This years gingerbread house is a 21" tall confection that I've named "Winter Wonderland". After showing my dad different pics from Pinterest of house styles that I liked he put together an amazing template that created this over the top gingerbread house.
This year I used a different gingerbread recipe and it is fantastic for making gingerbread houses. Shapes stay nice and sharp and it bakes up really hard and dry. We also ended up "gluing" the house together using two methods: sugar glue for the initial hold followed by a generous coating of royal icing to seal everything together.
I found the sugar glue and gingerbread recipes on this great website of a fellow gingerbread house maker. His site is filled with all kinds of useful info and recipes for making spectacular gingerbread houses! Check it out here.
The windows of the house are made with crushed Werthers Butterscotch Candies. The awnings and the base for the wreath are made from rolled gumpaste. Everything else is made of gingerbread and royal icing and various candies and dragrees. The house is finished off with a dusting of powdered sugar "snow" and a sprinkling of glitter.
I love baking but during the holidays it can quickly become overwhelming. Over the years I've come up with a simple game plan that helps me space out the work of Christmas cookies and makes holiday baking enjoyable again! Here are my steps for easier holiday baking:
1.) Pick Two or Three Cookie Recipes That You Want To Make. Get all the ingredients together so that you will be ready to make dough. Nothing is worse than getting in the middle of a recipe and discovering out that you are out of eggs! I find that it's just as easy to double or triple most cookie dough recipes and since I'm going to have everything dirty, might as well make a whole bunch!
Make And Scoop Cookie Dough For Freezing.
2.) Pick A Day For Making Dough. I find it easiest to set aside one day to just make all my different cookie doughs. Most electric mixers can easily handle a double batch of dough, but beyond that and you risk breaking the mixer. After all each batch of dough is made, scoop out each cookie portion and place on a cookie sheet in the freezer until hard to the touch.
Place semi-frozen dough balls into labled zip-lock baggies to go in freezer.
Transfer the semi-frozen dough balls to zip-lock baggies with the name of the cookie written on the outside of the bag. I like to use sheets of waxed paper to separate layers of dough balls. Place all sealed zip-lock bags into the freezer. If you are making some cut-out cookies just cut out the shapes, freeze until hard and transfer to a zip-lock baggies to store in the freezer.
Baked gingerbread men.
3.) Pick A Second Day Dedicated To Baking. Preheat your oven to the desired temperature and bake your frozen cookie dough straight from the freezer– no thawing needed! You may need to bake your frozen cookie dough a few minutes longer than called for in the recipe, just make sure to check them just before they are supposed to be done. Set all your baked cookies aside to cool completely before storing or bagging for gift-giving.
Decorating gingerbread men.
4.) Pick A Third Day to Decorate Cut-Out Cookies. If you've baked some cut-out cookies and are planning on decorating them with icing, make sure to have all your decorating tools, icing and piping bags ready to use. Start decorating your cut-out cookies in an assembly line fashion (outline all the cookies, go back and fill in the sections, etc.) and the process will go much faster. Make sure to let decorated cookies dry overnight before storing or bagging for gift-giving.
Making cinnamon roll dough to freeze.
5.) Make & Freeze Cinnamon Rolls Dough! Cinnamon rolls are so terrific for Christmas morning (or any morning!), hot, spicy and sweet and if you make and freeze the dough ahead of time they are a breeze to bake! Up to a month in advance, make and roll the cinnamon rolls dough into logs, wrap in plastic wrap, foil and place in a zip-lock baggies in the freezer.
Cinnamon roll logs, semi-frozen wrapped in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, placed in labled ziplock baggies to go in freezer.
When you want to bake the rolls, take the frozen log of dough out of the freezer the night before baking and cut into rounds. Place rounds in baking dish, cover with plastic wrap and let thaw in fridge overnight. In the morning, transfer dish with rolls to the kitchen counter while you preheat the oven. Remove plastic wrap and bake, will probably take 5-10 minutes longer than original bake time. Make the icing while your rolls bake. Enjoy fresh, hot cinnamon rolls!
Freshly baked cinnamon rolls made from frozen dough! Easy and delicious!
To start the beginning of the busy holiday season i've made this delicious and easy Cranberry, Orange & Pecan Coffee Cake. This recipe makes two cakes perfect for hostess gifts and Christmas party dessert tables, as well as an easy breakfast treat served with fresh coffee. The combination of the tart cranberry with the bright orange citrus is refreshing and not overly sweet while the chopped toasted pecans add the perfect nutty flavor and crisp crunch. The cake is topped with a steusel-style topping and drizzled with a simple powdered sugar glaze. These two cakes are a great way to kick off the holiday season of baking and giving. Here is how you can make your own.
You can find the entire recipe here. Grease two 9x5 inch loaf pans with Pam For Baking then line each pan with enough parchment paper to create an overhang on each side of the pans. Spray the parchment with Pam For Baking and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cake: Toast the pecans in the oven for approximately 10 minutes or until browned and fragrant. Coarsely chop toasted nuts and set aside to cool before incorporating into batter. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add in chunks of the room temperature butter and work into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, fresh orange juice, orange zest and vanilla extract. I added 1 teaspoon of orange extract for a little more flavor. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until well incorporated. Use a silicon spatula to fold in the chopped cranberries and chopped nuts. (Hint: I mixed 1 Tablespoon of flour with the chopped cranberries before adding to the batter. This helps keep the cranberries from sinking to the bottom of the cake while baking.) Divide the batter evenly between the pans.
Topping: Combine all topping ingredients in a small bowl and rub the chilled butter into the dry ingredients until crumbly. Divide the topping evenly between both pans. I topped each of the loaves with a little pearl sugar for decoration. Bake cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, this should be 50-65 minutes. If the tops are getting too dark, tent with aluminum foil and continue baking. Allow cakes to cool in pans for 15 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. When cakes are completely cool, drizzle with glaze.
Glaze: Whisk together 1 cup of powdered sugar with 1 Tablespoon milk. Drizzle glaze over cooled cakes. Allow glaze to set up for 15 minutes before cutting.