Farasha Pharis, III Year B.A. Economics.
DISCLAIMER: This recipe is not for the faint-hearted. The sugar will give you diabetes, the butter a bout of cholesterol and the sarcasm might just kill you. The author and magazine will bear no brunt of your weakness.
Gingerbread Houses are an essential part of a ‘White Christmas’. Unfortunately we live in the tropics. Your icing will melt, your house will collapse and your maid will try to open the front door and break it. It does not end well and here’s a step by step explanation of why.
Step 1: Play Christmas music to get into the holiday spirit. Let’s start strong with ‘Jingle Bell Rock’, specifically, the Mean Girls version. Dance along, if you must, but try not to. You’re not that good at dancing.
Step 2: Find a recipe and ponder over the sheer quantity this recipe requires. Here’s is an ingredients list to make your life simpler. Aren’t I a darling?
- 250g unsalted butter (does the unsalted bit really matter? It’s a marketing gimmick I tell you.)
- 200g dark muscovado sugar (musk- avocado? – Googles musk-avocado – gets DIY facemask ideas – enters muscovado sugar – Google suggests ‘muscovado sugar India’– takes relief that you’re not the only idiot – Wikipedia tells you it’s Hindi name – ponders over the overbearingness of Hindi in the country – can’t find the Tamil name so you decide that brown sugar is close enough – feel like giving up yet? I sure have)
- 7 tbsp. golden syrup
- 600g plain flour
- 2 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
- 4 tsp. ground ginger
- 200g bag flaked almonds
- 2 egg whites (why do they always make us throw the yolks away?)
- 500g icing sugar, plus extra to dust
- 125g pack mini chocolate fingers
- Generous selection sweets of your choice, choose your own colour theme (If I really knew the right choices to make in life would I be here now?)
- 1 mini chocolate roll or a dipped chocolate flake
- Few edible silver balls (Not necessary, sprinkles will do)
Step 3: Take a break to contemplate the need for a gingerbread house. Leave work that you may get graded on or paid for and choose to continue on this disastrous path, which is strikingly similar to your general decision making ability.
Step 4: Find about 60% of the actual ingredients listed and make up your own substitutes for 30%. Ignore 10% by deeming them unnecessary.
Step 5: Get to the actual cooking bit and realize this may be a bigger mistake than wanting to get a degree in philosophy but it’s too late to turn back now. Listed below is the method to make this disastrous dream a reality! Once again, aren’t I a darling?
- Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6 (take 20 minutes to figure out what type of oven you have). Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan. Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger into a large bowl, then stir in the butter mixture to make a stiff dough. If it won’t quite come together, add a tiny splash of water (define ‘splash’, is it a 200 kg man cannonballing into a pool or is it the unrealistic one that they show in face wash ads?).
- Cut out the template. Put a sheet of baking paper on your work surface and roll about one quarter of the dough to the thickness of two £1 coins (Is that a ₹5 coin for us?). Cut out one of the sections, then slide the gingerbread, still on its baking paper, onto a baking sheet (read sentence 4 times and question your understanding of English as a language). Repeat with remaining dough, re-rolling the trimmings, until you have two side walls, a front and back wall and two roof panels (even with the same template, they will never be equal, because of you incompetence. Stop crying you weakling.) Any leftover dough can be cut into Christmas trees, if you like (*Maami voice* I told you the quantity was too much, never listen, no?).
- Pick out the most intact flaked almonds and gently poke them into the roof sections, pointy-end first, to look like roof tiles (people in the west have a lot of time since outsourcing their work to us). Bake all the sections for 12 minutes or until firm and just a little darker at the edges. Leave to cool for a few minutes to firm up, then trim around the templates again to give clean, sharp edges (you over-cut it didn’t you? There is no cure for stupidity, is there?). Leave to cool completely.
- Put the egg whites in a large bowl, sift in the icing sugar, then stir to make a thick, smooth icing. Spoon the mix into a piping bag with a medium nozzle. Pipe generous snakes of icing along the wall edges, one by one, to join the walls together. Use a small bowl to support the walls from the inside, then allow to dry, ideally for a few hours (Why, oh why have I done this to myself? Nobody sane likes the taste of it either. As if I’d let anyone eat it after all this hard work).
- Once dry, remove the supports and fix the roof panels on. The angle is steep so you may need to hold these on firmly for a few minutes (Ain’t nobody got time for that) until the icing starts to dry. Dry completely, ideally overnight. To decorate, pipe a little icing along the length of 20 mini chocolate fingers and stick these lengthways onto the side walls of the house. Use three, upright, for the door.
- Using the icing, stick sweets around the door and on the front of the house. To make the icicles, start with the nozzle at a 90-degree angle to the roof and squeeze out a pea-sized blob of icing. Keeping the pressure on, pull the nozzle down and then off (What does this even mean? Was this recipe written by a five year old?) – The icing will pull away, leaving a pointy trail. Repeat all around the front of the house. Cut the chocolate mini roll or dipped Flake on an angle, then fix with icing to make a chimney (we don’t keep chimneys for Santa to climb down once a year and worry about burglars 364 days). Pipe a little icing around the top. If you’ve made gingerbread trees, decorate these now, too, topping each with a silver ball, if using. Dust the roof with icing sugar for a snowy effect (I will not use a snowy effect to show solidarity to the tropics and the southern hemisphere where it’s summer. It’s not always about you northern hemisphere). Lay a winding path of sweets, and fix gingerbread trees around and about using blobs of icing. Your gingerbread house will be edible for about a week but will last a lot longer.
*20 minutes later, it collapses before you could get a decent Instagram-able photo*
[Photo Credites: Pinterest]