sterilize your mixing bowl and whisk for your icing with boiling water before adding any ingredients to make sure that you don’t get any impurities in the mix. This will make sure your icing ends up a nice bright white colour!
You’re now ready to add your icing to a piping bag (don’t forget a good nozzle) ready to draw your patterns! Remember not to overfill the piping bag and to squeeze out as many air bubbles as possible to make sure you get a consistent flow. This bit takes a lot of patience and quite a firm grip so don’t worry about taking a break if you need to.
7. Stick it all together
Now that you’ve finished your lovely patterns and let the icing dry and harden it’s time for the biggest test of all; sticking it all together!
If possible I’d recommend getting a friend to help with the next stage as it can get a bit fiddly.
Replace the nozzle on your piping bag with a thicker one as we’re going to use it to attach all of your walls together. Mary Berry suggests using snapped cocktail sticks to support the roof and walls but I just know with my memory I’d forget to take them out at the end and have a mouth full of cocktail sticks! I used a few small cups and mugs to hold up the walls whilst the icing dried which seemed to do the trick.
Top tip: this bit will take a while so summon as much of your patience as you can muster; it’ll be worth it in the end!
That’s it! You’ve done all the hard work now it’s time to enjoy it, we would love to see your take on our Gingerbread Lodge so send over pictures of your creations via our social media channels!