Our 7 top tips for creating a spectacular gingerbread house!

13 December, 2016

Gingerbread houses are the be-all and end-all of the crafty Christmas bake. They’re spectacular, tasty and magical, bringing Hansel and Gretel’s fairytale to life in an enchanting Christmas tradition. From crunchy gingerbread and alluring festive aromas to intricate design, gingerbread houses turn the act of baking into impressive art making, producing the ultimate Christmassy creation your customers can enjoy – one feature at a time.

gingerbread-house-1

What makes a gingerbread house stand out more than any other bake associated with the festive season is its simple technique yet all-encompassing appearance. Depending on the time you have at your disposal, you can make your house as grand as you like, building on its basic structure, adding colours, iced decorations and little design traits that will give it the wow factor.

Whether you’ve created countless gingerbread houses before or not, there are several tips and tricks we’ve found which will make the whole process much easier, creating a striking edible home ready to serve.

 

1. Craft your gingerbread when it’s warm

 

gingerbread-two

 

Its crunchy texture is what makes gingerbread so delicious, but it isn’t ideal when trimming your designs. Being organised and ready to trim your gingerbread fresh from the oven (and warm) will give you the perfect outlines you need.

 

2. Decorate your house before it’s built!

 

Instead of building your house first, begin to decorate its exterior. It’s significantly easier to pipe decorations on flat walls. You can add more of the finishing touches afterwards when you can see it in all its glory.

 

3. Add food colouring to the royal icing

 

Royal icing is strong, and will do just the job for sticking together parts of your house. But, if you want to give your gingerbread house a neater look, you could add food colouring to the icing mix. Experiment with various shades to create a similar colour to the gingerbread, offering a striking, seamless build.

 

4. Use gelatin sweets for transparent windows

 

gingerbread-gelatim

Making your gingerbread house as realistic as possible is how your bake will truly stand out. For the advanced baker, one way to do this is to cut out window frames, and stick gelatin sheets inside. This creates transparent windows which you can decorate – that are, of course, edible! Doesn’t it look great?

 

5. Experiment with various sweets and confectionery!

 

gingerbread-confectionery

Why not add colour, taste and texture to your gingerbread house by experimenting with a variety of confectionery? Just some of the options include chocolate roof slates, candy cane pillars, licorice straw wreaths and mini marshmallow snow piles. Simply stick down using royal icing!

 

6. Sprinkle with icing sugar

 

To finish off your gingerbread house, why not create a magical snowy scene? Sprinkle icing sugar onto your finished house, and add glitter for extra sparkle!

 

7.  Add lights!

 

gingerbread-house-lights

With its bare interior and gelatin windows comes a fantastic opportunity to make your creation really spectacular. Place battery powered fairy lights into the house before fitting your decorated roof. You’ll then have a picturesque gingerbread house! Amazing!

Have you made a spectacular gingerbread creation? Send us your images via Twitter!

Our top tips for making the best gluten-free bread

1 December, 2016

A great way to widen and diversify your customer base, catering for customers with allergies and intolerances can aid your business’s success. As experienced bakers, we know gluten-free bread can be just as tasty and satisfying as wheat-based bread, however getting a good rise without gluten can be a little tricky. If you’re intending to declare your bread as gluten free for retail purposes, it’s essential you make it in a gluten free environment – otherwise you won’t be able to claim your bread is totally free from gluten.

So, to ensure your next batch of gluten-free bread is as brilliant as it should be, here are a few of our top baking tips to help you get it just right.

 

1. Make sure your ingredients are at room temperature

 
Unlike wheat-based flours, gluten-free flours are often refrigerated. Since yeast thrives in warmer temperatures, and will need all the help it can get without the presence of gluten to get a good rise, making sure all your ingredients are at room temperature before you start baking is crucial. If not, you may find your bread is a bit denser than desired.

 

2. Don’t knead your dough

 
dough balls

In wheat bread, kneading the dough is key to making the gluten more elastic and developing the bread’s structure. However, since gluten-free breads obviously don’t contain gluten, you don’t actually need to knead the bread. In fact, you should avoid kneading the bread all together, otherwise you’re simply knocking the air out of the dough, resulting in a flatter bread.

 

3. Use a specific gluten-free recipe

 
If you’re new to baking gluten-free bread, you’re likely to have more success using a gluten-free recipe rather than trying to convert a wheat bread recipe. Gluten-free recipes often have different ratios of liquid to dry ingredients, and some may include other ingredients such as eggs which are natural leavening agents or olive oil for extra flavour, so opting for a gluten-free recipe will help to keep things simple. Once you’re familiar with the consistency of gluten-free dough, converting wheat-based bread recipes will be far easier.

 

4. Shape your dough before you leave it to rise

 
bread

Since the yeast in gluten-free recipes doesn’t have any gluten to react with, gluten-free bread won’t rise as much as your standard loaf. To make sure you don’t knock any air out of the dough when shaping it, you need to limit your handling of the dough after it’s risen. As such, shaping the dough before you leave it to prove will help ensure a better rise.

 

5. Use a high active or quick rise yeast

 
If you’re having issues getting your bread to rise, try using a high active or quick rise yeast to help speed up the process. You can also test your yeast before combining it with your mixture by adding it to the liquids (at room temperature) needed in your recipe. If the yeast mixture swells and froths, it’s working; if not, you need to replace it.

 

6. Bake your bread in the centre of the oven

 
bread-in-oven

If you bake your bread at the top of the oven, the top of the bread can cook quicker than the rest of the loaf. This can cause the inside of the bread to drop away from the top crust and leave a hole. Instead, make sure you bake your bread in the centre of the oven, removing anything from above the bread which may restrict its rise.

 

7. Add a little mayonnaise

 
If you think your gluten-free bread is turning out dry or bland, you can try adding a tablespoon of mayonnaise into your bread mixture. A great way to easily add moisture and flavour, just including this small addition could really transform your loaf.

Think there are any top gluten-free baking tips we’ve missed? Share your advice with us via Twitter!

4 quirky ways to decorate a Christmas cake!

30 November, 2016

Is Christmas really Christmas without its staple bake? Jam-packed with raisins, sultanas and cherries, this deliciously sweet fruit cake, covered in marzipan and icing, goes hand in hand with the jovial celebrations experienced during this time of year. Christmas cake’s ingredients may often stay the same, but its texture is created depending on preference – whether crumbly or sticky – and as a whole, the bake can be decorated as you wish – encompassing the festive season with edible decorations, colours and more.

In this blog, we’re showcasing how you can truly make your Christmas cake as striking as possible, taking inspiration from several eye-catching designs.

1. Iced snowflakes

Who says you can’t change the colour of your Christmas cake? Swap white icing for blue!

Roll out your brightly coloured icing and place on top of the marzipan, trimming off the excess icing with a knife. Then, using a snowflake icing template, cut out your winter wonderland designs and stick them to the icing using water. Simply finish by sprinkling edible glitter all over the cake!

Your cake’s flavour will still have its traditional taste, just wrapped up a little differently!

2. Frosted pine trees

 

Frosted pine trees

For a true winter wonderland, why not create your own festive landscape littered with Christmas trees and decorations? By taking advantage of the various frosting techniques out there, you can create your own iced pine trees in differing styles (that still taste great!). Start with a green fondant cone and a small flower cutter. Begin to cut out your fondant flowers one by one, folding them in half as you go along. Then, using a little water, stick your flowers onto the fondant cone, pushing up the individual petals. Do this until the cone is completely covered. Once finished, why not sprinkle with icing sugar for that desirable snowy effect? Here’s the full technique for impressive nature necessities!

3. Delicious cookie holly leaves

 

Holly leaves cookies

If you want to push the boundaries with your Christmas cake, what’s stopping you from combining two delicious bakes in one? Instead of focusing solely on icing decorations, you could create simple festive cookies to add to the top of your cake. You don’t want to cover it entirely, but instead, selectively place a couple onto the centre of your icing.

Keep your biscuit simple, and turn your attention instead to its design. Using green icing, draw the outline of your holly leaves, before filling in their centre. Outline your leaves with ivory icing once dry and finish with red iced berries! Want to add extra flavour? Swap the iced berries for cherries!

Then, all you need to do is place your cookies onto your Christmas cake. You could even serve extra cookies separately as an added festive treat!

4. Handmade Rudolf cake toppers

 

Rudolf cake decorations

For a showstopping design, why not create an iced Rudolph topper to sit on your Christmas cake? With many intricate features on this loveable reindeer, creating an iced character does take a little patience, but it’s certainly worth it. With a selection of coloured fondant and modelling paste, you can turn your baking techniques into perfecting the ultimate Christmas cake design – with Rudolf, and even Santa Claus, ruling your festive bake. Why not create Christmas cupcakes as well and add this little treasure on top? Here’s the full instructions – suitable for the advanced baker!

At BAKO NW, Christmas is just another excuse to perfect our baking skills and experiment with different techniques. How have you decorated a festive bake in the past? We want to see your images! Simply show us your beautiful Christmas creations via Twitter.

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