You can be the most well-prepared person ever, but when December hits, so does the chaos.
It seems that everything gets scheduled for those first 2 weeks of the month on purpose, to prevent you from catching up and swanning into the holiday season like you own it. The obligations come at you thick and heavy, and so do the treats!
We’re stretched thin, not able to work out as often as we want, and of course the diet goes out the window. My little helper this month is going to be an all natural pre-workout fat burner, a metabolism booster that gives me an energy boost so that my workouts are more efficient, and as an added bonus, since I’m not used to drinking coffee, my buzz keeps going even after I work out, and I get more done throughout the day.
Gluten Free Christmas Village
On the agenda this week: Gingerbread Houses. All the cool kids are doing it, so my little bird wants to put up and decorate his own version. We chose a cute cookie cutter that makes one small house that would fit on the palm of your hand. They’re so cute, you can make a whole village (and we did!)
I also found a 3D Christmas tree cookie cutter to complete the scene.
First: The Walls
The reason gingerbread is usually used for these kinds of crafts, is because wheat flour based gingerbread cookies are very hard, so they make good building materials.
When you go gluten free, you’ll often find that the cookies turn out soft. In fact, they can be downright crumbly not to mention impossible to roll.
Luckily I found a recipe, Lila Loa’s End-Al For Chocolate Cookies, that I was able to convert to gluten free very easily buy reducing the butter to 1/2 cup, and subbing in Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flour. I used cane sugar to end up with harder walls, after my attempt with date powder ended up being an absolute disaster.
Yes the cookies are chocolate – I wanted to go for real taste. I’m not a huge fan of those hard gingerbread houses covered in tooth-breaking icing and hard candies that no-one wants to eat. These little chocolate houses and trees were designed to be eaten, they’re not just decorations. In fact they’re downright scrumptious.
Tips For Success
The reason I chose these small 3D cookie cutters, is because I didn’t want bigger GF cookie pieces to crack. Gluten free dough is a bit more crumbly than regular, and once the cookies are baked, the end result breaks more easily. So small shapes are the way to go.
Once the dough is rolled to 1/4cm, it helps to slide it onto a silicone mat on the cookie tray before using the cookie cutter. that way you can leave the pieces where they are, and simply remove the excess. Slide the pieces away from each other a little, but this roll-out dough doesn’t rise very much.
The tree shapes in particular needed to stay in place, because otherwise the slot where they fit together became warped. We lost a few trees that way, they crack if you try to force them together!
I didn’t want to use traditional icing, as I find it’s too sweet, takes too long to set, and the flavor of white icing simply doesn’t go with chocolate cookies in my opinion. So I went with actual chocolate.
Chocolate is a joy to work with. You can pipe it just like icing, and it sets really fast – especially in the fridge. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler without letting it get too hot, then put it into a piping bag or ziplock with the corner cut off.
I used milk chocolate to hold the houses together, and white chocolate to ice the trees. I added a little green tea to some of the white for more realistic looking trees.
Technique For Fiddly Little Houses
For the houses, I found it best to put together sets of 2 walls, cool completely, then put 2 sets together. Let that cool completely before adding one side of the roof, cool, then the other side. I won’t sugar coat it, the houses were a fiddly pain, they kept cracking or caving in until I started using this technique! Luckily cracks can be quickly mended with more chocolate. Is there nothing chocolate can’t do?!
For the trees, I slotted them together and then simply piped the green chocolate all over the trees and joints, followed by white chocolate for the edges. The drippiness worked well, and I used a LOT of white chocolate for each tree.
Once they were completely set, we decorated the houses with just a little white chocolate at the edges of the roof. The trees received cranberries and yellow raisins stuck on with white chocolate.
Making them Into A Cute Gift
The trees, each sporting about a ton of white chocolate along with yellow raisin and cranberry baubles, are strong enough to give away as end of year gifts for the teachers at this week’s upcoming party, so I popped each one into a clear treat bag and tied it up with a nice ribbon. They are absolutely delicious. You just can’t go wrong with a dark chocolate cookie covered in a thick layer of white chocolate. They do need to be kept in the fridge though, at least up until gift time – otherwise you could end up with grubby looking chocolate marks inside the treat bag.
The houses aren’t as strong, so they couldn’t be given away. They are now forming our entire entranceway display for the holidays, and we’ll thoroughly enjoy destroying the village, maybe while we watch Lilu and Stitch, the Godzilla scene!
Did I mention those houses were very fiddly and I may have lost my mind a little while making them? And of course the broken pieces found their way to my mouth all too often, wreaking havoc on my weight loss goals. My fat burner pill and a trip to the gym are in order as soon as I’ve published this post!