Over the years, we’ve tried our best to convince our numbers whizz and cake creator extraordinaire Lucy that the Great British Bake Off is her calling, but for now, she’s determined to keep her creations on the down low. Luckily for you, we managed to catch her at the weekend as she made a special gingerbread house for the London studio team. Sit back, take notes from Lucy herself and send us some snaps of your finished house if you take on the challenge! Take it away, Lucy…
“I’ve always baked, though I’ve not made a gingerbread house in about a hundred years…! My dad and mum both worked (read all about Lucy’s mum’s adventures with Doctor Who here!) so my nan would look after me. She used to sit me on the worktops and we used to make fairy cakes and all sorts of things.
I was looking for a good gingerbread recipe and aptly enough, found the perfect one on one of our favourite blogs, Domestic Sluttery! Take a peek to find all the measurements and ingredients you’ll need.
First things first: sift your flour, ginger, cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. We’ll be adding more delicious things to basic mixture, so tuck it safely on the side whilst we head to the stove.
It’s syrup time! Heat up a tablespoon in a pint glass of boiling water as it helps the sticky syrup slide off more easily. Sadly, this does mean I no longer have an excuse to eat a whole spoonful of syrup…
Heat the syrup in a pan with your caster sugar, room temperature butter and muscovado sugar. It’s best that the pan is on a low heat, or you’ll scorch everything inside and trash your pan! Beware, it looks delicious but don’t be tempted to stick your finger in. Nothing burns like molten sugar… Just be patient and soon it will end up lovely and smooth like this:
Pour the wet ingredients into the flour, stir together and then roll your sleeves up: it's time to get kneading!
When you end up with a firm dough, cover it in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for about an hour. Whilst that's sitting, let's get started on the royal icing (Mary Berry's recipe is very good!)
Icing done - let's move onto the gingerbread. Flour up your kitchen surface so the dough doesn't get stuck and grab your rolling pin. Yes, I'm using a wine bottle...! If you can't find or don't have a rolling pin, it's a really easy way to roll out your dough.
When it's around 3mm thick, it's time to get your cookie cutters out!
You can find lots of gingerbread house templates on the internet - or you can even draw your own!
When you've cut your chosen shapes, lay them out on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and pop them in the fridge for fifteen minutes.
Grab yourself a cuppa (we played with some very retro crimping tongs) and have a sit down whilst the gingerbread is chilling. I wore the Fairy Light Reindeer Brooch from our Autumn Winter 2008 collection to really get into the spirit of Christmas.
After fifteen minutes, it's time to get the gingerbread in the oven. Cook the pieces for around 15-20 minutes at 180°C until they're golden brown, then cool them on a wire rack.
Ready to get cracking? Start by piping a little royal icing on the tray or board you'll be displaying your house on to help keep your gingerbread in place. Pipe along the sides of your first piece and place it on the tray. When you're satisfied that it's standing fairly firmly, repeat the steps with your remaining pieces of the house:
You might find that you need a little more support for your roof (it's a bit heavy!) so use props from your kitchen cupboard. We found that golden syrup tins worked perfectly...
No gingerbread house would be complete without a fairy tale roof. I used chocolate buttons for roof tiles - just dab a little royal icing on each one and layer in rows upon each roof piece.
Et voila! I added a door and two windows using the method above, too. You can use edible glitter or icing sugar for a pretty snowfall effect - just sprinkle it or sift it over the roof!
You can keep the gingerbread house as long as you like. It’ll get a bit soft, but the high sugar content means it won’t go mouldy, though remember that there is raw egg in the icing. You could keep it in an airtight container to make it last longer – but where’s the fun in hiding it away?
Ta-da! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas – and good luck trying out the bake for yourselves!”