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Gingerbread frustrations!

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

I made 4 large batches of gingerbread dough 10 days ago, split it into portions, wrapped it in cellophane and then in a bag and froze it.  I usually make dough and use it straight away but on this occasion I needed lots ready to hand.  I've had very different results from each batch which were all following the same recipe, sifted, weighed and measured etc.  

 

I made some mini gingerbread houses from my own template.  I brought the dough to room temp, rolled, cut and then chilled before baking.  All the pieces seemed to spread, rise more than usual and few were cracked.  I had to trim them a lot which made construction tricky!  Then another batch of cookie shapes were perfect followed by another batch that spread totally out of shape and were hopeless!!  Ok for eating no good for decorating!  

 

The only thing that was different is for two batches I used treacle (as the recipe calls for) and two batches using black treacle as this was all I had.  

 

Anyone know after chilling why they spread out and cracked and some were ok.  Unless I made a mistake with the ingredients they should all be the same.  Can different types of treacle effect the cookie?

 

I have also noticed they ever so slightly soft.  Is this because the dough has been frozen or something else I've done wrong!!  I thought they would be more crunchy.  Thank you!  

post #2 of 5

Treacle is refiners syrup, right? Golden and sticky?

 

Black treacle--Molasses--is different.  It has preservatives that are slightly acidic and they soften the flour's gluten structure so those cookies would have been the ones to spread.

 

Anyway, next time you mix multiple batches, bake a test cookie from each.  That way you can add a little more flour to make the cookies bake without spreading.

 

And freezing has no effect on the spreading.

post #3 of 5

Having made thousands (really--thousands) of gingerbread houses over the years, perhaps I can help with some of your issues.

 

Freezing--never tried it, have no clue how it would affect the end result, sorry.  Perhaps someone else can weigh in.  It only takes a couple minutes to mix together a batch of dough, so I've never even considered making it far ahead.  I have made it a day ahead of time, however, and stowed it in the fridge.  

 

Some pieces cracked--this usually has more to do with the amount of flour in the dough and how thickly the dough was rolled.  If the dough is too soft, you can get cracking.  If you roll too thickly, you can get cracking.  I'm making about 100 gingerbread houses this year, and on some of them, I always get cracking, and it's always from the thicker pieces.  I'm doing this for friends, family, kids in my girls' classes and girl scout troops.  Not for a gingerbread competition.  The houses are going to get overloaded with candy in a few days anyway.  I really can't bring myself to care about some pieces with cracking!  ;-)

 

Pieces a bit soft--humidity, baking time, drying time all play a role here.  It's better to over-bake than under-bake when making gingerbread houses; rigidity is important.  You also need to let the cookies dry out before starting assembly.  Here in Phoenix, where it's astoundingly arid, I can get away with waiting only a few hours before assembling my houses.  When we lived in muggy Florida, we would wait at *least* 24 hours, often longer, before starting assembly.

 

Spreading/Trimming--I don't bother cooling my pieces of dough before baking.  Instead, I just use my template and trim around the slightly spread out house pieces as soon as they come out of the oven (while they're piping hot).  This ensures that the pieces will fit together precicely (just like my template) and provides the family with tasty trimmings to snack on.  They're the perfect shape for dunking in milk, too!  Embrace the trimming process, rather than going to lengths to be sure the pieces don't spread at all.

post #4 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by modthyrth View Post

 

Spreading/Trimming--I don't bother cooling my pieces of dough before baking.  Instead, I just use my template and trim around the slightly spread out house pieces as soon as they come out of the oven (while they're piping hot).  This ensures that the pieces will fit together precicely (just like my template) and provides the family with tasty trimmings to snack on.  They're the perfect shape for dunking in milk, too!  Embrace the trimming process, rather than going to lengths to be sure the pieces don't spread at all.

Have you ever tried baking a large sheet of dough and then cut the shapes just once?

 

And in my long experience, cookie dough that has been frozen has never spread any more than the freshly mixed dough, and usually it spreads a little less.

post #5 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by BakingIrene View Post

Have you ever tried baking a large sheet of dough and then cut the shapes just once?

 

And in my long experience, cookie dough that has been frozen has never spread any more than the freshly mixed dough, and usually it spreads a little less.

 I've thought about baking a large sheet and then cutting once it's out, but I've never tried it.  I suspect it would work well, as long as you had a plan for your layout (to avoid as much waste as possible) and you work *very* quickly.  The cookie starts hardening awfully quickly!  

 

I've had the same experience with frozen cookie dough.  I always freeze my sugar cookies, for example, so that they don't spread and keep their intricate shapes.  I'd agree that the spreading issue is likely unrelated to freezing.

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