*Singsong voice* happy Christmas!!! Finally, after listening to hundreds of carols, posing under countless Christmas trees and one ginormous parade later, it’s literally the most wonderful time of the year, today. It’s kind of hilarious that even as we’ve escaped the Australian Christmas heat, I spent the whole day in short sleeves up here in our Northern Hemisphere home, quietly mixing, kneading, building, cursing.
Most of my excitement for Christmas, to be honest, is rooted in my annual tradition of constructing a gingerbread house, which was started not long after I discovered baking. Initially I used a recipe using only honey and cinnamon, which was fine for my taste back then; but over the years it’s matured to involve molasses, fresh ginger and other spices. It’s a wonderful recipe, if I say so myself, as it doesn’t spread much and is every bit as flavourful, spicy and Christmassy as real gingerbread houses are supposed to be.
In true Asian spirit, my family doesn’t celebrate or care much about Christmas at all, not one bit affected by the hype of the holiday season, not even in the non-Christian way. I’m determined to change that through my gingerbready affairs, but in the meantime, Christmas for me would just be remembering the true meaning of this special day.
I wish I’d scanned the template I’d drawn to make the TARDIS before I chucked it because it was getting increasingly greasy, so that I could give more detailed instructions should anyone wish to replicate my
masterpiece of an engineering breakthrough timey-wimey-looks-kinda-rough-but-took-four-hours edible time machine. As a bit of a sorry guide, the height of each of the large rectangular walls was about 20cm, built on top of a slightly larger square, which is of the same size as the roof. I then put a fence 1cm inward of the outer edge of the roof, and built the pyramid on top. (I looked at this for reference) As you can tell, I screwed up the light bit, which I wanted to fix a blue light inside but the framework kept collapsing. I suppose it’s not a real TARDIS unless it’s blue, but I avoid food colouring when I can, so decided against it. I got really lucky and used up all of the dough with no leftovers at all, plus-minus the scrap bits I kept stuffing unconsciously in my mouth.
File under Add To About Page: I’m sort of a casual Whovian, if the TARDIS wasn’t obvious enough 😉 By casual I mean I’ve watched all of the new stuff, eagerly awaiting the newer stuff, but for fun and never to participate in heated discussions about why such and such companions suck or to nitpick about plotholes (it’s sci-fi, of course it’s going to have plotholes). Both my siblings have, since my induction into the world of Doctor Who, become even more obsessed than I *loses self in self congratulation*.
I mentioned that we’d be going for a trip to Taipei, and we’ve just come back from a packed but relaxed little tour of the inner city surroundings. My memory of the past 3 days consists mainly of rides atop trains, buses and the metro; public transport is so developed there compared to Tainan that we were often a short bus ride away from anywhere from night markets to exhibition grounds to Taipei 101. Speaking of night markets, I could write a whole series on the food we had there, which was sort of extraordinary in their quantity as well as quality. My sister and I’s plan for the day would often be breakfast -> stroll to the street market -> brunch -> exhibit -> street food -> lunch -> bread-tasting -> some other attraction -> more food -> dinner -> night market.
Anyway, I’ll just post the recipe and shut up now. I hope you’ve had/are having a most wonderful Christmas, much more full of gifts and roasted turkey and wine and singing than mine!
Gingerbread house/TARDIS (makes one 23cm tall)
For the gingerbread biscuit:
112g unsalted butter
50g brown sugar
dash of vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp grated/ground ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp black pepper
For the royal icing/snow:
1 egg white
250g icing sugar
drop of vanilla or other flavouring
To mix the cookie dough, first sift the brown sugar if it has lumps, and rub it together with the spices until well dispersed. Beat together softened butter, brown sugar, molasses and honey until well creamed and lightened in colour. Mix in the egg and vanilla until glossy (or if it curdles it’s ok). Add the sifted flour and salt and mix on low speed until the dough comes together. Wrap the dough and chill for at least 20 minutes to firm up.
Working with 1/5 of the entire dough at a time, with the rest in the fridge, flour the work surface, the dough and the rolling pin. Roll out to 3-4mm thick, transfer to a lined baking sheet. Straighten up the dough, referring to the template if needed. Chill for a further 20 minutes, preheat the oven 10 minutes before they’re done chilling, and bake at 170°C/338°F for approx. 15 minutes or until the edges are slightly browned. We want them on the slightly crispier side so they’re sturdier to build with. After about 10 minutes of cooling in the tray, transfer to a cooling rack.
To make the royal icing, simply beat the egg white until frothy, then add the sifted icing sugar in stages, and the flavouring until it reaches a pipeable consistency. If too stiff, sprinkle in a tiny bit of water; if too loose, add more sifted icing sugar.
Since I’m no expert at the building part, I won’t give you detailed instructions, but it helps to have supports such as mugs while the icing is still runny. Tell you a secret, three of my walls collapsed on me when I was building mine, thankfully/unfortunately one of them broke in half. I just glued the halves back with royal icing, let it dry and proceeded to pretend the crack was part of the design – ‘a crevice in the vortex of the universe created by the Gallifreyan time winds’ and such.