The last couple of days were mostly detail work… and mess-ups. Hooboy, were there mess-ups. I saw ’em comin’ and I just blew right on through the red light.
First, I made pastillage. Pastillage is a sugar dough used most often for showpieces, on account of it drying absolutely rock hard. Once totally dry, this stuff is stupid durable. The only downside is that it crusts over and begins to dry extremely fast, so you have to keep only what you’re working with uncovered. You also have to work very quickly. In terms of holding its shape and giving a beautiful finish, though, it’s unbeatable.
You want a recipe? Good, ’cause I got a recipe.
7 cups (700g) powdered sugar
2 cups (240g) cornstarch
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
3/4 cup (180ml) cold water
1 1/2 packets powdered gelatin
1. Mix powdered sugar, cornstarch and cream of tartar in your mixer and blend. Bloom gelatin in cold water. Once bloomed, warm gelatin over stovetop or in microwave until dissolved. Do not boil. Pour into sugar mix and blend until it starts to come together. Pour out onto a countertop and knead until smooth. Store in an airtight bag or wrap tightly in plastic wrap.
The pastillage is required mostly for the roof, but there’s some detail I needed it for too, like the windowsills.
I made the roof and allowed the pieces to dry before I glued portions of the it together with royal icing. Specifically, I had some diagonally tilted panels I wanted to attach early on. Please marvel at the incredibly classy system I devised to hold up the sides.
Now, this is where I decided to be a complete idiot. You see, the small side panels on my roof were mostly dry, though they took careful handling. The large, thicker panel of the roof, however, was not dry in the center just yet. The problem was that it was also totally blocking important things in my kitchen. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner. In a vague hope that it’d be ready to assemble, I tried gluing all my bits together with various items propping things up. It worked… for a minute. Then it drooped. Then it drooped some more.
Then it cracked in half.
I could show you a current picture of the roof, but I’d be taking a photo of the inside of my garbage can. To top things off, while attempting to salvage things I managed to break the bottom, too.
Here’s our daily lesson: Find a good spot for your pastillage. One where you won’t have to move it until it’s dry. Then let it dry.
At least I had time to make a new batch of pastillage and cut out a second set. I don’t intend to touch this one for at least another 48 hours, lest I repeat today’s error.
On the bright side, I got the gingerbread men I baked on day one glazed and painted! I glazed them using the royal icing from earlier (plus a bit more lemon juice to make things runnier). While they dried, I tried sketching ways to make gingerbread men that would stay true to the character designs. All of my sketches sucked. I ended up throwing my hands up in the air and winging it, and they actually turned out kind of perfect. Sorry for the late-night photo with awful lighting, but I was too excited to wait until morning. I used a mixture of food coloring and non-toxic marker to paint on the glaze. If this were for eating, I would obviously use an edible marker, but those things are expensive and I didn’t want to use them if it wasn’t necessary.
Next time…pastillage roof and assembly, take two!