Hoppo Bumpo (n): A children's game. Played by folding one's arms and hopping on one leg. Aim is to bump opponents, so that they lose their balance. Last person standing wins.

December 15, 2008

Gingerbread-cottage-along: humidity-proofing your house

Previously on Gingerbread-Cottage-Along ...
Introducing the cottage-along
Selecting a gingerbread recipe
Selecting a template

Humidity: the enemy of sleek hair-styles and gingerbread. I live in Melbourne, a city a long way south of the equator. High humidity rarely troubles us here and a gingerbread cottage will generally hold its stead. However, as you travel closer to the equator, you are more likely to experience rising damp and sogginess in your house. At very high humidity there is potential for structural instability and ... gasp ... collapse.

Like many people, gingerbread likes a low relative humidity. According to a study (link to abtract), recommended upper comfort limit for gingerbread is remarkably similiar to humans. At room temperature gingerbread keeps best below 60% relative humidity. In reality, the structural integrity of your cottage probably relies on a much lower level of humidity. You will notice most recipes suggest that you store gingerbread in a cool, dry place.

So is it possible to make a gingerbread house in more humid climates? A bit of research and reading via Google, suggests yes. Here are some ideas:

  • Overbake the gingerbread pieces a little. This will dry them out.

  • Use a gingerbread recipe designed for high humidity (Link to recipe)

  • Coat the pieces with royal icing to keep out the damp

  • Wrap the house in cling film or cellophane wrap overnight

  • Make each load-bearing wall using two identical pieces. Sandwich them together with icing. This will give a nice stable wall and the additional icing helps draw moisture out of the gingerbread.

  • Put a light inside your cottage. Turn the light on each day and this will help keep your gingerbread dry.

Unfortunately, I can't personally vouch for any of these methods or say which would work best. If I had to pick something to try, I think it might the light and the icing (as long as it didn't make the house pieces too heavy). You might like to try a combination of things. I'd imagine that each one, however, would reduce the edibility of your cottage. (Especially the gingerbread recipe, which guarantees to break your teeth!). Do you have any tips or sure-fire methods for humidity proofing a gingerbread cottage?

Lastly, an aside. During my research I chanced upon an article, discussing what happens when you add corn or potato starch to commercial gingerbread. (Link to article) This got me to thinking about what to do if you bake with a wheat or gluten-free flour. Often these flours contain, amongst other things, a mix of maize and potato starch. I know when I have baked scones with wheat-free flour in the past, I have had to use a great deal more liquid to the mix, than I would if I were to use wheat flour. The article suggests that adding a little potato and/or corn starch to wheat flour will improve the shelf-life of gingerbread, as it will hold more moisture. I'd conclude from this, that wheat-free flour would probably be unsuitable to use for a gingerbread cottage in high-humidity climates. Does anyone have any experience of this?

Are you cottaging-along? How are your preparations going?

Next: Assembling and decorating a house (Wednesday 17 Dec.)

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  1. I've never made a gingerbread house. My mother in law makes the most amazing ones. She would always make one for us every year. But they've stopped coming now. Ever since Christmas turned sour a couple of years back we got kicked out. Now she doesn't 'do' Christmas anymore. *sigh* Don't you just love Christmas.

  2. Lucky I'm not attempting it, it was so humid here one day last week, that all my paper curled, and sticky tape wouldn't stick! Uarck!

  3. I might try overbaking mine just a little and maybe putting some royal icing on the inside. I was thinking that simply storing it well would stop any humidity issues. I've just printed out my pattern, and I think I'll back on Thursday :)

  4. Hi, have made up a game and tagged you, hope you'll play so I know I'm not alone, but understand with the silly season if you can't. Merry Xmas and all that!

  5. I just read your recipes and comments concerning the problems with humidity and gingerbread. I made a very intricate gingerbread house when we lived in Florida. It took me three days to create that masterpiece. On the fourth day I watched in horror as it slowly caved in on itself and died.Yes,there is a foolproof way to make humidity proof house. Move to Nevada.

  6. I'm in Perth and find the heat hard on my gingerbread extravaganzas. l use the light and royal icing trick but l also save up all those anti-moisture packets that come in various products...from food to shoes, even some appliances. Save em up and put them inside the displays...works a treat!


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