Pancakes en Paris

You have no idea how many pancakes there are in the world. Buckwheat, tamales, buttermilk, griddle cakes and silver dollars are only a few. My personal favorite are French pancakes. Crepes are very similar to these because they’re full of egg and with such a silky smooth batter, they lay out very thin, but these are slightly thicker. The recipe is so easy, I made them from the 1950 Rumford cookbook as a first-timer in the kitchen by myself. It’s awesome to make something for the first time by yourself! These make roughly 8 small pancakes.IMG_20190222_092326

The trick is to make sure you have sifted everything as finely as you can. Most flours come sifted in the bag. Less clumps means thinner batter. I’ve tried using almond milk once when we ran out of milk. It was loaded with almond flavor. What would happen with chocolate milk? I’m not so sure about that one because eggs and milk are the first things I usually taste here. Chocolate Reese’s eggs are one thing. Chocolate with eggs in the same mouthful is another.

Once the butter is melted in and the egg is mixed in with the milk, you can leisurely stir the liquid in with the dry. Better Home and Garden recommends making a crater in your dry bowl and pouring your wets inside, pulling and pushing everything together into one smooth blend. Lumps and bumps of flour in your pancakes will taste powdery and dry. If you want to deviate from recipe and add a few pinches of herbs like tarragon, rosemary, basil or mint go for it! Chocolate chips and fruit pieces are best saved for thicker cake-like recipes without the eggs.

 

The surface you pour it on will matter too, how you want to have them look at the end depends how they form here. If you want, this is where people usually put the batter in a squeeze bottle and make pictures out of it. Don’t try to pour it into letters, or try to make lines without the bottle. It makes a round blob every time, especially if you try to pour it slowly. Just wait for the bubbles and a firmness to the edges before you flip.

It’s really romantic to write your lover’s name in pancakes. What about “Happy Mothers’ Day”, “Good luck”, or “Congrats”. It’s a very nice personal touch. As for dressing the pancakes, usually that comes with food coloring, fruit, whipped cream and syrups. Lauren did a pancake tower covered in fruit slices and maple syrup once for me as a treat. It was so delicious, I ate it without taking the photo. SORRY!

This is what you can do with colored pancake batter and a million practice batters: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCa0BnCIDBGzmw4daUGZ0yg

Maybe we’re not ready for THAT yet. But either way, these pancakes are a keeper even after almost 70 years.IMG_20190222_092322

 

Hot Chocolate Bar vol 2 Day 4

Well, we’ve made it to the last day. (Aww,) Jeremy, quit larking about moping. We have to buckle down for our last lovers’ fix. It’s a bit unusual because Remus Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks are by far the most unusual yet compatible couple we’ve ever seen.IMG_20190223_213027

He was a werewolf from a young age who never even thought he’d have a friend in the world, none to expect a girlfriend. 

A Grrrrrl friend?        Oh, hush up and help me with the berry syrup please, Jere-measles! We need 2 cups of “

Okay, fine! Keep your fangs in! No need to claw your business partner’s eyes out. We’re using a classic syrup recipe using corn starch. Blueberries and Raspberries have to be cleaned first to be sure there aren’t any germs or dust.IMG_20190223_211527

1/4 a cup of water splashes with the berries and honey. Another 1/4 later so it doesn’t evaporate too quickly. We don’t use a 1/2 cup all at once because we want the same consistency throughout.

Tonks is a playful, quirky, metamorphmagus auror from Hufflepuff house who brings fun to the reationship complimenting Remus being so disciplined and focused. They go together like berries and cream though she’s a and he a protective wizard/werewolf in the teaching industry with a passion for swinging jazz music. Here is their full story.

We start off by melted our white chocolate…now for the syrup, warm up the milk and stir it all up over the heat until it’s all melted together. It’s rather difficult trying to keep the chocolate melted against the cold milk, but when you get the right texture, it’s heavenly. Ah-ah-ah, no wands for this one. we need to keep things slow. Neither of them rushed into love, marriage or having “Teddy”. You never know what will happen, but keeping things slow is more preventative of mistakes. Now, finish it off with a splash of hot coffee. Very good! You must be a natural barista.

We do offer a substitution of special dark cocoa powder if you don’t like coffee. My muggle-born mum gets nauseous over coffee. I myself never got to liking the taste of dirt.

IMG_20190223_212347A metamorphmagus can change the outer appearance at will. Tonks’ hair was usually a spiked pink, but turned red when she was particularly mad. Perhaps you remember her animal noses at the dinner table. This chocolate delight has turned itself a shade of periwinkle. Then with the coffee/chocolate, you can darken it down a few shades of brown. We sometimes add a bit of food dye to the white chocolate just for fun. Isn’t that an idea for fun? Colored chocolates! 

Oh dear me, the day is over. Time to head home. Any road, we’re very glad you enjoyed our 4-day special. The romances of the magical world truly speak of how we can all share love

and maybe a cup of hot chocolate

in different ways.

We’ll be seeing you soon, we hope!IMG_20190223_213034

Hot Chocolate Bar vol 2 Day 3

Oh goodness, gracious is it ever hot in the kitchen today!

It must be our newest edition: “The Blazing Love Bugger” inspired by Mr. Ron Weasley and Lavender Brown.IMG_20190214_204535

She’s a feisty little cupid with no sense of practicality. She’s rather intense like cayenne pepper. Ron, on the other hand is a jocose best friend with a faithful and loyal heart. She always loved a man with a fan-following. He always wanted to be adored after so many years of being kept aside.

Her name may be “Lavender”, but this cutesy is as hot blooded as a handful of cayenne Pepper. She was very much attracted and would not let go for anything. She mixed with Ron, represented by warm and friendly cinnamon.

That’s right, Luv. Splash in the milk. Now let things boil up a bit on the heat for a minute and a half. We need a hot pot for the spices to seep through with less clumping.

That’s cayenne pepper in red. We thought that since they were so hot for each other that poor Ron couldn’t take it anymore, plus Hermione getting burned in the process, why not add an extra big hit at the end of your drink? It’s a fun little joke for cheeky lovers that want to make their darling’s face blush. The cinnamon brings a sweet harmony to lull the drinker into a sense of loving warmth. Smell that and you’ll never guess there’s a surprise inside!

Don’t forget the cocoa powder, 30 seconds later a tiny drop of chocolate syrup. Froth it all together and BOOM! Be ready to test your friends with this saucy little girl. If you want to really kick them in the pants, add a red-hot pepper-imp. Any kind of hot peppery sweet will do just fine. If it’s too hot, we can spare a small heart or 2 fruity hearts.

Ready, Lauren?          Set,        FIRE!!

The Hot Chocolate Bar vol 2 Day 2

Come in, come in, you’re right on time. It’s Day 2 of our 4-day after Valentine’s Day special. Just as nice at half the price! Cho and Cedric’s Sweetheart Special is today! Imagine, malted milk chocolate with nougat bursting out the seams!IMG_20190219_103514

It’s like the muggles did back in the 1950’s for lunch dates; Ice cream sundaes, burgers and sharing a drink with 2 straws. It’s all so classic. Cedric treats Cho like a beautiful young lady. They’re sweethearts for sure. Their relationship is very traditional, from meeting at school, playful competition on the Quidditch pitch, (Well they can’t very well SHARE the snitch, hey?) to truly love everlasting and an occasional treat at Madam Puddifoot’s tea shop. 

This is how we honor the babes, darlings and treasures who fill up our lives with fuzzy feelings. First, we’ll need 3 scoops of malted milk courtesy of our house elf, Bubbly. She grows, steeps and dries out the seeds for us in the spring and summer. Next, we shave in 2 almonds. A charming Tri-wizard champion like Cedric needs protein for strength, while studious but shy Cho Chang can’t focus on her books without the fiber keeping her full just a tad longer. CAREFUL! Don’t put your fingers in the blade! 

IMG_20190219_101059A minute and a half on the heat will due just fine. Just a teaspoon of cocoa powder and almond milk to boost the magnesium and another 30 seconds over the flames will set it right. ***Here’s a secret from a cookbook down at “Flourish and Blots”: Nougat is mostly nuts, honey and egg whites, but it’s the processing that makes it irresistible. Never give it to someone with nut allergies. As Hagrid says, They won’t thank you for that.***

Very nice. Let’s pour in a spoonful of chocolate syrup to balance out the nuttiness. Sweethearts go mad for the endorphins in our double chocolate drinks every time. We recommend a nice 78% so it’s not too bitter in the dark or too sweet to tame. Sometimes we charge a sickle more for a teardrop of vanilla extract. The poor bean is fading into extinction out in the muggle world. Finally, we’ll whip it all together with the Flipendo spell and serve it with a caramel sundae for the lovely birds.

Quidditch fans love when we put an edible golden snitch on top. Lauren’s dad is a muggle who took a spin around New York City where this shop makes edible golden flowers for ice cream!

You know what they say about Hufflepuffs having hearts of gold. It must be why the colors are that way for their house. 

IMG_20190219_103324

If you’re having a bit of trouble with the apples of your eyes turning rotten, here’s a little advice from Cho about dating…https://www.pottermore.com/features/what-went-wrong-with-harry-potter-and-cho-chang

 

The Hot Chocolate Bar vol 2. Day 1

IMG_20190218_100125Hello, there! Welcome back to “The Hot Chocolate Bar”, the sweetest addition to Honeydukes that you’ve ever tasted in the wizarding world. Jeremy and I have been bustling around so much since St. Valentine’s Day. Now that the holiday itself has past, it’s time for our 4 day heart-lifting sales for those who can’t afford regular price, couldn’t make it on the day of, or just want the spirit to linger on a little bit longer!

Yes, yes. We’ve noticed some of the couples around town that inspired us to make some new cups. Lauren and I simply adore the treats for sweets like us and our customers. What are you standing around for? These customers won’t serve themselves! Step up to the cauldron and we’ll show you how to do it.

If you like adventure and having the courage to go one step closer, then it’s time to try our first cup, the Harry Ginny. I think it’s absolutely invigorating! A nice little wake-up call with some breathe-easy orange and ginger to open up your air-ways. Usually, orange and ginger are used for colds and respiratory illnesses. Our silent partner Nick loves the scent.

She always admired him from the start, but these 2 complimentary Gryffindors took a big risk coming together with Ron in the middle. It’s hard for someone as well-known as Harry to find love when the battle rages right outside your common room, but that’s what makes the sweet moments all the more magical. Ginny is a brave, sweet and powerful like an orange, while Harry is the awkward ginger plant that though looking plain and out of place on the outside, can bring a huge punch, but needs that fruity flavor to become attractive. What’s more exciting than a kiss during battle? They don’t even have to say it, just “I know”.

First, we heat the milk in the cauldron. As it steams, chop up the ginger over the cutting board using the “diffindo” spell so it’s in little tiny pieces. Put the pieces in with the milk and let it sit so everything can get to know each other. That’s key to any relationship. 

That’s what you said when you asked me on our first date almost 3 years ago. “I’d like to get to know you better”. <kiss>

 Now, time for some chocolate powder and don’t forget the orange zest. Juices bring acidity while zest keeps the flavor without the mess. Zest is the fruit skin. just enough so the outer skin falls in. Don’t go past the yellow into the white skin. That part is bitter. A little mix over the heat and there you have it! Let’s strain out the bits and pieces and have a taste.

Doesn’t that open you up? It’s bright, colorful and not by any means boring. I’ve just come over a cold, so that will be for me. 

The next mix will be in tomorrow. Cho and Cedric’s sweetheart special will melt your heart.IMG_20190218_100058

Trials with Tofu

Yes, this is a full session focused on the simple matter of “That vegan stuff” or “that gross thing in the health-food section”. TOFU

Tofu block taken out of the package
Tofu block taken out of the package

We’ve been trying to master the art of the tofu scramble for a month now. It’s kind of like making “huevos rancheros”, only without the huevos. (That’s eggs for all of us non-Spanish speakers who didn’t watch “Dora” as kids) This would be good if you need a lot of soy and nutrients like calcium but none of the dairy.

For weeks now, we’ve been trying to master this 1 recipe that seems to pop up on dozens of tofu cooking guides, the one that YouTuber “It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken” calls: the breakfast of vegan champions, <fanfare!> Tofu Scramble

This is her video.

The first thing we noticed when buying tofu was the variety of firmness. There’s Firm, Extra Firm and Super Extra Firm. Firm tofu is easy to crumble into pieces, but it takes the longest to prep. You don’t want it to squish into a pancake, like that time we used a 20 lb kettle-bell in a bowl to squeeze out the extra liquid and it made the coolest sound! But if you don’t get enough of the water out, you get less than perfect, really squishy results that literally crumble to pieces.

Our next step: The spices. We’ve had luck with spice combinations like chili powder, paprika and red pepper flakes, or that garlic, onion and black pepper one, sometimes we put in pre-made blends like ones made with different powdered cheeses, Italian herbs, and sun-dried tomato and peppers. But we don’t go overboard with anything.

Let me clarify Lauren’s point. By “overboard”, we mean don’t put in too many spices, otherwise everything will just mask over and you’ll end up with too much to tell which is what and what goes with anything. We do realize you need to have a ton of the spice itself because tofu acts like a sponge and absorbs whatever seasonings you put in it. Tumeric is a bit bitter, but it gives a curry flavor and a nice golden yellow color. Plain tofu is bland. Remember Lauren’s motto: Bland is boring! You need lots of salt, about 4 pinches at least. Most people use black salt because of the high sulfur and charcoal levels making it smell more like eggs, but there’s a little shop in Lake George called “The Olive Oil Co.” that sells an array of salts that you can taste for yourself and add to whatever you want.

It doesn’t sound so yummy, but it’s what makes it more like real eggs. We’ve found if you  cook everything else first, take it all out, then brown the tofu on both sides (leave it on the heat long enough to caramelize) that’s where we get flavor. You can fold everything else in the skillet with it at the end.

As for sauce, YES, ADD IT! Like when we made tofu tikka marsala.

Big flavors are key. We tend to use mushrooms and bell peppers. We’re looking into cranking up the heat with chilies and jalapenos. Overall, tofu is a lonely drama queen. High maintenance and needs constant compliments.

If you just want a nice appetizer, we recommend taking some of the extra firm tofu, cutting and salting it like mozzarella cheese and throwing it into a bowl of spinach, tomato chunks and balsamic & olive oil dressing, or maybe a vinaigrette for a vegan friendly capresse salad. We used it in one of our soft spring rolls a few weeks ago, and it was delicious!

Wait, what if you don’t want eggy tofu and need it to somehow taste like chicken because your vegan friend is coming over to watch the match? It’s easy: Drain the water, cut it up, freeze it overnight, and when you want to use it, dredge it in corn-starch and coat it in some sauce like this guy from England who calls himself “The Easy Vegan” on YouTube. Isn’t that neat? He even has a fish version we need to try here

See? This isn’t just some weird vegan cardboard goo gone wrong from outer space. It’s a soy bean wonder block with many different uses. 

We have 1 or 2 vegetarian/vegan friends, but we want to talk to at least a few more. Since Miam Bialeck, Paul McCartney, Davy Jones and Alan Cumming are unavailable to us, we need some chat from the audience. Are you a tofu conesouer? Do you know someone who makes a mean tofu anything? PLEASE tell us! We love sharing. “Sharing is Caring!” (Yes, we love the movie “The Circle”. It’s one of our favorite moments.) Won’t you PLEASE share your thoughts, opinions and innovations with us? 

Pretty please, with a cherry tomato on top? It’s FREE and we’ll give you a shout-out!

Table Pho 2

On the second to last weekend in January, I was sick with my brother’s cold. (Thanks a lump!) The last thing you ever want to do in the kitchen is cross-contaminate especially if you’re Orthodox Jewish and everything is separated by meat and dairy. I don’t want to germ up the kitchen, so I was temporarily banned from the kitchen. One thing that everyone remembers at least once on a sick day is some kind of soup. Chicken, Beef, Bone broth and vegetable are favored in America. But since my mother was busy making pizzas for dinner, we ordered from our Vietnamese friends at Saigon Spring

They make excellent vegan pho (Pronounced fuh) filled with sweet snow peas, mushrooms, tofu and rice noodles. 

I prefer the spicy lemongrass with steak, beef and pork. It’s truly aeromatic and full of flavor.Vietnam really knows how to make use of their agricultural roots. 

Experts say it was originally created in the Nam Dinh/Hanoi area of the northern part of Vietnam back in 1887 when France was conquering the country. It was “Said” because elders passed down their traditions orally. There wasn’t anything written down about early pho. The French had beef stew. The Vietnamese learned it was okay to eat a cow and created their own version of beef stew. There was one thing though…”pot au feu” meaning “pot on fire” implying all-day cook time was mispronounced, giving the name “pho”. If anyone just calls it “noodle soup”, they simply don’t understand what it takes.

That’s right, Lauren. Pho is prepared in older fashions than most soups with variations depending on the region of origin and the chef himself/herself. “Pho Bac” is a northern Vietnamese dinner created in the Nguyen dynasty, while later southern styles like “Pho Nam” uses a rainbow of ingredients that the pho bac couldn’t afford during the time, like chicken and tripe. South Vietnam was way more abundant in food sources than the north. 

Professional chefs don’t let their secrets slide unless you’re truly worthy to learn it. If you’re the impatient type, this is a challenge, especially since the broth alone takes at least 3-7 hours to cook. What can I say? A brisket, meat and bones need time to seep. Roasting ginger and onions on an open flame is long too. The taste of the broth should be beef and sweet. Tendons, tripe, beef flanks, beef balls and rare beef steak make for a very satisfying soup. The time and effort used in making pho is what makes the eating it so worth while and inspires such gratuity for everything it took to cook it. 

Bean sprouts, basil leaves, lime and jalapeno are put to the side with some hoisin sauce and sriracha sauce served like a yin-yang sign next to your bowl for dipping. Never squirt it directly into the soup! It will ruin the flavor synchronization. Pouring hot sauce over anything just makes it all taste like the sauce, masking over the natural beauty of the ingredients. I know it’s weird for us to fish things out of our soup and dip it into a sauce, but it’s a clever compromise for when it isn’t sweet or spicy enough.

The jalapeno slices, basil leaves, sprouts and lime are on the side for you to add in as much as you like. I like 2 slices of jalapeno and a squeeze of lime for brightness. If you break the jalapeno up first, it makes it even spicier than just slipping the slice in the broth whole. Don’t ever try to rub your eyes after handling jalapenos without wiping your hands off first. The oil is there invisibly and it will sting and rash. We’ve both suffered the consequential pain and redness. If it happens, wash it out with water for 5 minutes and scrub your hands clean of any oils left from the pepper.

Jeremy, I’d rather fill the broth with bean sprouts and basil leaves with a squeeze of lime only if it needs more ‘zing’. They put these things on the side because basil turns black and bean sprouts wilt if they sits in the broth for too long.

There’s a really neat website dedicated to pho here if you want to read more about the history, cultural meaning and recipes we haven’t seen yet. https://www.lovingpho.com/pho-opinion-editorial/history-and-evolution-of-vietnamese-pho/

Do you have a pho recipe at home? If you try one from the website tell us! Show us! We’ll be lad to hear and maybe try it ourselves. Table PHO 2, YO!

Crispy Spring-loaded

While rice paper spring and summer rolls are nice for light meals and horderves, what about something crunchy? Saigon Spring has some excellent crispy rolls (vegetarian ones too!) that make you feel like you’re in a modern Vietnamese home eating comfort food. We took some egg roll wrappers and got busy making some filling. This time we stuck with a recipe Jeremy found online.

Once we piled it in, we saw how useful it is to know a little bit of origami. It’s the same as a rolled-up envelope.DSC04780

  • Lay it flat like a kite.
  • Pile a flat tablespoon-sized scoop in the middle
  • Bottom flap comes up to cover the lump.
  • Dab the corner, Left side over middle
  • Dab the corner, Right side over middle
  • Dab the corner Roll towards the last point.

Wait a minute Lauren, what’s this “Dab the corner” stuff?

I remembered a wrapper lesson from cooking club back in middle school. Mrs. Woods taught us that wrappers like these and the ones we used for baoze need water on the corners when you fold them down. Not too much or it will get soggy. Not too little or it won’t stay down. Just a swift swipe across the crease will do.

DSC04774When we go to Saigon Spring, I like dipping my spring rolls in their peanut sauce. It enhances the vermicelli and compliments their shrimp. So, Lauren had the bright idea of making our own sauce. We mixed in some sesame oil with a few cloves of garlic. I really wanted to use ginger, but we added too much soy sauce to make it pop. It was just like black paint over the other colorful flavors.

We sautéed the rolls over the stove until the sides started to brown. I think they could’ve cooked longer or maybe if we had gotten more heat on some of the other sides. They seem a bit raw to me. That’s why restaurants typically fry crispy rolls in oil. It gives them a nice even cook time all the way around.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If these didn’t have mushrooms, my mom would have tried one. Dad couldn’t keep his hands off of them, and then asked for more while we watched “Cast Away”! He loves Chinese food. 

Wait until I show him Real Chinese food vs. America’s take-out. Soon, Darling. Let’s give our review first.  DSC04790

This may have been our first try at spring rolls, but it won’t be our last.

I would serve these crispy ones at any party or if there was mildly cold weather. 

Yeah, the rice ones are more for warm days or when you need something other than a salad. Overall, we give these the green light for appetizer success that is sure to impress. Everybody buys the vegetables, but the chef can make them into a little something more.

Spring-Loaded Rolls

If we aren’t at our usual favorite sushi hangout, Sushi Na-Ra you can maybe find us at our second favorite haunt on the other side of the building, Saigon Spring. It specializes in Vietnamese cuisine. We’ve yet to find any other Vietnamese places in the capitol area of NY. Our staple appetizer picks are the spring rolls full of mint, vermicelli, lettuce carrot and tofu or shrimp.

Get this, the Vietnamese use rice wrappers instead of corn or flour. It’s easier for them to grow rice than wheat, so they play it up to the local geography. The wraps start out dehydrated with a papery plastic feel, but once you soak them for half a minute, they soften into pliable slightly rice flavored blank canvases for the artist to make into basically anything they want it to be.

IMG_20181117_151840
I’m quite the fan of them, darling.

We soaked ours in my mother’s pie dish and laid them to dry one by one on a separate plate. The fact that it was a white plate made it harder for us to pull off. I couldn’t tell where the wrap began and the plate ended! Let’s face it, we all have that one set of plates that if anything happened to just 1 of them, it would mean a trip to the racks. I was so afraid of “what if it slips?” because of our narrow space on the kitchen island. Next time, we’ll grab one of the chipped colored ones.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Once we put our wrinkly wrapper on the drying plate, we got to have some fun with different combinations of lettuce leaves, carrot shreds, sauteed mushroom slices, fresh firm tofu slices, and cherry tomato halves.

IMG_20181117_145353
Time to sharpen up those knife skills!

Our top one was the caprese roll with tofu, lettuce and cherry tomato. I call it “caprese” because the tofu mimics the taste of mozzarella, but without all of that hidden salt. The cherry tomatoes bring a sense of acidity and kicks out the blandness. It was simple, scrumptious and fresh which is exactly what you want in a spring roll before you dip it in soy sauce. Herbs are your best friend in this case because they turn things like lettuce, rice and tofu (which taste like nothing) and makes them more appealing to the tongue. We have taste buds for a reason. Food isn’t just fuel. It’s delicious! We want things that are pleasing to the senses. Tasty Tip: Keep a loaded spice rack and don’t be stingy! Most things you can grow or buy more later.

IMG_20181117_145735 This is the first one we tried with leftover cream of broccoli soup as an attempt to bind it all together. It was all mushy, cold and didn’t offer anything positive to the dish. It’s too messy and leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Nope, cream of anything should not be rolled up into a thin slip of rice wrapper. Just reheat it and have it as your main dish.

These are an easy alternative to eating a salad that strengthened our creativity. Trying to switch out some of my less healthy habits isn’t always easy. Some people don’t like the idea of dieting because they don’t want to eat “rabbit food” or feel like it’s a punishment to be good to your body. Doing things like make-your-own wraps and rolls, and concocting sauces to pair with them is a more enjoyable way to experiment with different flavor combinations and see for yourself what you may have been missing out on trying.

Yes, a true chef must try everything at least once. But let’s face it: It’s not just girls. EVERYBODY wants to have fun!        AMEN!

Here’s your challenge: Try to make some spring rolls yourselves. Comment to us what combinations you like best. We’ll post them on our Facebook page, especially if there’s a picture. Go Wild! Make Mistakes! GET COOKING!

The Physics of Gingerbread

Once upon a time back when we were all kids in America, we use to have days set aside in December with the grown-ups to bake and attempt to erect cities and houses made of thick molasses-colored gingerbread. It’s hard enough to bite down and chomp off a few shingles, solid enough so you can lick the icing off of the walls, and plentiful enough to make a few gingerbread men from the excess dough with m&m button down shirts and licorice hair.

This tradition has mixed origins – some websites point to ancient China for the ginger, and others point to Greece and Egypt where the titular confectioneries were used in religious ceremonies. What we think of as “gingerbread” arose in 16th century Germany and was made popular by the tale of Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm. The dense bread was ideal for building figures and models, and was incorporated into the Christmas tradition. The European tradition eventually made its way to America where we spun it off and made ginger snap cookies. 

My mother’s side of the family is mostly Mediterranean – Greek, Italian, Egyptian, etc. Family is very important to us, and growing up I remember spending Christmas together making gingerbread men. The house would fill with the various spices that went into making them – the nutmeg, the cinnamon, the ginger – a must, of course, the ground cloves, and the molasses. Although most recipes called for light molasses, we would always go with the dark stuff – the darker the better. My family is not shy when it comes to spices – maybe not like me, where I enjoy ghost peppers, but the ginger and cloves are my mother’s favorite. We also like to skimp a little bit on the sugar as well, not only to cut down on the sweet stuff, but also because the sweetness would take away from the overall flavor profile we were trying to develop. Lauren however had never made gingerbread cookies before, and she had showed me so many of her family’s traditions, so it was time to reciprocate. 

First things are first, we need to prepare the dough. Most recipes tell you to chill the dough for an hour, but my family has always chilled the dough overnight. So I prepared the dough while my darling angel was at work. Chilling the dough keeps the cookies from spreading out too much, preserves the color (especially for darker cookies, which these are), produces a more pronounced flavor, and alters the texture of the cookie. As for the dough itself, you mix the flour, egg, sugar, molasses, spices, and butter (which should be at room temperature) with an electric mixer set a medium speed. I forgot the part about the “butter should be at room temperature” so mixing was a little difficult and caused the dough to spread more. Once thoroughly mixed, the dough is set to chill overnight. 

The next day we got to have some fun with my  favorite part of the process… DECORATING!!

With the opinions of fans and friends, we decided to make an Eiffel Tower suggested by Carlie Chakraborty and the remainder into a front view Bag End from “Lord of the Rings” recommended by Sarah Rogers. Thank you everyone who sent in ideas!

First off, we rolled up some base pieces to support the structure. Each layer has 4 pillar-shaped pieces holding up each platform before the top piece. So we settled on 8 rolls and 2 platforms.

DSC04746
Before, ready to bake.
DSC04747
After, they came out of the oven.

Instead of using typical icing, we swapped for some white chocolate. We still had a bag leftover from our Hot Chocolate Bar opening night. Icing doesn’t harden as quickly or have the same strength when it’s solid. Icing is just powdered sugar in liquid form. White chocolate is usually the healthier option anyhow. Actually, any kind of melted chocolate will work in that same way. You can experiment with the look and taste as you see best fit. 

DSC04752
The first base with the first four legs glued down with melted white chocolate and supported with the Turkish delights.

A little white chocolate on the bottom platform wasn’t enough to support our posts because we didn’t give them flat bottoms. I happen to have some Turkish delight on hand from when Jeremy went to Finland. They made excellent reinforcements. From here we were able to swirl and stick on some cherry pull-apart Twizzlers. with some extra chocolate on top so the platform would stick on top. You never know when your dog will run through (If you have a dog.)  or try to pick it up and move it to the table when THIS happens.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Next we let our newest little daughter Clara (She’s 5 and loves helping Papa make things in his workshop) put on the next layer so we could do it all over again. Our kids started playing with the licorice like it was jewels and other accessories.  At last, Emma-Belle braided the top which we stuck on top with even more Turkish delight, a pirouline cookie in the middle for separation and cemented it in white chocolate.

This came out pretty well, albeit it is hard to recognize that it is the Eiffel towel. The supports should be more curved and the bases should be more flush. I think for something like this, we might need an engineer to get involved with technical drawings or something like that. Maybe if we used something a bit more pliable, since before it is baked, gingerbread is too soft to form structures like this and after it is baked you cannot mold it or reshape it. This was very fun to do nevertheless, definitely something we will revisit in the future.

Next up, we had some material left for Bag End. We didn’t have enough to form the whole thing, so we decorated the front to look like the image of Bag End from the movie. We first covered the whole thing in white chocolate. The natural brown tinge that white chocolate has (when it is the good stuff anyways) came in handy, since the walls around Bag End are already brown tinged. Unfortunately, we forgot to cut the door and window out (actually, this would probably compromise the integrity of the structure so it was better we didn’t in hindsight. Gingerbread once it is baked is pretty brittle). Instead, Lauren had the excellent idea of using licorice and one of her chocolate coins to serve as the door and the window. Finally, because Bag End is set into the hillside, we took some coconut shreds, mixed it with green icing (to take advantage of the natural stickiness of the icing), and glued it on top.

DSC04766
The final product – Lauren had the idea of adding scoops of ice cream alone the sides to replicate the hill Bag End was set in.

This was definitely a fun project we got to work on. Something we definitely want to try again in the future. It takes a little planning, but the time is well worth it and is something worth doing together. Thanks again to everyone who helped come up with these ideas!

So we’re not ready for “The Great American Holiday Bake-Off” yet, but oh well. We had fun anyway. Much easier than using Gram Crackers on milk cartons like when I was in preschool.

DSC04751
Getting the kids camera ready. I love them all!