Singapore is a great place to live: clean air, safe environment, convenient location for traveling in South East Asia and all the modern amenities you can think of. However, living in a tropical country where seasons blend into perpetual summer has its drawbacks. For one, you are always in shorts and T-shirts and the only way to wear your hair is up. The simple act of pulling on a pair of jeans turns into a major task of plotting out a route to ensure that you are never outside of air-conditioned buildings for more than 30 seconds at a time. Perhaps most disconcerting, however, is that you lose all sense of time. No more cherry blossoms in the spring, or changing foliages in the fall, and certainly no snow in the winter.
This past weekend, however, I stepped outside at 7am to let my dogs out and found myself home 15 minutes later without being covered in sweat. Later, when I walked them to the botanic garden I felt a definite chill when a gust of wind stirred up some fallen leaves on the ground. Could it BE? But yes! Winter is definitely upon us. This miniscule change in temperature somehow gets me in the mood for the holiday season like you wouldn’t believe. As if to help things along, everywhere I look there are huge snowflakes hanging off trees, Christmas lights strung across the streets, and 20-ft fake Christmas trees in every shopping center. Some department stores are even blasting Christmas carols! Yes, we are in the tropics, but damn it if we don’t try our best to make it feel like Christmas. And that is how I found myself making a 10” tall gingerbread Christmas tree a whole two months early.
The tedious part for this tree was cutting out the eleven snowflake shaped templates in decreasing sizes. The real challenge, however, was rolling out the dough, cutting the snowflakes with the help of the template, and transferring them to the baking sheet without distorting the shapes. All in all, there were 22 layers of snowflakes and I was cursing myself for embarking on such a stupid project right around layer ten. Once the cookies are baked though, the decorating part was easy, and a whole lot faster than a gingerbread house like this one. I think I just found the solution to an edible holiday centerpiece.
While I was on a roll, I decided to use the remaining dough to make gingerbread cookies and test some decorating ideas for the upcoming Christmas baking class at Palate Sensations on December 16th. Since it’s a hands-on class, I wanted to keep the decorations simple so that even people with minimal cookie decorating experience can go home with some beautiful cookies. At the same time they will learn useful tips and techniques so they can experiment and come up with more elaborate designs on their own. Without further ado, this is what I came up with, using white royal icing only, with the occasional help of a little sprinkles.
In the same class I will also be teaching miniature mince pies. Aren’t they just adorable? For class sign-ups, contact Palate Sensations.