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Saturday, December 06, 2014

My Gingerbread House


Making a Gingerbread House is something you should do at least once in your life.  It's fun to plan and create a cookie house and if you have little kiddies at home they will be delighted.  I tend to keep my houses fairly simple but I've seen some real architectural  masterpieces on line.  I'm buying candy all year long for my house.  I'll be in a store and see a bag of candy that would be great on a Gingerbread House so I'll buy it and store it away for the construction season. Just last month I came across "Strawberry and Cream Bricks" which I knew would be perfect for the chimney. 


Here's some of my stash of construction materials.
 
The recipe for the Gingerbread House is the same as the Newfoundland Jam-Jams recipe, except I increased the amount of flour used and added ginger and a little cloves.  A stiffer dough is easier to handle and bake.  Depending on how big you want your Gingerbread House, you may have to make this recipe more than once.  For the house I made I used only one recipe.  It was just the right amount.   If you have leftover dough, just roll it out and make a few cookies.  


To make the Gingerbread House you will need:

1. Gingerbread House Cookie Dough
2. Template for house--make your own or find one online
3. Royal Icing
4. Assorted hard candies, candy canes, chocolate candies, sanding sugar, etc.
5. A cake board to hold the Gingerbread House.  A thin piece of plywood works well if your house is large.  You want something sturdy to hold the house.   If your house is not too big, heavy corragated cardboard would probably work.


Gingerbread House Cookie Dough
1 cup butter or margarine
¾ cup sugar
½ cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking soda dissolved in 4 tablespoons of hot water
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
1 tablespoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups flour to make a medium stiff dough

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. If you have a very hot oven decrease the temperature to 350 degrees.

Cream butter, sugar, molasses and vanilla together. Add the dissolved baking soda and mix well.  Add flour, spices and salt and mix until a stiff but not dry dough is formed.  It should roll easily.  Roll out on lightly floured parchment paper.  This will allow for easy transport to the cookie sheet. 


 
Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy.  I threw in the spices with the sugar instead of the flour.  That won't make much difference to the cookie.  Dissolve the baking soda in hot tap water and add to the mixture.  Don't forget the vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients to make a medium stiff dough.

Lay Gingerbread House templates on the rolled dough and cut around. Remove excess dough and   transfer the pieces still on the parchment paper to the cookie sheets.  (I roll my dough right out on parchment lined cookie sheet.)   Try to place similar size pieces on the same cookie sheet.  If you wish to cut out windows or doors do it now before baking.  

Bake in oven about 10-15 minutes depending on how thick and big the pieces are, being careful not to burn as molasses burns easily. Remove from oven and let cool completely before removing the house pieces from the pan.


If you wish to have "real" windows in your house you will need to crush hard candies with a hammer.   Place the candies in an old dish cloth or towel and bang away with the hammer.  I used butterscotch candies but use whatever colour you want for windows.  Place the baked house pieces on a parchment or foil lined pan. Put the crushed candies in the window openings and place in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes until the candy has melted.   Leave on the pan overnight before carefully peeling off the paper or foil. 

Even if you don't want the candy windows, let house pieces sit overnight to dry.  I left my house pieces out for several days.  I wanted to make sure they were thoroughly dried out.  


Sometime, while the house pieces are cooling and drying, cover the cake board with foil or some kind of covering.  I had a bakery cake board left over from someone's birthday party that I covered with foil wrapping paper.  (I'm always scrounging something or other.)

Assemble Gingerbread House with royal icing.  This will be the "glue" for your house.  You will have to make several batches to complete the house.  If you are planning on decorating your house over several days you may want to make only one batch at a time as this dries out very quickly.  Cover with a damp cloth while using the icing.  If you prefer to use powdered meringue powder, follow the directions on the package.  There is usually a recipe for Royal Icing included as well. 

Royal Icing
2⅔ cups icing sugar, sifted
2 large egg white or the equivalent of pasteurized egg white from a carton

Using the whip attachment of your mixer, combine the icing sugar and the egg white in the mixer bowl on low speed until mixed. Turn the speed up to high and whip until the icing is thick and creamy, about 5 minutes. You may add a little water for a thinner consistency (making icicles hang from roof) or more sugar for a thicker consistency.

Makes about  1⅓ -1½ cups of icing.  

Follow the pictures for a complete guide to constructing a Gingerbread House.  You will need an assortment of candies for decorating.  

Place the Royal Icing in a piping bag, for easy assembly.  I used a large writing tip to apply the icing.  Because I was doing this by myself and didn't have anyone to hold the sides of the house until they dried I used a dish of candy and a roll of masking tape to prop up the piece while they dried.  "Glue" the edges together with the Royal Icing.  Once the sides, front and back are stuck together, reinforce the seams from the inside.  When the body of the house has been stuck together and dried, apply the Royal Icing to the peaks and top edges of the house.  Do one side at a time.


Place one side of the roof on the icing and hold in place until dry enough to leave it without sliding off.  You will have half a roof on.  Apply the icing on the other side of the peak and along the top of the other side.  Place the other half of the roof in place and hold.  "Glue" on the door(s).  Now you are ready to decorate your house.


These are the strawberry brick candies I used to make a chimney.  I cut about 5 slices from each candy to make the bricks for the chimney.

The pictures are blurry--had the camera on the wrong setting but you get a good idea how I made the chimney.   I cut out and baked a chimney from the cookie dough to fit the roof.  Once that was stuck on the roof I started the brick work on the outside.  The Royal Icing made pretty good mortar in between the bricks.  After the chimney was finished I made a cap around the edge to make it look a little more realistic. 


I made a lamp post from a large yellow lollypop and one of those rolled chocolate filled wafer cookies.  I cut off the lollypop stick  half way and pushed it carefully into the middle of the wafer.  Then I anchored on to the board with a lump of thick Royal Icing.  (I added a little more icing sugar.) Then I propped up the lamp post with the helpful candy dish.  I tied it on to the dish until every thing was dry and secure.


Frost the roof if you wish and add detail to the windows.  I left off the back door as I want to be able to light up the house with one or two or those battery operated tea lights.


This is the front. I used candy stars on the windows and around the peak of the house.  The holly above the door is made from red Smarties and green Royal Icing with a few cake decorations.  The doorstep is made from two chocolate wafer cookies.  I lined the top of the roof with foil covered chocolate balls.

I outlined the roof with butterscotch candy and filled in with chocolate candy.

I covered the board with Royal Icing to look like snow.  This is the back of the house.  The deck is made from chocolate wafer cookies.


The snowman is made from three medium large white bubble gum left over from Halloween.  I stuck them together with the Royal Icing.  I drew on the face with food decorating pens.  The hat is a black candy melt and half a black jelly candy.


The wood pile is made from the round chocolate filled wafer cookies cut into different lengths.  I left some scraps of the wafers to look like birch bark.

The trees ice cream cones covered with green Royal Icing and Santa is a foil wrapped chocolate.  Blurry pictures.  Still didn't realize I had the camera on the wrong setting.  Oh, well....


Right side view.  I used a star tip on the piping bag to pipe a border around the cake board and also along the sides of the house. 


Left side view.  You can see the I outlined the edges of the board with marshmallow strawberries.

Back view.  This household looks like they'll be warm on cold winter days and nights--lots of wood ready to be cut.  The back door is not attached.  I will be able to remove the door to insert a couple of battery operated candles inside the house.

Front view.  I lined the walk way with red and green jujubes.  


Have fun making your own Gingerbread House.


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