Here's our first stab at making a gingerbread church in the fall of 2008. A proof of concept, you might say. We were testing out structure and trying to find a way to do stained glass windows. Here we are creating the base. The stained glass windows in the picture below are from crushed hard candies.
The stained glass window attempts here were colored sugar. We tried to blow-torch them with a mini creme brulee torch, but the sugar started to burn... kind of like in a creme brulee, come to think of it!
We wanted to see if we could do a basic tower that our gingerbread base's roof could support. Lots of frosting to hold it together.
And it worked! More or less. Really not too bad for a first attempt.
You might have noticed that the cookie didn't look much like gingerbread. I was trying out a pale gingerbread recipe that used corn syrup instead of molasses. It created one of the stiffest doughs I've ever had to work with. The book I got it from said, "No worries. The dough is tough to work with."
I believed the recipe. No reason not to? It took me over an hour just to roll out the dough to make these shapes... not including baking or cutting the shapes themselves. It was unbelievably hard. No chilling-the-dough-to-make-it-stiffer necessary on this recipe! My arms were a little tired from all the rolling, and when at last I had all the shapes I needed, I just managed to bunch the remainder of the dough into a "ball" and wrapped it in saran wrap. Phew! Gingerbread has no eggs in it, and I wasn't exactly going to chill it and make it more difficult to work with. It was winter after all, and our apartment was nice and drafty. So I left the wrapped dough ball on the counter to be used again in a day or two.
The next day James stumbled across it as we were testing out another recipe "What is this?" he said waving it around, "It's as hard as a rock."
"Gingerbread dough," I said, rubbing one of my sore upper arms, "I'm trying out a new recipe. It's supposed to be hard."
"Hard? I bet I could hammer a nail into the wall with this!"
"Don't be silly. No you couldn't."
With only a raise of an eyebrow and a small smile, he went into the other room, dug through his tool box until he found a nail and a calendar that we'd been meaning to hang up for awhile.
And then he proceeded to bang the nail straight into the wall with the ball of cookie dough right in front of me with no trouble at all!
I stood there, dumfounded. And you know what? There wasn't a single dent in the dough where it had hammered the nail into the wall.
"You made that church out of this?"
I nodded, a bewildered smile stretching across my face.
"And rolled out all those pieces with this dough?"
"Seems so! No wonder my arms hurt!" We both began to laugh.
Goes to say, we've gotten better at gingerbread since then. Not to mention, got a new recipe. But you'll have to wait for another post to see some of the later gingerbread creations!