What NOT to do to make a successful Gingerbread house

Gingerbread house -making is harder than it looks.
Gingerbread house -making is harder than it looks. Laura Weyman-Jones

I HAVE a confession: I do not own a single Christmas decoration. I actually haven't assembled or adorned a tree in my home for about a decade. Call me Mrs Grinch if you will, but I just don't buy into the whole festive season shebang.

So when a friend dared me to make a gingerbread house, at first I rolled by eyes. I was actually asking for advice in this very column: "I should try something I am really crap at or wouldn't usually do," I said, stupidly leaving the gate wide open for wildly ridiculous suggestions. "You should make a gingerbread house… everyone is crap at that," was the reply.

Due to my aforementioned Grinchyness, I have never made gingerbread, let alone a house. I also do not bake in general as I am a firm believer that the batter always tastes better and I forget about things while they are in the oven. Making the dough was easy enough; I rolled it out between sheets of baking paper and stuck it in the freezer to make it easier to cut. A few YouTube tutorials had taught me you want to bake your pieces in their shapes rather than cut them later. I folded a piece of A4 paper in half and used that as a guide for two walls and then folded it again for the next two walls and another two pieces for an apex roof.

How thick you make your cuts depends on how long you bake them. I burnt the bread a little because I was busy licking the bowl.

I smeared thick icing all over the corners and tried to place them together as gently as possible. This worked for the walls, but with my apex roof, my dreams were dashed quicker than Hansel and Gretel's appetites. Each time I tried to place the roof the entire thing would collapse. The icing was everywhere and I spent a very painful 10 minutes licking it off my fingers.

I was about ready to give up when I realised I should just compromise on design. I slapped a single slab on top of the walls, declared it a "gingerbread bunker" and promptly covered everything in icing to blend in the random chunks that had stuck to the walls during the reconstruction. It was a pathetic Playschool craft experiment.

But like any Playschool craft, I knew pathetic could be transformed into cute with decorations and by telling people my two-year-old goddaughter helped me. A few squiggly lines with cake decorating gels and some marzipan figurines from Aldi and voila! I added coconut and puffed rice to resemble snow and quickly snapped this photo before it all melted into a gooey delicious puddle.

Topics:  baking christmas weekend magazine why not try

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