Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Building An Original

The GingerBuilders have been slowly putting together a small "menu" of baked goods besides gingerbread houses that we'd like to start selling, so we've all been trying various recipes trying to find treats that will fit snuggly into our repertoire. There is a cookie recipe that I loved that I had tried a few years ago.

It's a delicious cookie, but I wanted to make it better. After adjusting some (ok most) of the ingredients
and some (ok ALL) of the quantities
 and a few mishaps... I think I finally have an original recipe that we can call our own! 
Good things are happening in our kitchens every day! Start tuned to see more!

We like making pretty things!

I started my professional training in pretty things this month with a Wilton Cake Decorating Class at Michael's (they offer these all over the country if you, too, would like to learn to make pretty things). This is a fondant class. The other two GingerBuilders have already taken a few Wilton cake decorating classes, but this was my first endeavor. I know we've joked about modesty being our best quality, and this is another fine example. I made the prettiest bow ever!
We got a late start due to the crazy Midwest Winter, so we were playing catch-up. We learned to make a Calla Lily and the bases for a few flowers at the first class.
 I was surprised that after following a few steps, and having a little patience, I made a bow! This happens when we make gingerbread houses, too. We'll be working and working and working non-stop, feeling like we're getting no where. Then, we'll look up, and the house is done (or almost done) and it feels like magic. The bow came together the same way.
I was so proud of my bow I made a chocolate cake to put it on :-)

This was not my prettiest cake ever, but the chocolate buttercream frosting over the devil's food cake was delicious. It's a vicious cycle, baking and creating pretty things, but someone has to do it.

In our next class, we tackled some trickier flowers and added leaves. As our regular readers know, I break stuff. Our pretty flowers start as little balls of gum paste/fondant on a piece of spaghetti. This is all well and good until "someone" keeps breaking the spaghetti.
Never the less, I persevered and created more pretty things! I love making pretty things! I sound like such a girl when I say this. I feel like you all need to watch me swear at the TV during a football game to let you know how un-girly-girl I am.
For your viewing pleasure (I hope!):
Please remember to subscribe to keep up to date on all our fun GingerBuilder adventures. (My Denver Broncos made it to the Super bowl, maybe I will post a video of me swearing at the TV)
Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ginger--For your Health

Came across this image on Pinterest:

It led me to aboutnutritionfacts.com and THIS link in particular.

Of course you can explore medical resources and you'll find much of the same information.

Ginger is pretty awesome.

Gingerbuilders has cooked with ground ginger, fresh ginger, and crystallized ginger.

With ginger in Stir fry, cookies, or ice cream, now we can argue that they are all good for us in some way. 

So we'll keep creating...because we care about your health!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Gingerbread Ice Cream

Crazy Stephanie loves ice cream, even during a polar vortex.  So when it was too cold to go outside (-20 in Ohio?!) She (I) dreamed of food to pass the time.

And Gingerbread Ice Cream is the stuff dreams are made of!

Erin has this wonderful book Gingerbread by Jennifer Lindner McGlinn.

We wanted to try out some recipes.  The Gingerbread Ice Cream recipe called to me.

But, New Year's resolutions and all, I did want to lighten up the ice cream as best as I could.
The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups cream and 1 1/2 cups milk.  I decided to use 3 cups of fat free half&half.  Every little bit counts...

Please note that the ingredients of your ice cream will very much affect the texture and consistency.  Skim milk vs. whole, for example.  I do not recommend using skim milk in ice cream.  However, I have found success with using half and half, and I find that I don't have to compromise on the consistency or flavor.

Friends and family all love my ice cream and no one is the wiser.

Now get on with the recipe!!

Most ice creams have a similar base.  I've seen 6-8 egg yolks, some cream, (half and half in my case), salt, sugar, and flavorings.  Once you get that basic recipe down, I recommend experimenting with flavors and chunky deliciousness added into the ice cream (chocolate chips, cookies, etc.).

Here's my journey with Gingerbread Ice Cream adapted from the book by Jennifer Lindner McGlinn.

Total time: 2 days.  (This is because I mixed the base one day, let it chill overnight, then make the ice cream the next day.  Really, it's not hard, but everything needs time to set up.)

 Ingredients: Half&Half, ginger, egg yolks, light brown sugar, molasses, vanilla extract, ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, and salt.

 Stir together half&half and fresh ginger in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium/high heat.  Remove from heat and set aside to infuse 30 minutes to an hour.

 Strain the cream/milk mixture and discard the ginger.  Return the mix to a saucepan and boil again over medium high heat.

 Meanwhile, whisk together egg yolks, brown sugar, molasses, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and sat in a large bowl until smooth and thick.  (I recommend reserving the egg whites for meringues or really healthy omelets.)

 As soon as cream mix comes to a boil, temper the egg mix.  The book says "gradually drizzle" the cream into the yolk mix and whisk constantly.  I recommend taking 1/4 cup of the mix and whisking it in with the eggs.  This brings the temp of the eggs up slowly without scrambling them.  Do this a few more times.  When eggs are hot enough, add the whole bowl into the cream mix.

 Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mix coats the back of a spoon.  (It's better here to remove the mix from the heat too early rather than too late.  You don't want chunks.  Please note that the chunks in this recipe are spices and not scrambled eggs.  Eew.)  Also, KEEP STIRRING.  You don't want sticking or a skin.  Eew again.

By "coats the back of spoon" see the photo.  I ran my finger along the back of a wooden spoon.  The mix is thick enough to coat the spoon and hold its shape.  Perfect.

Strain the custard again (in case you did cook some eggs wrong--better safe than sorry!) and stir in that vanilla extract you forgot about.

The book says to set your bowl with the mix in it into a larger bowl of ice water and chill for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then, chill in the refrigerator for at LEAST six hours if not overnight.  I just covered the dish and put it directly in my fridge.  This is how I've always done ice cream before.

Next, the recipe says to use the directions on your ice cream machine to finish the process.  Here's Mine:

Freeze the bowl AT LEAST 15 hours before use.  I got it out of the freezer, hooked it up as fast as possible, and added my cream mix.

Ice cream can "stir" 20-30 minutes depending on texture.  You don't want to over mix!  If your machine starts clicking, stop it!  You can also stop with 10 minutes to go, add any chunky ingredients (dried fruit, chocolate chips etc.) at that time, then finish stirring.  Pop it in the freezer for at least 20 minutes after to set up.

Even with the half&half, as far as texture goes: NAILED IT!!!!

This stuff was awesome!  I recommend topping with it fun ingredients like chocolate chips, graham crackers, peppermint candies, currants, molasses cookies that are crumbled, whatever you want!

What would you add?

I also recommend adding less clove and nutmeg than the book calls for.  The suggested amount made the ice cream almost spicy.  No no.  We just want a taste.

So with that said, here's the Gingerbuilders' Version:

Gingerbread Ice Cream

3 cups fat free half and half
1 3-4 inch piece of fresh ginger (about 1 1/4 ounces) peeled and chopped
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8-1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract

Stir together half&half and fresh ginger in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium/high heat.  Remove from heat and set aside to infuse 30 minutes-1 hour.  Strain the half&half and discard the ginger.  Return the mix to a saucepan and boil again over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, whisk together egg yolks, brown sugar, molasses, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl until smooth and thick.  As soon as the half&half comes to a boil, take 1/4 cup of the it and whisk it in with the eggs.  Do this 2 more times.  
Pour the entire egg mix into the saucepan with the rest of the half&half and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of a spoon.  (Better to remove too early than too late.)  Strain the custard and stir in the vanilla extract.  Cover the custard, and place it in the refrigerator to chill at least 6 hours, up to overnight.Follow the instructions on your ice cream machine to complete the dessert.  Freeze the ice cream at least 1 hour.  Serve with graham crackers, candy canes, currants, molasses cookies, chocolate chips, etc. etc etc!

I'll try a delicious variation on Gingerbread Ice Cream in another blog, so stay tuned!


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Build A Better Gingerbread House. Do The Ingredients Matter?

We've mentioned a few times that the fine line between durability and edibility is a constant issue we are facing. In the past, this has primarily been an issue for pieces we needed to hold up for an upcoming competition, but now as we're moving forward into other ventures, we find ourselves 're-evaluating the ingredients we use, the recipes we use, the cost of what we're using and the cost-versus-effectiveness of each ingredient.

Flour, for example, regular all purpose flour is cheapest. Financially, it's the best purchase. But bread flour has more protein. Protein (gluten) makes for a more stable, stronger gingerbread. So we find ourselves looking at two different possible outcomes based on which flour we invest in.

Then we come to molasses. Which type, which brand, aren't they all the same? No, they are not. Certain brands are sweeter, certain brands have a more intense molasses flavor, but are terribly bitter without extra sugar added. Extra sugar compromises the structural integrity of the gingerbread. Some brands aren't sold in bulk! And do we even want to use molasses at all when something like honey is more resistant to humidity, and honey is more traditional to begin with?

Love and Olive Oil has a GREAT post explaining more the details of Molasses.  We suggest you head over there and check that out!

In the weeks and months to come we're going to have to try a lot of different options, and a lot of different combinations, revisit old recipes, revamp new ones, build, construct, and wait and wait and wait.

We want to give our customers the best possible product we can. We want them to be charming and delicious. We want to be a part of your children's holiday memories and traditions. Stay tuned, good things are on the way!