fresh from the Makery: DIY knock-off gingerbread train

We get an obscene number of catalogs this time of year. I bought a gift basket from Harry & David once, years ago, but continue to get catalogs from them several times a year. That kinda thing. In fact, I think West Elm is able to send you a catalog just by walking into their store. They must have some sort of invisible machine that scans your address on your person somehow - billing address from a credit card in your wallet maybe - and there is a catalog in your mailbox by the time you get home. And I enjoy looking through them. I remember as a kid, especially around the holidays, I'd look through catalogs and choose one thing I'd buy from each page if I could. One item from each page! I mean, obviously, I didn't actually get all those things but I think I continue to practice that form of "aspirational living" to some extent, browsing through catalogs from stores I rarely shop at.

I spied this gingerbread train in the Harry & David catalog doing just that kind of thing a couple of weeks ago and I thought, in a temporary lapse of sanity, I could totally make that! With the 5 year old enlisted to help decorate! I've made gingerbread cookies before. I mean, really, how hard could it be?

Yep, nailed it! In our defense, it was actually the icing that flopped.

This was a first for me so I didn't really know what I should have been going for in terms of royal icing consistency. Now I know I probably need to increase the powdered sugar to egg yolk ratio and beat the mixture much longer.

That said, the runny icing worked fine for assembly, if a bit frustrating (and I think it would actually work pretty well to decorate the pieces separately before assembly). If I had to do it again, in addition to tweaking my royal icing recipe, I'd make sure to roll out the gingerbread a little thinner than 1/4 inch before cutting it. The thinner pieces were definitely a bit easier to work with.

Once I had it assembled, it only took a few extra minutes to set up enough to decorate it without imploding it.

I let the 5 year old do most of the decorating, helping him pipe out the runny icing and, when gravity worked against us in terms of adding decorations, we used some red and green candy melts instead.

But wait, there's more! Want to make your own DIY knock-off Harry & David inspired gingerbread train?  I thought so! Just click on the two images above and print each JPEG on 8 1/2 by 11 inch card stock, cut out the pieces, and use them as templates for your rolled gingerbread pieces.

I baked the pieces anywhere from 12 to 20 minutes (12 minutes for the smaller circles, and up to about 20 minutes for the larger pieces). I like weelicious' recipe for gingerbread cookies; there may be a different recipe out there better suited to gingerbread structures like this but the weelicious recipe worked just fine and I'm assuming it's pretty tasty even sitting out for a couple of days as parts of the train have started to slowly disappear.

Anyway, the project was fun to tackle with my son. Even though it didn't quite turn out as I imagined, he had a blast decorating it (consuming way too much sugar while he did so) and we're still brainstorming what we might make next year out of gingerbread. I think we might have started a new family holiday tradition.

PS - You can use the egg yolks and any leftover lemon juice from the royal icing recipe to make lemon curd (if you're feeling really ambitious you could even put it in little jars, slap a bow on it, and give it to someone local as a holiday gift!). I don't know about you but I like to use "the whole animal," so to speak.

1 comment:

Susannah said...

um, impressive! (your little pdfs? way to go mom of the year) i love the side by side pics. so rad.

we'll see how much third round of icing turns out tomorrow night! :-/