A new tradition you can add to your Christmas family traditions this year is to build a gingerbread house together. Not only does it create great memories with your family, but also gives you a nice centerpiece for the table or buffet.
Gingerbread houses can be simple and easy or difficult and complex, depending on your decorating aspirations. If this is your first house, keep it simple. Either buy a pre-made gingerbread house kit in the store or make a simple homemade gingerbread house at home.
Tips for the Perfect Gingerbread House:
1. Plan Ahead: Constructing a gingerbread house is like building a real house. Plan out what you want your finished gingerbread house to look like and create a step by step process from there. Also decide the materials you plan to use for your house. Always keep in mind weight issues with any of your materials you use.
2. Homemade Gingerbread Houses: If you are making a homemade gingerbread house, create a pattern for the house from poster board. Cut out the patterns and tape it together to make sure the pieces fit together. If the template made out of poster board stands, your gingerbread house will most likely be structurally safe.
a. When making a homemade gingerbread house, the sky is the limit! Do not just limit yourself to a plain boxed house. Be as creative or complex as you want to be. Search the Internet for ideas!
b. Maximum thickness for your gingerbread dough should be no more then 3/8-inch. For best results, your dough should be 1/4-inch thick.
3. Support Base: Remember, the base of your gingerbread house should not only fit your gingerbread house, but should also be stable enough to move the entire structure easily. A piece of plywood covered with foil, a foam board, a large platter or a baking tray are great choices for the base of your house. Make sure to choose a base based on the dimensions of your house.
***Next, you can either Assemble (step #4) your house or Decorate (step #5) the individual parts of your house***
4. Assembly: Pick one of your gingerbread walls. Using a pastry bag (or you can use a ziplock bag – cut a hold in one of the corners for the frosting to come out of), apply a generous amount of frosting (the glue) to one of the edges of the wall. Then take the wall that attaches to the wall you just frosted and press the un-frosted edge against the frosted edge. Hold together until the frosting sets a little.
a. Then apply a thick line of frosting on your structure’s base where the two walls will go. Stick the two walls into the frosting you just put onto the base, making sure there is plenty of frosting around the base of the walls so they stand up straight. Hold the walls to the base for just a few minutes to dry.
b. Then, apply your next wall to the standing structure and the base. Place frosting at the base where the wall will go and at the side of the wall where it will be pressed to the adjoining wall. Repeat this step until all of your walls are up and standing straight.
c. Roof: First, put the roof together by placing a generous amount of frosting on the edges where the roof will hold together. Press the pieces together until the frosting sets a little. Once the frosting has dried a little on the roof structure, you can then place the roof structure onto of the wall structure. Apply a thick layer of frosting across the top of the walls. Then press the roof, carefully on top of the wall structure. Be careful not to press too hard that the walls start to cave in.
d. You can use frosting to fill in any gaps or errors and then smooth with a butter knife. Any smudges or drips can be wiped off with a damp paper towel.
5. Decoration: Once your gingerbread house is constructed, you can then start to decorate your house. Use a pastry bag with various decorating tips or a knife. Apply candy decorations by dabbing a small amounting of icing to the underside of the candy and hold in place until it sets. If you are placing candy in a decorative line, apply a thin line of frosting and then place your candy according to your design.
a. Don’t forget to decorate around the house by adding trees, animals, people, cars, etc. Just have fun and be creative.
Suggestions for Candy to Decorate with:
M&M’s, Skittles, Pez Candy, Chewing Gum (wood siding or roof shingles), Red Hots, Smarties, Lifesavers, Candy corn, Candy canes, Gum Drops, Dots, Gum balls, Peppermint Candies, Coconut (snow), various cookies, Pretzels (regular or sticks), etc.
There are many options for decorating your house. Keep in mind your plan and your final design of your gingerbread house when picking out your candy/food decorations.
**If you don’t want to use gingerbread to construct your house, you can also use graham crackers or cardboard.
2 cups molasses or honey
1 cup vegetable oil
1¼ cups sugar
3 large eggs
8 cups flour
2 tablespoons ground allspice
1½ tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon baking powder
Mix ingredients together. Dough will be easier to handle if you chill it overnight. Roll dough on cookie sheet and cut out patterns, removing any extra dough. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
Royal Icing Recipe
1 lb powdered sugar
2 egg whites
1 tsp white vinegar (optional: only if hard icing is desired)
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