Making a Gingerbread House
Hello fellow food enthusiasts! Well, its hours before Christmas and I hope you are all getting as excited as I am. I would like to say I big thank you to Erin for allowing me to post about one of my holiday traditions on her blog. Erin has done a fabulous job posting ideas for us all over the holiday season and has certainly had me in the mood to cook!
Making gingerbread houses was a childhood tradition of mine; something I did with my grandmother each year. She lived in England and I spent the majority of an eight hour plane ride designing blue prints deciding how this year’s house should look. As you can imagine, they got increasing more complicated to the point where it was taking two solid days to bake and construct. But really, this is the beauty of gingerbread houses, they can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. Not only that, but all mistakes can be hidden by another squeeze of royal icing so you really can’t go wrong. So here I attempt to show you a few steps on how to make your own house.
The first step is designing your blueprint. A quick google search will yield lots of free patterns but each year I like to design my own. It’s a little like heading back to geometry class and feels good to stretch those muscles. Keep in mind, the larger the house, the more stressful assembly will be. Make paper cutouts of your pieces and use a knife to cut the cookies into the desired shapes. When they come out of the oven you will want to lay the pattern back on top and cut them again for good assembly.
Step 2 – Make and bake gingerbread
I have used a different gingerbread recipe in the pictures because I was trying something new but actually, I didn’t like it. I have used this recipe from Martha Stewart on numerous occasions and therefore I disclose it for you here. The amount you need will depend on how large your house is and I needed three batches for mine. Any extra makes great men or trees and whatever you wish to decorate and extra dough freezes beautifully.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
- 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
- 1 large egg
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda, and salt; set aside. With an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in molasses and egg. With mixer on low, add dry ingredients; mix just until a dough forms. Place dough on floured plastic wrap; pat into an 8-inch square. Wrap well; chill until firm, 1 to 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit. Divide dough in half. Working with one half at a time (rewrap and refrigerate other half), place dough on floured parchment or waxed paper; roll out 1/8 inch thick, turning, lifting, and flouring dough (and rolling pin) as needed.
- Loosen dough from paper. Cut out shapes, using the pattern you created and a few gingerbread men to stand outside, and transfer to baking sheets.
- Bake until firm and edges just begin to darken, 10 to 18 minutes, depending on size.
- Lay your pattern back on top of the cookie and re-trim it if it has changed size during the baking process.
- Cool completely on baking sheets.
Decorating and Assembly
I have decorated and assembled my house two ways. Once with the walls decorated and once without the walls decorated and the assembled. It doesn’t matter though, if you do wish to get incredibly intricate with your decorations (as I have been known to do), I would suggest decorating on a flat surface, letting them dry overnight and then assembling. Either way, you will need lots of royal icing:
This recipe is fabulous from Anna Olson’s new book “Back to Baking”, my house was quite large, I needed four batches in the end.
- 2 egg whites
- 2 cups icing sugar (sifted) – If you have a Kitchenaid you can skip the sifting and beat with vigor!
- 1 tablespoon white corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Whip the eggs whites just to loosen them add the remaining ingredients, beat on low at first and then on high for five minutes until light and fluffy. You will want to keep royal icing covered when not in use as it goes hard fast!
Something I tried this year (and it didn’t work) was to bake sugared glass into the windows but making a cutout in the dough and filling with coloured sugar.
It was disaster because the sugar granules did not melt and required me cooking the sugar over the gas flame of the stove top risking burning down the house. On the list of things to learn before next year is sugar craft but it turned out good enough for this year!
Step 3 – Decorate and assemble
So admittedly, this part can be a little stressful and the larger the house the more stressful this will be. I decided to go hog wild and my roof was the size of a whole sheet of paper but I went slow and it all worked out in the end. I even assembled it backward, had to take it apart and it still worked out, I repeat: all mistakes can be covered by another piping of icing sugar.
So begin by piping lines of icing on your chosen surface (I use a marble cutting board) to support the back inside walls and either hold them or support them until the icing becomes tacky enough to hold up the wall on its own (10 to 15 minutes). This year I even put a light in the house to highlight the sugar windows:
Once the walls are firm, you can add the roof and I use wine glasses to support it while it dries.
Once the house is standing it’s up to you to cover it in candy, icing sugar, icicles; let your imagination run wild. This year I made the roof tiles our of coloured royal icing as few days in advance and let them dry and glued them on the roof with icing sugar.
One of my favourite parts about the house is getting the whole family involved. I find that if you set out candy, baked cookies and icing bags filled with icing, they will come on their own volition and surprise you with creative juices. This year my family did all the men surrounding the house, my husband even made candy cane stands so that they could stand on their own.
In the end, I was pleased with the end result:
Like I say, this is something that can be fun for a few hours or consume you for days. Either way it’s a great project to get you in the mood for the Christmas season!!
Happy holidays everyone and thanks to Erin for having me!
Thanks Dana for the lovely post and the beautiful photos... maybe this will motivate me to try out making my own gingerbread house next year??!!
Happy Baking my Friends!