Monday, December 28, 2009

Daring Baker's Gingerbread Challenge and a Holiday Update

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

In October, I tried to make a Halloween gingerbread house with my niece when I was visiting my family in Illinois. It did not turn out well at all, and in fact we ended up with gigantic gingerbread cookies and no house. So, when I read that the December challenge was a gingerbread house I immediately decided that I would do something alternative--who wants a baking failure right before the holidays. I made a gingerbread Christmas tree and decorated it with royal icing and candy. Amazingly it held together well, though I could not get it to stay vertical and had to rely on propping it up against a baking pan. Still, it turned out pretty cute and I'm glad that I didn't pass on this challenge.

The very talented Daring Bakers created some gorgeous gingerbread houses, so please take a look.

Dave and I had a wonderful holiday season. I was able to visit my family in Chicago for a few days, and then Dave had a couple days off in between Christmas and New Year, so we were able to spend some time together. Typically, during a regular week, we only get to see each other a couple of week-nights, and 3 weekends each month.

One of the Christmas gifts I received was this adorable pepper/salt mill from my niece. She knows that I love pink kitchen stuff (and pink food), so this was just the perfect gift. Thanks Miss Marisa!

I also received this amazing handmade caramel. It is just the best caramel I've ever tasted--it's flavored with Earl Grey Tea. If you'd like to buy some you can find it here.

I gave Dave this popcorn maker since he loves his popcorn and we do not have a microwave--it works perfectly and makes delicious popcorn. It also roasts nuts! How cool is that.

My very wonderful friend from Australia sent me a goodie box that included just picked vanilla beans. They are so soft and moist you can tie them in knots. I am so looking forward to using these. She also sent me this cutie-pie cat purse that she bought in Malaysia.

Dave bought me this very unusual rolling pin. It's neat because you can use it without having to bend over as much as usual. It's good in that I can stand straighter when rolling dough--very helpful to my back. It reminds me a little bit of using a mezzaluna--just like Nigella.

I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday, and I'm wishing you all the best for the new year.


  1. Looks like you got some great gifts. Glad that your holidays were good and that you got to Chicago for a visit. Happy New Year to you also. Hope it is a great year!

  2. Wow - you certainly received some great gifts!

    Happy New Year!

  3. Michele, your gingerbread tree is really cute! I like the big star on top!

    What a bunch of nice gifts. I've never seen a rolling pin like that. Happy new year! I'm looking forward to seeing more of your great cooking and baking this year.

  4. I love your recap! That rolling pin has me very back has been acting up for months and I keep reinjuring it.

  5. Marisa was very excited that you want a pink kitchen like hers. She loved trying to find pink utensils which is not as easy as I thought it would be. Enjoy!

  6. That rolling pin is AWESOME! I need to find one of those! Your tree is beautiful and so festive - I miss Xmas already!

  7. Wonderful gifts!! Very cool.

    I like that you made a gingerbread tree. I groaned when I saw the challenge was gingerbread house. I don't like them. I didn't even think about making an alternative.

  8. What a lovely recap, Michele. Thanks for sharing. My hubby also gave me a rolling pin, a French pin, without the rolling dowels, something I've wanted for a while now.
    And that kitty purse looks like my Giacomo!