It's no secret that I've been counting down the days until the arrival of The Hobbit movie. And all the while there's been much constructing going on in my dining room. I've been working on my own little piece of The Shire in gingerbread form.
The inspiration for this particular hobbit hole comes from Bag End, but it's by no means an exact replica. It's just a place where I imagine a hobbit could be very comfortable.
I started out with a homemade "blueprint" sketched on a piece of parchment. In hindsight I would have rounded the top edges and maybe not made it so large (the finished house is three feet long!). 1-inch, 2-inch and 3-inch round fondant cutters were used to cut out the door and windows.
The gingerbread facade is covered with orange flavored royal icing that is tinted very pale yellow. The bricks are made from sculpting chocolate and attached with piping gel.
Pulverized pistachios make a nice mossy covering around the doors and windows. Pieces of pistachio-covered sculpting chocolate created dimension around the door, then the whole thing was dusted with confectioners' sugar.
The windows were made of orange-clove flavored hard candy. An impression can be made in the melted candy with the metal cutters while it's still warm, and the circles easily break away easily from the candy sheet when it hardens. I experimented with decorating them with royal icing. In the end I preferred painting on the window panes with black gel food coloring and an artists' brush.
|Candy windows illuminated.|
The bushes are made of caramel candies covered in green fondant. I pocked the fondant's surface with a star decorator tip to give it texture.
|Someone has been shoveling the walkway!|
I found myself asking questions like "What does winter in The Shire look like?". I'd say there would be at least one snowman (snow-hobbit?) dressed in one of Bilbo's old vests.
A hobbit would most likely prepare to be cozy and warm in the winter months.
This stack of firewood is made of sculpting chocolate.
The grassy covering on the top and sides of the structure is sweetened shredded coconut tinted with golden yellow and moss green food coloring. The sweetened coconut really sticks together well and it's easy to apply. It is generously dusted with confectioners sugar.
I first intended this to be a rain barrel, but considering a hobbit's nature it's probably a barrel of ale set out to chill in the snow. It is actually a marshmallow wrapped in sculpting chocolate. The details are black fondant.
Hobbits like to plant things and farm. Here's a little gardening wagon that's all covered in snow. It is made of graham crackers and sculpting chocolate.
I hope you've enjoyed seeing my Bag End inspired hobbit home. Although this isn't a complete tutorial, I'm including the gingerbread recipe I use for structures as well as a royal icing recipe. I purchased the sculpting chocolate from a specialty store, but I've also included my recipe for modeling chocolate which I believe would work very well for gingerbread applications.
The Hobbit movie was so visually stunning and heart-warming. Everything I'd hoped for. I can't wait to see it a second time!
Gingerbread House Dough
2-3 dozen cookies, or one gingerbread house and accouterments
[click for printable version]
3½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup (packed) dark brown sugar
½ cup molasses - not black strap, and preferably "golden", "mild" or "sorghum" molasses
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Sift flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt into large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in another large bowl at medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat 1 minute. Add molasses; beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg; beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to low; beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture; beat on low speed just to blend.
- Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Form each half into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap disks separately in plastic; chill until firm, at least 4 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.
- Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out dough between 2 sheets of waxed paper to ¼-inch thickness. Use gingerbread house templates or decorative cookie cutters to cut-out shapes and transfer to prepared sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Gather scraps, roll out dough, and cut more shapes/cookies, repeating until all dough is used. Bake 1 sheet at a time until cookies are firm on top and slightly darker around edges, about 8 minutes for smaller shapes and up to 15 minutes for larger shapes.
- Cool completely on rack. Line baking sheets with fresh parchment as needed.
Note: Cookies will not spread much during baking, but for precise gingerbread house construction, cookies can be perfectly re-cut while still hot. Place the paper templates on top of the hot cookies, and quickly cut with a plain-edge knife - but be careful not to burn yourself!
Yield: 2 1/2 -3 cups [click for printable version]
3-4 Tbsp meringue powder
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tsp lemon extract
1. Whisk together meringue powder and powdered sugar. Pour mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment.
2. Add warm water and mix on high speed for about 5-7 minutes or until stiff peaks are achieved. Transfer to a piping bag and use to adhere gingerbread house pieces.
Notes: Not all meringue powder is created equal. Be sure to check the recipe on the container before you begin. I usually use 3 Tbsp. meringue powder, but if you don't have a powerful stand mixer in which to whip the icing, you may use an additional tablespoon. It will come together more quickly.
Chocolate Modeling Clay [click for printable recipe]
1- 10 oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup light corn syrup
- Heat chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl at 30 second intervals, stirring thoroughly between each heating. When chips are completely melted add corn syrup and stir until mixture becomes thick; the chocolate will lose it's shiny appearance.
- Spread mixture on a large piece of wax paper with a spatula and top with another piece of wax paper. Gently even out with a rolling pin or by pressing to 1/2" thickness. Let dry 2-3 hours. Knead until pliable and putty-like before use. Chocolate sculptures will harden when left out to dry. Place unused clay in an air-tight container. Discard after 3 months.