Hi, there! I’m a hobbyist baker admittedly lacking a thorough understanding of the science behind recipes so have a question:
I’m attempting a fairly large scale 3-D project and was originally planning it with gingerbread (Julia’s recipe via http://cookieconnection.juliau...t-cookie-gingerbread) but my pieces are drooping and ultimately breaking. My previous 3-D project with it produced a similar result, although more manageable as the piece was smaller. With that one I found being kept in an airtight container helped, but that isn’t an option this time due to its funky size/shape.
Humidity in my house is fairly stable in the mid 40% range and I halved the baking soda as recommended for construction projects. I thought maybe the cookie wasn’t hard enough all the way through/I didn’t bake it long enough, but the bottom is almost black! (baked on silpat at 350F) so I can’t imagine a few more minutes would have been helpful.
I did a test with my barely-spreads-or-rises sugar cookie dough (sugar, butter, eggs, baking powder, flour) and it seems a bit more sturdy . . . Google explained to me the basics of leaveners and all that but my real question is to those of you who have lots of experience cookie building: why is gingerbread the medium of choice for structural projects? Is it just preference? Am I doing wrong somewhere? Bake longer, lower heat? Flip it over? (tried this, helped a bit but broke off a piece in the process) Adjust another ingredient? (molasses seemed partially responsible for pliability so I reduced a bit, no help) Stop making large awkwardly shaped cookies? Too bad on that last one, but would really appreciate any insight that might help me from continuing to flail around here.  Thanks!
Original Post

Hi, first, welcome to the site. I hope you enjoy it. Second, to answer your question, I'm not sure what you mean by "fairly large scale", but I do not suggest using the recipe you are using for other than small-scale 3-D projects per the note at the top of that recipe, copied directly below.

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I use a sturdier "construction gingerbread" with bread flour instead of all-purpose flour when making larger (more than 10-12-inch) projects, as the extra gluten in the bread flour makes it more structurally sound. (I prefer to work with my cutout gingerbread recipe for smaller projects, because IT IS more delicate - though not extraordinarily - and, thus, tastes better. I usually relegate my construction gingerbread just for show pieces, as the added bread flour will toughen the dough.) Any recipe can work for 3-D projects as long as there is enough flour in it to give it strength and to prevent a lot of spreading (and not too much leavening, especially for curved cookie shapes), but I also suggest you reinforce cookies by icing them with royal icing  (or at least the backs of them), as ALL cookies soften with exposure to any humidity and can wilt over time. The icing also helps to seal and reinforce the cookies. I have iced 3-D cookies (usually not more than 12 or so inches) on display in my house for years now with no drooping, though eventually the icing at the seams may dry out and these pieces may fall apart. I also box and bag projects not on display. Large boxes covered with garbage bags can keep out a lot of humidity and cover some very big cookie projects, and cakes even. Best of luck.


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I did see that was noted but honestly just wasn't sure how to quantify "small" -- I knew mine wasn't but, for example I'd consider the gorgeous vases/urns you make to be big as well so figured what the heck I'll just go for it. 

Parts of this piece are 12"+ and it won't be consumed so I have no qualms about trying bread flour -- didn't realize gluten had that property, how interesting! Would the flour substitution be 1:1? 

I rolled tests at both 1/4" and 3/8". They'll be iced eventually, I just hadn't gotten that far but with that tip in mind may adjust the workflow a bit. And ah, a trash bag, so simple! 

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