Before we get to the (baked) goods, I’d like to pause a moment and send out cosmic best wishes to John Wooden. The man, the institution, turns 98 today. Indeed, any of us could call ourselves successful if in our own lifetimes we were to accomplish and contribute just a fraction of what he has. I’m wearing Boilermaker colors today in his honor (wearing Bruin colors is difficult considering my current employer—black and old gold are considerably less incendiary in my office). Happy Birthday Mr. Wooden (if you don't know what he looks like, John Woodern is the one in the picture above who isn't Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).
With the crumbs finally cleared from the baby shower, I was able to turn my full attention to Royce this weekend. My goals were to test out the gingerbread recipe, test the integrity of the pattern and come up with an appropriate color and thickness for the pieces. While I didn’t have enough time to make the entire building, I did get through the front façade and wings.
Now remember, this is a prototype. I realize it looks like a fifth grader put it together (not to offend any fifth graders out there), but I am a learns-by-doing kind of girl.
I’d never actually made gingerbread until last weekend. Luckily, I’m a pretty thorough (read, compulsive) researcher and did quite a bit of legwork up front on finding a recipe. The one I settled on was posted in an article in a Midwestern newspaper. The author has been making gingerbread structures for years and this was her tried and true recipe. It was immediately attractive to me because the recipe itself has some interesting quirks that come about only after someone has utilized a recipe for a long, long time.
I was immediately pleased with the dough. It was strong and sturdy and incredibly easy to work with. I did have to halve the recipe in order to use the standing mixer (the full recipe calls for a whopping 12 cups of flour). In all, I made three half batches utilizing different pigments and washes to experiment with the brick effects. I felt quite a bit like Half-Head-Highlight Goldilocks looking for her cookie nirvana.Here we have the front facade with the brick roller with the natural color of the gingerbread. Hmm...too bland.
Much to the disappointment of my inner super sparkle princess, sanding sugar will probably not be appropriate in this instance. Too sparkly...definitely too sparkly.
Then I tinted the dough and added an egg wash. Just right.
I also (obviously) experimented with dough thickness and windows. I found that the thinner pieces immediately warped. So, thicker it is. I'll also store the pieces flat with weights. In terms of windows, I forgot to buy hard candy to try out the stained glass effect, but was very pleased at how sturdy the pieces were even with cut-outs.
I let the pieces set over night and then it was time to fit the pieces together. I kind of cheated and bought a commercial royal icing mix. Now I've made more royal icing than I've played super sparkle princess in my lifetime but I wanted to see if there was a difference between my own powdered sugar, egg white and cream of tartar recipe and the stuff the big guys use. The answer--heck if I know. They both work. When I put the real thing together, I'm definitely going to have to tint the stuff red.
Yeah, I know, we're in trouble if there is a major catastrophe and we have to survive off our canned goods.
And then, there was structure.
I realize I have a long way to go--but man, I was just super excited that the thing went up.
Other stuff I learned:
**The t-square is my friend. This baby helped a lot with cutting and creating right angles in both the pre-and-post baking stages. I found that right out of the oven, it was easy to correct baking effects by re-cutting some of the edges using the t-square and pizza roller.
**We covered thickness. I think 1/4 is about right.
I need to figure out how to create the effect of the white brickwork. I definitely think it needs to be done post-baking and I have a couple of ideas. I also need to start thinking about the dreaded roofs--which may just blow the ceiling off of the whole project.