Gingerbread House Recipe/ Welcoming in the New Year

Homemade gingerbread house- perfect for celebrations over Christmas and New Year.

Hi guys! I hope you all had a magical Christmas and are now eagerly looking forward to the New Year and anticipating what 2018 will bring you. I am pleased to say that a great Christmas was had by all in the Smith household; though a somewhat smaller affair than previous years, we had a wonderful time playing games, eating good food and enjoying each other’s company. Despite the obligatory workload that I must tackle before my return to university, I have been thoroughly enjoying my increase in free time, and have spent many a day in the company of Jason and my family. I will be sad to return to Lancaster in January.

Homemade gingerbread house- perfect for celebrations over Christmas and New Year.

But the holiday season is not over yet! Something that I have come to notice as I have gotten older is that I can continue to enjoy the festivities of the holidays even after Christmas Day has been and gone. Being 20 means that I can enjoy welcoming in the New Year more than I did when I was a kid, and I’m full of excitement now that Jason and I have begun our holiday search for 2018.

Make your own gingerbread house with this super tasty recipe!

So with the festive season in mind, today I bring you my homemade gingerbread house recipe. This was the third year in a row that I tackled baking my own gingerbread house from scratch. When I was younger, I used to get the kits with ready made gingerbread pieces, so that all you had to do was assemble and decorate the house. Now that I’m older and have developed more confidence in the kitchen (and my mum’s developed more confidence in my cleaning up the kitchen abilities!), I love to bake the gingerbread for the house myself.

Homemade gingerbread house- perfect for celebrations over Christmas and New Year.

It’s no small feat; making and rolling out the dough for this bad boy will take you a good few hours- let alone the hours spent icing it- but I think it’s totally worth it. I am never more proud of a bake than I am of my gingerbread houses. There’s something incredibly satisfying about not only achieving baked to perfection gingerbread, but also achieving a minor structural engineering feat while you’re at it. Plus, decorating gingerbread houses is a thoroughly enjoyable activity. I spent my Christmas Eve icing and adding all the sweets to my house, before settling down to watch a Christmas movie with the family; a suitably festive activity in my opinion.

Be the envy of your friends with this homemade gingerbread house recipe!

The original recipe that I used for this house is from the queen of British baking herself, Mary Berry (find the original recipe here!). Truth be told, this isn’t the tastiest gingerbread that I bake (at least in my opinion). If you’re looking for soft, spiced gingerbread cookies, you should check out my best gingerbread man recipe! But of course, seeing as you will be constructing a house out of your gingerbread, you need it to be a little harder than these and more structurally sound! Unlike my favourite gingerbread recipe, this recipe doesn’t contain an egg, making it a little firmer when baked. And don’t get me wrong, it still tastes really good!

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Recipe (original recipe from Mary Berry, on the BBC Good Food website):

Ingredients:

For the gingerbread: (Find the template here!)

  • 375g/13oz unsalted butter
  • 300g/10½oz dark muscovado sugar
  • 150g/5½oz golden syrup
  • 900g/2lb plain flour
  • 1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tbsp ground ginger

For the icing:

  • 3 free-range egg whites
  • 675g/1½lb icing sugar, sifted

To decorate:

  • 15 boiled sweets. I like to use a variety of colours!
  • 1 x 30cm/12in square cake board, or the back of a baking tray I as used
  • 200g/7oz giant milk chocolate buttons
  • A battery powered candle to go inside, or a small string of fairy lights

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 (fan 180C).

  2. Begin by melting your butter, sugar and syrup together in a large pan.
  3. In a bowl, sieve your flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger, and combine. Make a well in the centre, and pour in your syrup mixture.
  4. Once the mixture is cool enough to handle, knead it together to form a dough. Divide this dough into five evenly sized pieces, before cutting one of these pieces in half, so that you have six pieces in total.
  5. Roll each piece out on a sheet of greaseproof paper, until it is about 3/4cm/1/3″ thick. Using the template (linked above), cut out the pieces for the walls, roof and front and back of your house. Top tip for ensuring a well cut out house: “Use a ruler and the rim of a cup to cut out the arched windows on the front and sides of the house. Using a star cutter, cut out a star in the front and back of the house.”
  6. Roll out the left over dough so that you can cut out your chimney and two trees. Bake your gingerbread for 7-8 minutes.
  7. While this is baking, place your sweets in a plastic sandwich bag and smash them with a rolling pin until they are a rough sand texture. Alternatively, if bashing things with a rolling pin isn’t your jam, you could use a pestle and mortar for this.
  8. Remove the gingerbread from the oven. Re-trim the sides of your pieces and the windows using a knife if your gingerbread has spread a little. Sprinkle the crushed sweets into the windows, before popping the gingerbread back in the oven to bake for a further 3-4 minutes.
  9. Remove your gingerbread from the oven and leave to cool on the baking trays for a few minutes, before trimming around the templates again to give clean, sharp edges. Leave to cool completely.
  10. Now you can make your icing! Whisk your egg whites until frothy. Start to add one spoonful of icing sugar at a time as you continue to whisk. Continue until all of your icing sugar has been mixed in- it will be a very firm icing texture. If you’re not using your icing straight away, cover it with a damp towel.

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To construct your house:

  1. Spread icing onto your cake board/ baking tray that you will constructing your house on.
  2. On the back of the front piece of your house, pipe a thick line of icing along the two sides. This is where you will attach the side walls of your house. Now pipe a thick line of icing on the cake board, where you wish to position the front of your house, followed by two lines of icing where you will position the sides of your house. Place the base of the front of your house on this line of icing. Holding the front of your house in place, attach one side of the house, followed by the other. Add the back piece of your house, followed by the roof.
  3. Leave your house to dry for a minimum of four hours, but preferably over night, before decorating!
  4. Decorate your house as you wish- this is the fun part! I love to ’tile’ the roof using chocolate buttons, I think this looks great. Add sweets and ice as you wish, before dusting in icing sugar! Pop your candle or fairy light through the door of your house and watch as your windows light up!

There you have it guys! I hope you enjoyed this gingerbread house recipe- be sure to let me know how it goes if you try recreating it! Don’t feel daunted by making your own gingerbread house if you’ve never tried it before. I know it looks like it may be tricky, but this is actually pretty simple to do! 

If you’d like any help or advice in recreating your own house, please don’t hesitate to get in touch- I’d be happy to assist!

That’s all from me today folks!

Thank you to each and every one of you for all of your comments, likes and support throughout 2017. I wish you all the best for the New Year. 

Maddie x

The Best Gingerbread Men

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Hello you lovely people! How are we all today? Running around like crazy people trying to purchase the last of the Christmas presents? Same! Today has been hectic. I’m trying my best not to be too hard on myself for the fact that I’ve left everything to the last minute, but I am still cursing myself for not starting in July. Eh well, there’s always next year.

I have sooo much baking planned for this week- first up, my favourite gingerbread men! Baking gingerbread men has become somewhat of a tradition for me during the week leading up to Christmas. The first time I tried making my own gingerbread men was way back when I was in year nine at high school (so back when I was 14- that’s six years ago!). Pleasantly surprising myself with the result, several of my friend’s ended up receiving gingerbread men that year. And so it became a yearly tradition for me.

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This recipe gives the tastiest, soft spiced gingerbread men that I’ve ever had. I’ve tried a few different methods of making gingerbread over the years (I also like to make a yearly gingerbread house, which requires a slightly harder textured gingerbread), and I can safely say that this is my favourite to eat! With just the right amount of ginger and cinnamon, and a wonderful soft texture, these gingerbread men are the perfect little festive treats for all the family. Plus, they fill your home with the BEST Christmas smell.

In short, if you leave these out for Santa, you’re sure to be put on the nice list!

Fancy making your own? Find my recipe below!

Ingredients

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 3 tbs golden syrup
  • 75g dark soft brown sugar
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg

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Method:

  1. Begin by greasing two baking trays and preheating your oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas mark 4.
  2. Melt your butter, sugar and syrup in a pan, stirring continuously as you do so.
  3. Once your butter and sugar mixture has melted, combine your dry ingredients in a bowl. Make a small well in the middle and pour in the syrup mixture. Stir well.
  4. Beat your egg before adding it to the mixture. Combine well. The mixture will be incredibly sticky at this point- don’t worry! That’s what we want!
  5. Leave the mixture to rest for ten minutes.
  6. Once the mixture has rested, roll it out on a floured surface to about 1cm thick. Cut out your gingerbread men! The cookie cutter I used for my men was approx 13cmx10cm, with my stars being about 4cmx4cm. Place your cut out shapes on a baking tray and pop them in the oven. If you’re using a cookie cutter the same size as mine for your men, they will need 12-15 minutes in the oven. My smaller star and tree cookies take between 8-10 minutes to cook.
  7. When ready to come out of the oven, the gingerbread will still feel soft to touch, but they will look nicely baked on the surface and the edges may be starting to darken ever so slightly. Remove them from the oven and leave to rest on the baking tray for five minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool. P1240180.jpg

Once cooled, you can ice your gingerbread like mine, or maybe melt some chocolate to drizzle over! Maybe add a bit of lemon juice to your icing to spice things up a bit. For my icing I mixed a little amount of egg white with some icing sugar for a firm consistency before outlining my gingerbread shapes. I’m afraid I don’t have measurements for this- I sort of just see how it goes! But if you do wish to do the same as me, sieve a small amount of icing sugar into a bowl before gradually adding egg white. Don’t add too much egg white, otherwise the icing will turn out far too runny!

That’s it from me today guys, I hope you enjoyed this post! What are you up to this week leading up to Christmas?

I hope you’re all having wonderful days, and best wishes to each and every one of you,

Maddie x

Christmas stocking DIY

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Hello! One week today until Christmas; are we all excited?! I’m back home from university and fully getting into the festive swing of things. Following a wonderful (but cold!) Friday night spent with Jason at the Manchester Christmas markets (featuring food, mulled wine, and more food), I’ve spent the weekend watching Christmas movies with the family.

I like to think that I am an incredibly organised person. I always have my coursework ready to hand in the day before it’s due, and I plan my meals for the week way in advance- but somehow this Christmas has completely sneaked up on me and I am feeling totally unprepared! I’ve still got a shed load of Christmas making and baking that I want to do- that was today’s job!- and I haven’t even finished my Christmas shopping yet! I still need to make some Christmas cards too. In short, I’m exhausted. But thoroughly enjoying myself.

Today I bring you one of the few Christmas projects that I made well in advance of December! I actually made this Christmas stocking back in September, before I’d even started my second year of uni! Now, one term in and one week away from the special day itself, I finally got around to getting it up on the blog for you all to see!

I love this stocking! It took very little time to make and I think it turned out looking great. It was a pretty easy sewing project, great for beginners as you get to practise two different types of machine stitching.

For this project you will need:

  • Approx 1/2m of fabric for the body of the stocking. (I decided to use a different fabric for the front and the back of my stocking because I couldn’t decide which I preferred- haha!).
  • A contrasting white fabric for the top of the stocking
  • A contrasting Christmas fabric for your initial
  • Matching thread
  • A small piece of ribbon
  • Fabric scissors
  • A sewing machine
  • Greaseproof paper or similar to create a template
  • Chalk
  • Pins

Instructions:

  1. Begin by drawing and cutting out your template. I drew my stocking shape by hand, but if you’re not too confident in your drawing ability you can find plenty of stocking templates and sewing patterns online! If you are drawing yours by hand like I did, remember to include enough fabric for a seam allowance (that is, the fabric that will be inside of the seam once you have sewn the front and back of your stocking together).P1230071
  2. Place your template on the right side of the fabric that you want the main body of your stocking to be made out of. Draw around it using some chalk, before carefully cutting the shape of the front of your stocking out using the fabric scissors. Flip your fabric over so that the right side is now facing away from you, and draw around it once more, before cutting it out to create the back of your stocking. You will now have the front and back of your stocking.
  3. Now create a template for your initial. Again, I drew my M freehand, but you can find plenty of lettering that you can trace online. Place this template on top of the right side of your chosen fabric (that is, with the patterned side of your fabric facing towards you), and draw around it using your chalk before cutting it out.P1230074
  4. Place your initial on the front of your stocking. Once you are happy with the placing, pin it into place. Nows the fun part! Set your sewing machine to a zigzag stitch. You want the zigzag stitch that sews the ‘tightest’ zigzags, so its basically sewing tiny horizontal lines back and forth. This will create the thick, coloured line of thread that you see around my M. Now, carefully begin to sew around your initial using the zigzag stitch. This was actually easier than I had thought it would be, and I didn’t have any issues with the fabric bunching up. Ensure your tension is right, take your time and use lots of pins!P1230078
  5. Once you have sewn all around your initial, you can sew the front and back of your stocking together! Place the front and back together with the right sides of the fabric facing each other (so the two sides of the fabric that you wish to show when the stocking is complete should be facing each other; your initial will be on one of these). Pin around the edge and use a straight machine stitch now to sew all around the edge of your stocking, leaving the top open- you need somewhere for Santa to leave your presents! Once you have done so, trim a couple of small triangles along the seam where the stocking curves (for example, on the toe and heel). These little triangles will prevent the fabric from gathering at the seam when the stocking is turned the right way out.P1230080
  6. Turn your stocking the right way out. Now all that’s left to do is add the cuff! Use a tape measure to measure the circumference of the top of your stocking. Your cuff will have to be the same size as this opening. Add 1″ to whatever the circumference of the stocking measured (this will be for your seam allowance), and now cut a rectangle from your white fabric that is approximately this long and 10″ wide.
  7. Fold the rectangle of fabric in half lengthways (with right sides of fabric facing outwards) to produce a rectangle that is half as wide. Press with an iron to create a nice, sharp fold. Now fold the rectangle in half widthways. Pin along this open end, 1/2″ away from the raw edge. Sew along this line.
  8. Place the cuff inside the top of your stocking, so the raw edge of the cuff is along the raw edge of the stocking (ensure the seam of the cuff is visible at this stage). Create a small loop of ribbon and place it with loop pointing downwards, in between the layer of the stocking and the cuff. Pin around the top of the stocking, pinning the stocking to the cuff and the ribbon into place. If you are unsure around the placing of everything at this stage, try turning your cuff out so that it is on the outside of your stocking. You should have a nice clean seam on the top of your stocking where it meets the cuff, and the seam of your cuff should now be inside.P1230087
  9. Once you are sure you have pinned everything correctly, machine stitch along the top of your stocking where you have pinned. You can now turn the cuff out, so that it is on the outside of your stocking and all your rough edges are hidden inside!
  10. Ta da. A stocking so good, Santa would be proud.

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I hope you enjoyed this sewing project today guys, its been a while since I did a sewing DIY on the blog. Would you be interested in seeing some more? Let me know!

That’s all from me today, I hope you’re all having a wonderful day/evening, wherever you may be in the world!

Best wishes,

Maddie x

Homemade Chocolate Bark- a super easy gift idea!

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Hello you lovely people! How are we doing? I’m feeling full of festive cheer and excitement today, as my parents are coming to pick me up from university tomorrow and bring me home for Christmas! I am soooo excited to go back home and spend time with my family and friends; this whole festive period is my favourite time of year, and I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather celebrate it other than back in my home town.

When this post goes up, I’ll be out enjoying an early Christmas dinner here in Lancaster with some friends from my course at university. Seeing as few of us get the chance to see each other over the holidays, it’s really nice to be able to celebrate Christmas early together.

As a little ‘thank you’ to my friends for all the good times we’ve had in 2017, I decided to make some small individual treat bags for each of them, filled with some homemade chocolate bark.

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This chocolate bark was so easy to make, and I think it turned out looking really cute! I especially love the freeze dried raspberry pieces on the white chocolate bark- I love the flash of red it adds! I decided to keep it pretty simple with flavourings with this chocolate bark, seeing as there was going to be nine guests for Christmas dinner and I wanted something that everyone would enjoy.

In the end, I opted for a milk chocolate bark with fudge pieces, mini marshmallows and golden sugar stars to keep it seasonal, and a white chocolate bark with freeze-dried raspberry and fudge. I drizzled both with some melted dark chocolate to make it look super classy 😉

I think this would make a great gift idea for work colleagues, or to take to a dinner party! I popped some pieces of bark in clear plastic bags, and finished them off with some ribbon. All in all, making the bark took well under ten minutes (excluding cooling time of course!) and I think it turned out looking great. Fancy making your own? Find my method below!

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Ingredients:

  • Chocolate! The amount depends on the amount of chocolate bark you wish to make. I used a 200g bar of milk chocolate and a 200g bar of white chocolate. This made sufficient bark for eight people.
  • Toppings! I used freeze dried raspberries, fudge pieces, golden stars and mini marshmallows, but use whatever you fancy! I definitely want to try making me more with peanut butter next time!
  • Chocolate in contrasting colour for drizzling (optional).

Method:

  1. Line two baking trays with kitchen foil. (One for milk chocolate, one for white).
  2. Break your chocolate into two microwavable bowls. Pop each bowl in the microwave for one and a half minutes, take out and stir your chocolate, before putting it back in for another minute. Repeat this as necessary until the chocolate is melted.
  3. Pour your chocolate onto your baking trays, slowly. This stops the chocolate from spreading out too much and keeps your bark thick. If your chocolate doesn’t spread out as much as you’d like on its own, smooth it out with the back of a spoon.
  4. Add your toppings! Sprinkle on whatever you fancy. You could optionally drizzle some melted chocolate in another colour over the top of your toppings like I did for extra style points.
  5. Pop your baking trays in the fridge for a couple of hours or until the chocolate is set.
  6. Remove your bark from the baking tray and break into pieces ready for serving. Ta da!

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I love how quick and easy this recipe is (if you can even call it a recipe!), and it’s so easily adaptable too! Mix it up by adding nuts or dried fruit, or maybe your favourite toffees on the top!

I hope you enjoyed this post guys, and I hope you’re all having wonderful weeks! What have you been making recently? Let me know in the comments! 

As always, best wishes to each and every one of you,

Maddie x

Super Easy Christmas Craft Ideas

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Hey guys! It’s official, I’m in full on Christmas mode. Following a weekend of tree decorating, Christmas films and winter crafts, it’s safe to say I’m feeling incredibly festive. It’s less than two weeks now until I come home for Christmas and I cannot wait!

As some of you many know, I travelled home from university this weekend to spend it with my family and Jason. I always have the BEST time at home, so I’m always a little sad when I return to my student halls on the Sunday night. But I have to say, with all the Christmas cheer, crafting and baking that’s saturating my Instagram feed, I’m finding it hard to stay sad for long. My social media at this time of year is absolutely bursting with festive DIYs, gift ideas, bakes and makeup looks. I should probably be fed up of it by now, but instead I’m just becoming more and more inspired to share my own Christmas themed blog posts with you all!

So I do apologise if you’re totally over all the Christmas fever already. I will try and get some travel posts up over the next few weeks to keep you guys entertained too! 

As luck would have it, this weekend my sister, Hannah, was tasked with making some Christmas items that could be sold at her place of work, with the proceeds going towards charity. She wanted to make something easy and quick, but something that would still get people into the festive spirit and help raise money for a good cause. And y’all know that I LOVE a quick and easy craft idea. And since becoming a student, ‘frugal’ has become my middle name. So what great timing that I would be home and able to help with the process!

Super cute Christmas tree decoration idea! Really cheap and really easy, perfect for the kids to help with.

Between Hannah, my mum and I, we managed to create plenty of Christmas makes that were sure to earn some money at work! First up are these super cute Christmas tree decorations! How lovely are these? I think these would certainly make an adorable addition to anyone’s christmas tree. And even better, they were ridiculously easy to make, meaning Hannah could whip up a good few to sell.

To make these, you will need:

  • Sticks/ twigs
  • Scraps of ribbon
  • String
  • Pompoms
  • Glue

To make these, Hannah began by gathering some sticks from outside before double knotting different lengths of ribbon around the stick to create a ‘branch’ effect. To make a small Christmas tree decoration like we did, you want your stick to be about 5″ long, and your first piece of ribbon for the top branch to measure around 4″, with each piece of ribbon below that getting gradually longer. Once you have tied all your ribbons on, you can use scissors to trim the edges to create a neater, triangular tree shape as shown here. Once you have attached all your ‘branches’, tie a loop of string to the top of your tree, so you can hang it as a decoration! Add a pompom on top if desired, or maybe a little star!

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I absolutely loved how these turned out. I think it’s especially great that you can choose your ribbon to go with whatever colour scheme or vibe you want for your Christmas decorations. Hannah chose a bright and colourful colour scheme for her ribbon, as we like our Christmas decor to be full of colour in our household!

Hot chocolate reindeer bags for Christmas! A

Next up, my mum and I also made these adorable hot chocolate reindeer bags! My mum came up with the idea for these and I love how they turned out! My mum is really great at coming up with creative ideas, she’s inspired many of my craft projects over the years, and these were no exception. Again, these were super easy to make and it took no time at all to create ten of them for selling.

To make these, you will need:

  • Clear, disposable piping bags.
  • Red pompoms
  • Googly eyes
  • Glue
  • Hot chocolate mix
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Pipe cleaners

We began by gluing a set of googly eyes and a pompom on each of the piping bags, before letting the glue dry completely. Once it had done so, all we needed to do was fill each of the piping bags with instant hot chocolate mix (we used approximately enough for one mug) and top off with some mini marshmallows. After we had filled our bags, we twirled some pipe cleaners around to fasten them and give the effect of antlers! Told you it was easy!

I think that these hot chocolate bags were a great idea, and would make a great gift for kid’s friends at school. You could also fill them with oats and glitter instead of hot chocolate mix, and gift them as bags of reindeer food!

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We made some other bits of bobs for selling too, but I don’t want this post to be too long. And besides, I’m sure you’re just itching to try out these cute new craft ideas, am I right? 😉 So I’m leaving it here for today, do let me know in the comments if you would like to see what else we made though! I would be happy to share it with you in a future post!

Very best wishes to you all for the month of December, I’ll be back next week with another Christmas themed post for you all!

Maddie x