Monday, December 21, 2009

Remember the gingerbread Alamo!



I recently had the revelation that I’ve been on the planet for a mighty long time and not once have I made a gingerbread house. Sad, I know. So I decided to not waste any more time and embarked upon building my first-ever gingerbread structure. But not one to do things the easy way, I chose to build a structure that speaks to every Texan: yep, I built a gingerbread Alamo.

It’s been noted that the first time you try something you should take it easy, perhaps not get too ambitious until you have developed your skills. But I figured, “Hey, it’s a house made with cookies and candy. How hard can it be?” I am clearly a fool.

First, I realized there were no existing templates for a gingerbread Alamo, so I would have to create my own. Drawing the pattern was a fun challenge, however, and perhaps the highlight of the project, along with assembling my cardboard cut outs to make sure my measurements were correct.



But then the building began.

I am, perhaps, a better designer than builder. At least this is what I told myself after I baked the cookies and failed to let them cool long enough so that they fell apart. I also thought this when I ended up with royal frosting all over my clothes, face and hair. And then there was the decoration issue—can you put candy all over the Alamo without incurring the wrath of The Daughters of the Republic of Texas? There were indeed many challenges.

In the end, I was pleased with my work. If you dimmed the lights and squinted it even looked festive, if not a little rustic and slapdash. You also have to pretend that it’s the Alamo after a snowstorm, because we all know how often it snows in San Antonio. (Royal icing hides a host of imperfections but it leaves the illusion of snow in its wake.) And yes, I’m certain an eight-year-old would probably do a much better job, but at least I can finally check “gingerbread structure making” off my life list.

So I’m including my instructions and the pattern. If you have some time on your hands during the holidays and want to keep the kids occupied, this is a great way to pass a day. And since y’all are more talented then I am, if you make a gingerbread Alamo please feel free to send me a photo and I’ll post it here on the site.



But even if this project never ever gets repeated again, we can always say, “Remember the gingerbread Alamo!”

Gingerbread Alamo
First you need to make your pattern, which you’ll find at the bottom of this page at the end of the recipe. Click on each image to enlarge and then print (will need to print in landscape mode):

Once you have you pattern, cut out the shapes and trace them onto a file folder or poster board. Cut out these shapes and then trace them onto parchment paper. Cut out the parchment paper shapes and now you have your patterns. (Note, there are three 3x5 walls because I used one in the center to support the roof.) Now you need to make your gingerbread cookies.

Gingerbread Alamo cookie ingredients: (adapted from Food Network)
1 stick of butter, room temperature
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of molasses
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons of water

Method:
Cream together the butter, brown sugar and molasses. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until a smooth dough forms.
Refrigerate dough for at least half an hour before proceeding. (Can leave it overnight, but might have to let it warm up a bit before rolling it).

After dough has chilled, divide it into two balls. Roll out each ball on a sheet of parchment paper that will fit onto your cookie sheet. To make the shapes, take the parchment pattern and place it on the dough. Take its corresponding cardboard pattern and place it on top of the parchment paper. (You do this so your cardboard pattern won’t get cookie dough on it an can be used again.) Using a sharp knife, cut around the cardboard. Remove scraps and repeat. If you want to cut out windows and the door on the facade, now is the time to do this.

Please note that I didn’t draw patterns for the flag and the front-door decoration (I’m not sure of the architectural term), but I just freestyle cut out a wide, small rectangle for the flag and a thin, long rectangle for the piece that will rest on the licorice columns. Feel free to do the same!

Bake your cookies at 375 for 15 minutes and then let cool on a rack for at least eight hours.

Now it’s time to assemble! You’ll need an assortment of cadies, nuts or whatever you want to use. You’ll also need royal icing, which is the glue that will hold this structure together.

Royal Icing
Ingredients:
1 pound of confectioner’s sugar
2 egg whites (1/3 a cup)
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Method:
Beat the ingredients together until fluffy. This stuff dries fast, so keep it covered with plastic wrap when not in use.

To assemble the Alamo, take your long back wall and lay it flat. Spread icing on the end of the shorter walls, and join them at a right angle to the back wall, one on each end and one in the center. As you seal each wall to the back wall, you’ll need to hold the two pieces together for at least ten minutes (or you can prop them up with cans) until the icing dries. With the walls supported, let the icing dry for one hour.



Now take the facade and spread icing on the ends where it will meet with the sidewalls. Lightly press the facade onto the other walls (they should still be up and the facade will be facing the ceiling), hold it, and then let it dry for an hour.

After the walls and facade have dried, gently turn the Alamo right side up onto the table. Now place icing on the edges of the roof and press this on top of the back walls (not the facade). Again, hold it and then let it rest for an hour. Don’t fret if it’s not a perfect match—you can repair this later with royal icing.

Once the structure has dried, place it on piece of cardboard. Fill in all the gaping holes where the two cookies may not have been a perfect match with royal icing (hence the snowy effect). And using the icing attach any candies or other decorations you like to the Alamo.

Gingerbread Alamo pattern
To get the pattern, click on each image to enlarge and then print in landscape mode.

WALLS




ROOF




FACADE


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40 comments:

Whitney said...

LOVE IT! Especially the can of Rotel holding up the walls.

kathy/stresscake said...

Excellent! I do this every year with my god kids. I bake/build; they frost and decorate. We've made some wacky things - this year it was pyramids (check my blog link) I wouldn't worry about snow on the alamo - we had snow on our pyramids too.

Kelly @ EvilShenanigans said...

That was a wonderful idea! I went to a culinary show last December and a group from one of the hotels did a gingerbread Alamo complete with marzipan people. It was fantastic. I suppose I need to try building a gingerbread structure of some kind, but I am not good at the built show pieces. (I'm terribly clumsy!)

Queen of Quite A Lot said...

As a Texas girl now living in Louisiana I'm loving this! Davy, Sam & the others would be so proud. As as Whitney said, the Rotel can is priceless. The only other appropriate item would have been a jar of Pace. Merry Christmas and Don't Mess With Texas!

McCulloch Family said...

Awesome! The Rotel is a nice tough too :) Thanks for sharing, I love your blog. ~Jeannie

talida said...

A-ha! I've been thinking and thinking about what kind of gingerbread structure to do myself this year. Lisa to the rescue! I will indeed be using your templates, and I'll let you know the outcome. Thanks so much for posting.

Brandi said...

I Love It!!!

And I am certain at some point over the past 100+ years, the Alamo had real snow on it at some point!

We just came back from San Antonio and the Alamo is beautiful as always and has a pretty fancy Christmas tree in front! A BIG Christmas tree of course!

Brandi

Donna @ WayMoreHomemade said...

Lisa - this is great. I don't know if we'll have time to do it this year, but look out when daughter starts studying Texas history. We'll be all about it. :)

Donna

Kristin said...

lol...this is great!

Kimberly said...

I am cracking up after the "how often in snows in San Antonio," bit. Oh my gracious ;-).

But...your structure is really cute...the Texas flag was a nice touch.

lisadelrio said...

This is great! Our family makes a gingerbread house every year. Thanks to your pattern, this year we'll do the Alamo.

We started using caramelized sugar for the glue, once our son was a teenager. It never fails. But it's hot and not a good idea to use around young children. We found royal icing to be unreliable some years.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Whitney--I know! Funny thing is I hadn't even planned it that way, I just grabbed the first can that I saw.

Kathy--Love it! Especially the gingerbread camel.

Kelly--Oh, really? And see I was thinking you'd be the one to make beautiful structures. You're such a wonderful baker, I bet you can!

Queen of Quite a Lot--Don't Mess with Texas, indeed! And hurrah for Davy and Sam!

McCulloch--Thank you!

Talida--Let me know how it works out for you!

Brandi--That's very true. And I may make it there this weekend and I can't wait to see that tree!

Donna--Perfect, especially as what inspired this project was at Thanksgiving, my young cousin took great pride in telling the family everything he was learning in his 7th grade Texas history course.

Kristin--Thanks!

Kimberly--Aw, thank you!

Lisadelrio--Excellent--please let me know how it works out for y'all! And what an interesting tip about the caramelized sugar--I'll definitely try that next time.

Farmer Jen said...

Your post brought joy to my day! Thanks for that.

Amy said...

I see some homeschooling architecture in my future. The kids will be complaining about boredom in 2 days. Should give me enoygh time to round up the fixins....
I'm not going to comment the [lack of] snow here in San Antonio. It'll make me cry.

Tasty Eats At Home said...

Great job! Wish I would have thought of making the Alamo - I made a gingerbread house for the first time this year, and I don't think that many curse words have EVER come from the kitchen as when I was making that thing. Good grief. Your alamo looks wonderful. Wish I would have thought about using cans to prop my walls - duh! Then I wouldn't have been standing there holding them all day. Happy Holidays!

Latter-Day Flapper said...

You'd never made a gingerbread house before??

Two things (from somebody who has been doing this for 25 years):

1) Don't roll your dough too thin. Construction gingerbread should have a thick cakiness, a bit like a dense brownie but harder and drier. You need to have some thickness because . . .

2) Toothpicks are your friends. Use icing, but drive toothpicks through the walls at the corners of the building to help pin them together. Two toothpicks per junction is usually plenty. Just remember to take them out before you eat the thing.

and

3) Once you've picked all the candy off and the gingerbread has gone stale, crumble it, pour hot milk over it, and eat it for breakfast.

On the Border, By the Sea said...

What a delightful idea! Thanks for making me smile today! Rita / Texas xoxoxo

CattyinQueens said...

That is awesome!! Next year, you can make the pattern for the parking garage for the mall right by it! ;) Or the basement?

RiverBend Farm said...

Love, love, love your alamo!! I think if Jim Bowie or Davey Crockett had Christmas lights, they would definitely have been out there stringin' them up!
Merry Christmas,
Berte in Texas

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Farmer Jen--You're very welcome!

Amy--It's a wonderful home-school project!

Tasty Eats at Home--Waiting for the icing to dry is pretty tedious. There's always next year! I reckon it only has to get easier, right?

Latter Day Flapper--Oh, my! These are excellent tips! Will definitely use them next time I build a gingerbread house. And I love the breakfast suggestion. Yum!

On the Border, By the Sea--Happy to help!

Catty in Queens--A friend suggested I make a gingerbread Pee Wee Herman. Hmmm, maybe next time.

RiverBend Farm--That's a very good point! And Merry Christmas to you, too!

Innkeeper Seely said...

Great! I must admit I read the recipe twice to make sure the Rotels didn't end up in the batter somehow.

Have a great holiday Everyone.

Heidi's Full Plate said...

Fabulous! We're new Texans and simply must attempt this. I bet my daughter could get a few extra credit points in her 7th Grade TX History class if she showed up with a Gingerbread Alamo. FYI, made my first queso today, y'all!

Bryan said...

All I can say is "absolute madness" I can hardly get the little gingerbred house together with the kiddos. The Alamo... Looks great

the Waspy Redhead said...

How cute! I'm going to have to give this a shot sometime.

Suzy said...

I LOVE it! I am definitely going to do it for Christmas 2010. Merry Christmas y'all!

Steff Childs said...

I read this to my grandma and showed her the pics... She's okay with your candy usage. She was also pleased to see that you have Ro*Tel on hand in case of emergencies... =)

Marianna said...

Amazing! Love, love the Texas flag. I may just have to save this for when ds studies Texas History in 7th grade...Oh, it could snow in San Antonio...look at Houston a couple of weeks ago!

Cheriepicked said...

This is lovely! Nice work doll...a very good idea.

Cheers,
Cherie
http://www.cheriepicked.com

janna said...

My first winter in San Antonio -- January 1985 -- we had a big snowfall -- 13 inches, I believe - a century's worth of snow in one day. There was a great picture of the Alamo covered with snow. I'm sure it's out there on the internet somewhere!

Cynthia said...

Happy Holidays!

Jeb said...

This is awesome!

Karen said...

Could you do one next year of the Vereins Kirche in Fredericksburg? Great job!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Innkeeper Seely--Now that would make for a very interesting gingerbread if there were Ro-Tel tomatoes in it!

Heidi's Full Plate--Congrats on the queso! And yes indeed, I bet she would get some extra credit if she brought this into 7th grade Texas history!

Bryan--Oh, it was absolutely mad indeed!

The Waspy Redhead--Have fun with it!

Suzy--Awesome! Can't wait to see your results!

Steff--Whew! Good to know!

Marianna--You're right, it could snow--the weather is all sorts of topsy turvy these days.

Cheriepicked--Thank you!

Janna--Oh, my! I'll have to find that picture and see how accurate my portrayal is.

Cynthia--Happy holidays to you, too!

Jeb--Why thank you!

Karen--I don't see why not, now that I'm an old pro at making gingerbread structures!

Judy said...

What a wonderful idea to do a gingerbread Alamo. I visited the Alamo on a trip to San Antonio a few years ago.

emofly said...

Lisa I love this! What a fun idea.

Indian Takeaway said...

I think it was a bit of case of biting off more than you can chew, he he. Great idea and still looks good.

Angela said...

Great post - it's even funnier because I had the same revelation and was determined to make a 'chapel' gingerbread house...

Suffice to say - it failed miserably - but my engineer father rescued it by sawing it and attaching it better than I could have imagined...it's actually still sitting in our kitchen as I type, lol

I love the idea of a Gingerbread Alamo! I was thinking about doing a 'log cabin' but this definitely trumps that idea - thanks!

Anonymous said...

It was a great find and a tremendous help finding this recipe and "blue print" for the gingerbread alamo- My daughter and I made it for her Tx History Class. About to assemble it and she is taking it to school in the morning. Wish us luck and Thank you so much! You saved us this year!!!!

Sincerely,
crayii2@yahoo.com

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Crayii2--Hope she gets an A!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Crayii2--Hope she gets an A!

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