January 2007


Gingerbread house part 2 should have already been posted here! but unfortunately  my laptop computer with all the gingerbread photos has chosen to crash! until I have it back, the gingerbread post is on hold.

Yesterday I made a bread called ‘Bolo-Rei’ to celebrate the feast of the Three Kings (the Epiphany). Its a tradition to eat Bolo-Rei (which means Kings cake)  in Portugal to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany.

Luckily the bread turned out beautifully, and I plan to make it every year.

What you need:

  • 100g glace citrus peel, chopped
  • 50g raisins
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 100ml port
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast
  • 100ml water (luke warm)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 lemon & 1 orange, zested.
  • 3 eggs, beaten

and for the topping:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 10 glace cherries
  • 25g glace citrus peel
  • extra sugar (about 2 tablespoons)
  • apricot jam

Step 1: Put the glace peel, raisins, pine nuts and port into a bowl, mix lightly and leave to soak overnight.

Step 2: Sprinkle the yeast over the luke-warm water in a small bowl. Leave it without mixing for 5 minutes, then stir to dissolve. 

Step 3: Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeasted water then using a wooden spoon mix in a little of the flour until the yeasted water becomes a soft paste. 

Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave until the soft paste becomes frothy and slightly risen. It should take about 20 minutes.

Step 4: In a new bowl – Beat the softened butter (you can soften it for ~10 seconds in the microwave) with the sugar and lemon and orange zest until it is light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each egg is added.

Mix the egg/butter mixture into the soft paste, slowly incorporating  the flour until you have a soft dough.

Step 5: Sprinkle some flour onto your work surface and place your dough on it.

Knead the dough for 10 minutes, until it is soft and smooth and fairly elastic.

Push the dough down into a circle, and sprinkle on the port-soaked peel, raisins and pine nuts. Fold the dough in half, and knead for another 2-3 minutes.  You may want to knead the fruits into the dough in two separate lots.  

Place the dough into a clean bowl, cover it with a tea towel and leave to rise for about 2 hours, or until it has roughly doubled in size.  If your kitchen is cold and the dough isn’t rising as quickly as it should, place a warmish hot water bottle (covered by a tea towel) underneath your bowl.

Step 6: Once your dough is risen, knock it back by punching it, and leave it to rest for 10 minutes.   

Take the dough out of the bowl and press down into a circle, about 2.5cm thick.  Taking your hand press the heel end of it into the centre, pushing down until you have made a hole in the middle of the dough.  Take your fingers and push the dough inside and out until it is in a nice ring shape.  


Place the dough onto a buttered baking tray, cover with a tea towel and leave to prove until doubled in thickness, which should take about 1 hour.

Step 7: To make the egg glaze, combine 1 egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water, mix until it is well combined and brush the glaze over the dough. This will make it have a lovely golden colour when it it baked.

Decorate the dough with the cherries, peel and some sugar.

Bake in a preheated 180C oven for 45 minutes, or until it is golden.

Step 8: Warm some apricot jam up in either your microwave or a saucepan, and brush over the top and sides of the bread.

Leave your Bolo-Rei to cool on a rack or eat it hot! 🙂

This recipe was originally found in ‘bread’a wonderful book!  however the version written here is my own interpretation of their recipe.


Celine & I both made a gingerbread house for Christmas this year.  I have made one for each Christmas since 2001, while this is Celine’s second year of baking them.

You can read about the history of gingerbread throughout the ages here.  It’s a pretty interesting read.

I took photos each step of the way while constructing the house this year, so hopefully in a series of posts I can show you exactly how a house gets put together! 🙂

Before I being, a little ‘teaser’ photo of a section of the house. 🙂  you’ll have to wait to see the complete photo!


Step 1: Find or make your pattern up for your house.  A great resource for this can be found online at Frankys Attic, and the pattern I used is called “Patterson House”.   

If you do choose to make up your own pattern, I’ve found that grid paper is great to use for precise measurements while drawing what you want.  A good idea is to make up your pattern from cardboard before baking the gingerbread pieces, to avoid re-baking when you find some parts of your house don’t fit!

Step 2: Get ready to bake lots of gingerbread! 🙂  for my house I made 5 batches of this recipe.  I found the best way was to make up 2 x double batches, and then a single one. 

Gingerbread Recipe

What you need:

  • 125g butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (packed firmly into the cup)
  • 1 egg yolk (it might be a great idea to save the egg white for the royal icing you’ll need to assemble your house)
  • 2 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of golden syrup
  • 3-4 tablespoons of milk, only needed if your mixture is dry (like mine always was!!)
  • Non-stick baking paper

Step 1:

Set your oven to 180C, and lay some sheets of baking paper on your trays.

Put the butter (which should be soft, so it is easy to cream) and the brown sugar into your bowl, and cream until light and fluffy.

Add the egg yolk and beat well.

Step 2: Put the flour, bicarb soda and ginger into your sifter, and alternate sifting in the flour with stirring in the golden syrup.   If your mixture is still feeling quite dry, add the milk now.

Step 3: Roll out your dough until it is about 1/2 to 1cm thick (depending on how thick you want your walls) onto a nice firm surface, I’ve found that rolling it straight onto some baking paper is great.


Step 4: Cut out your pattern piece by placing the pattern on top of the rolled gingerbread dough, and using either a knife or pizza-cutter to cut out around it.  Place the cut-out piece onto a tray covered with a sheet of baking paper.

Step 5: Put the gingerbread into the oven, and cook for at least 20 minutes.  Unlike cooking gingerbread normally you want this to look almost burnt, as it is imperative to have very hard gingerbread! otherwise your house will collapse.  The rule I use when baking gingerbread house pieces is – ‘if in doubt, cook it for 5 minutes more!’ 🙂

Finally, once the pieces have cooled, wrap them in foil and store in a safe place (where they won’t get knocked and broken) until you are ready to start construction!


And that’s the end of post 1 on the gingerbread house!  more coming soon.