A Pastry Mandala

Tibetan Buddhism is a fascinating philosophy.  Truly, it’s a subject worth looking into if you’re not already familiar with it.  An area of particular interest to me in any philosophy is that of its meditation practices and there are some neat ones to be found in Tibetan Buddhism.  The Sand Mandala is one such practice.  A sand mandala is an elaborate sand painting that is ritualistically created and then destroyed.  There is a host of tradition in how they are made and taken apart afterwards and it’s so fascinating to me that such an elaborate work is made for the purposes of destroying.

Kalachakra Sand Mandala

Kalachakra Sand Mandala

In some ways, any time you cook an elaborate meal, you are making a mandala of your very own.  There is another tradition that pops up around this time is even more apt.  An elaborate piece of pastry art that is created for the purpose of being destroyed and consumed.  The Gingerbread House.  If you look online, you’ll see some truly amazing examples that people have put together, but in this case there’s nothing wrong with starting small and simple.  Of course truly simple would be buying one of those gingerbread house kits, which are great if you like stale cookies.  Homemade is as always better.  Here’s the recipe I use:

Ingredients

170g Butter
190g Brown Sugar
120g Fancy Molasses
2 Eggs
375g Flour
8g Baking Powder
20g Fresh Grated Ginger
4g Cinnamon
2g Black Pepper
2g Fresh Grated Nutmeg

Method

Cream together the butter and sugar, then mix in the eggs and molasses.  Mix the spices and dry ingredients, then mix them into the wet mixture.  Wrap your dough and chill for about an hour.

While the dough is cooling make a template for your construct.  You can make your house as simple or as complicated as you like and you’ll hear nothing negative from me.  We’ll do the decorating with a basic royal icing.

Ingredients

4 Egg Whites
1kg Icing Sugar

Method

Begin whisking the egg whites and gradually sift in the icing sugar until everything is the correct consistency.  Cover with a wet paper towel when you’re not using it to prevent the icing from drying out.

A slight warning on this one.  There are those that feel raw egg whites are unsafe to eat, but from what I’ve read and experienced the risks are fairly minimal.  Anyway, at your own risk etc, etc.  Assemble and decorate as your little heart desires.  Candies are traditional for this purpose.  Once it is complete be sure to devour your creation.  Otherwise you’ve missed the point of this exercise exploring the transitory nature of the universe.

 

 

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