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Gingerbread House

December 18, 2012

Well hello, friends. Don’t you love this time of year? Everyone is in good holiday spirits, Christmas lights sparkle, the air is crisp and magical. The only problem is there just isn’t enough time. Between our usual obligations at home and work, add shopping for gifts, decorating, extra cooking or baking and holiday parties and there isn’t a whole lot of time to accomplish everything. I have a long list of things I wanted to do and make for the holidays and I’ve barely made a dent in it. One of the things I did complete on my holiday bucket list was making a gingerbread house from scratch. Perhaps the gingerbread house is why I didn’t accomplish many of the other things I wanted to make…

As a kid, I made gingerbread houses several times with my Mom and brother. We used graham crackers for the house, tons of royal icing and lots of candy (which was usually off limits in our house!). It was so much fun to create a “grown up” gingerbread house with a polished look and homemade gingerbread pieces. My decorating was a bit more precise this time, but it definitely brought me back to being a kid, wearing a big apron and sneaking bites of candy while I stuck gumdrops to the roof.

My gingerbread house is far from perfect but not bad for my first try. I learned a lot of things, primarily that I need a lot of practice with my piping bag! Most of the things I learned were small tweaks I can use in the future.

front house

I used the template provided at pickyourownchristmastree.org. The pieces didn’t all print exactly to scale on my printer but the dimensions are listed for easy reference. I used all the side panels as they showed up and trimmed the roof by about an inch since I didn’t want as much overhang. I also omitted some of the windows on the sides and the roof. The template is a guide so feel free to tweak it how you see fit, just make sure it will all line up. Next year I will print the template on thicker card stock instead of regular paper, which proved to be a little floppy when trying to cut around it.

One of the biggest things I would change is rolling out the dough. I rolled mine to about 1/4″ but next time I would roll it just a bit thinner. Transferring the pieces to the baking sheet was also a little tricky and it stretched and skewed the parts a bit – not a ton but enough to require some extra icing to even things out. So, I would recommend rolling your dough on a piece of parchment paper or a Silpat then removing all the scraps around it and transferring the parchement to your baking sheet. You could also roll out a large section of dough, drape it over the rolling pin and put it in your baking sheet then cut out the template. The goal is to avoid handling the individual pieces that will make up the house once they are cut out.

I spaced out my assembly more out of necessity because of my work schedule, but I found it made the house very stable and sturdy. I baked the pieces on day one and left them out overnight to cool and harden. On day two, I made royal icing and assembled the four walls. On day three, I affixed the roof and on day four I decorated. Four days is a long time but it ensured the icing dried completely and was rock solid before I tinkered with the house for the next step. I think we’d all be frustrated and heartbroken if we rushed and the whole house collapsed mid-decorating.

side house

 

Gingerbread House
For the House:
adapted from pickyourownchristmastree.org

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter, melted and still warm
1 1/2 cups unsulphured molasses
1 1/2 cups brown sugar (dark or light works, I used dark)
2 large eggs
8 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground allspice

In a very large mixing bowl, combine the melted butter and molasses with a hand mixer (if you have a large KitchenAid, you can make though dough first using the whisk attachment and switching to the paddle attachment when you add the flour). Add the eggs and brown sugar and mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and allspice. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three additions. It will start to get very tough once you’ve added about half the flour mixture. Use your hand mixer as long as you can, on low speed and stopping periodically to clear out any dough that builds up in the beaters. Using your hands, knead the dough a few times to mix in the last bits of flour until the dough comes together into a smooth ball. Divide the dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour and up to one day.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Take one of the pieces of dough out of the fridge. If it is too cold to roll out, let it sit for 5-10 minutes until it is still cold but you are able to roll it out. Cut the piece of dough in half. On a piece of parchment paper or a Silpat, roll the dough to about 1/4″ thick, or slightly less. Transfer the parchment or Silpat to a baking sheet. Cut around the templates using a sharp knife and remove any scraps, reserving.

Bake gingerbread house pieces for 15 minutes, until it starts to brown slightly at the edges and is slightly firm. Let gingerbread cool on baking sheet for 15-20 minutes then remove to a baking rack to cool completely. If you move the gingerbread when it is still warm, it may crack or break.

Repeat cutting prodecure above with remaining templates and dough. If any dough becomes too soft, refrigerate it for 15 or 20 minutes until it is slightly firm and chilled. I had plenty of dough leftover – feel free to make gingerbread people to go with your house!

For the icing:
adapted from allrecipes.com
yields about 3 cups

3 tablespoons meringue powder
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
6 tablespoons water

Combine all ingredients in a KitchenAid mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low for a minute or two until combined and smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary. Turn the mixer to medium and beat for 5-7 minutes until the icing forms peaks.

Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a coupler and whatever tip you prefer. Icing dries out quickly, so transfer to an airtight container or cover with a damp towel when not in use.  I used two batches of icing, made on day two and four.

Assembly and Decoration:

Gel food coloring
Cereal squares such as Life or Shredded Wheat
Gum drops
M&Ms or other chocolate candies
Candy canes or peppermint sticks
Sprinkles and dragees

Prepare a base for your gingerbread house, by covering an upside down rimmed baking sheet or a piece of plywood with heavy duty aluminum foil. Pipe icing onto the edge of one of the long, rectangular sides. Line up with the peaked roof side and stick together. Add another line of icing on the inside where the two pieces meet. Hold together for a minute or two until the icing hardens enough to hold the pieces together. Repeat with remaining two sides, adding an additional line of icing to the inside each time. Let sit overnight to dry. (royal icing can be stored in an airtight container overnight. If you use meringue powder, it can stay at room temperature; if you follow a different recipe and use egg whites, refrigerate.)

The next day, affix the roof pieces. Hold the roof pieces up to the walls and determine which way create the straigtest line across the roof. Then, get cans or boxes to hold up the roof while it was drying (I stacked macaroni and cheese boxes with a gum container and a stack of business cards to get the exact height). Pipe icing along the short edges of roof panels and affix to the walls. Hold in place for a few minutes then but the boxes and other support items below. Repeat with other side. Let dry overnight.

To decorate, affix candy to house with royal icing. Color the icing using gel food coloring and experiment with different tips and your piping bag.

Merry Christmas!

rear house

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Steph permalink
    December 24, 2012 11:04 am

    Awww so cute!!

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