A few years ago, I baked for Christmas and then it was forgotten. Making my own cookies and packaging them, passing them to people whom were close friends and colleagues. It was tiring, yet that memory one can leave in a person with a homemade taste. Was enough.
One of the inspiration behind the idea of putting effort into making our own food and presenting it well was definitely derived from my travel to Japan. Pretty, enticing pastries and Bentos so beautifully presented.
When I picked up a box of Muji’s Christmas Cookie House Kit (They call it a Hexenhaus) on a cold winter night in Kichijoji, I decided this will make its debut on my next Christmas. I must be glowing still from the admiration of the quaint houses nestled in the Mitaka neighbourhood and the disappointment of missing out on the Ghibli Musuem (I bought the wrong date and flying back the next day). Had to purchase something happy.
For 472 yen (Approx SGD$8), it was a really cheap price to pay for a trial cookie house kit.
A Hexenhaus, I guess was derived from Hans Christen Anderson’s tale of Hansel and Gretel, and the Enchanted Witch House made of Candy (So German).
This will be my greatest feat yet, if I ever attempted to build this. Considering my Baking Skills is still a work in progress. Yet, in my head, I was imagining the difference it would make for my next Christmas. Instead of just a regular Christmas tree to represent Christmas.
Have you seen the Sweet Sweet Town Campaign by Muiji Homemade for this Christmas 2012?
You can see more via twitter using the term: #mujixmas
Pretty awe inspiring I’m sure. Which made me more determined to build one!
I must admit, it wasn’t as easy as I thought. Considering the warmer weather in Singapore which made the cookie dough soft in minutes. Which meant that I had to work fast. Popping the shapes into the freezer or oven with each batch cut out. Quite a bit of coordination. You might have a easier time, if you had a larger oven to bake more with each batch I suppose.
So how long did I take to build everything together? Including the waiting time for the icing to dry off enough to stick the sections together – 8 hours nonstop.
At this point I would be in between popping shapes into the refridgerator to chill or into the oven for baking.
All that was said, i do appreciate the challenge behind the project. Patience and resilience. At a point when i nearly gave up when the house was collapsing, and I was complaining to my sister to get the superglue so I can just piece them together – easy peasy.
My sister stopped me. Another pair of hands was needed to hold the sections together (Actually it was more a form of encouragement and motivation – Really.), and Eureka! We brought a fan to the Kitchen, blowing air at the structure, which enabled the icing to dry much faster. *DEEP BREATHE*
From that phase onwards, I worked alot faster. I also modified the look of the Hexenhaus a little, by adding silver dragées and some food colouring to the plain dough. Injecting some colour to the otherwise monotones of the Cookie House. I liked it much better.
Cons: Icing was runny. Possibly because of the warm weather, the meringue in the mixture broke down a lot faster.
Suggestion: Using ready made icing would make a the ‘snow’ look more realistic with the thicker consistency. And I think makes piecing the structure together even faster!
Pros: Cocoa cookie dough was easy to work with, the dough was of a less sticky texture and malleable.
Suggestion: If your plain dough is still sticky (Mine was before I just stucked the dough in the refrigerator which came out setting well. Still, I had some flour on the side to help in manipulating the dough.
Pros: Pictorial in Japanese Instruction manual is comprehend able enough – Basically cut out the cookie shapes using the paper cutouts (You have to cut them yourself prior). And E.G using a knife to press out the ‘Brick Wall’ design on your dough.
Cons: No universal language in English to help Non-Japanese customers to build the project (refer to this link for basic instructions in english).
MUJI PRODUCT SUGGESTION: By providing more dough mixture to your Hexenhaus Kit, it will enable your customer to make parts with thicker walls. Therefore making it alot easier to stabilize the structure.
Also a better formula for creamier, thicker icing to add in pasting the structure together will be nice.
At the end of the project, it was a sense of both relief and personal satisfaction.
- Santa made me want to pinch his cheeks. Playing with the edible structure for awhile did bring back some childhood memories and unspoken joy.
- The look of wonder and excitement from my family when they saw the finished product was again, priceless.
- A great centerpiece to the dining table – awesome.
- Completing a project albeit the sweat and near tears, was a character building experience I guess!
Thank you BAM’s Kitchen for the initial heads up for the English instructions!
If you need video example of how to make the Hexenhaus: