How To Make Gingerbread Houses
Christmas comes to our house with a whole set of customs, rituals, and traditions. Since this is a time of traditions and a time to enjoy friends, making gingerbread houses and giving Tea Parties are without a doubt our favorite tradition. Each year, my Mom and I give a Gingerbread House Tea Party for friends. Only silver trays are used because it is a grand affair. As long as we have special friends, the merriment of Christmas never really ends. Look for several more gingerbread house parties featured on Pizzazzerie.com soon!
Did you know that gingerbread has been a holiday treat since the 14th century, but enchanting gingerbread houses didn’t come along until the 19th century?
Three Easy Gingerbread Houses
When making gingerbread houses, the more you practice the better you will become. Here are three easy versions based on graham crackers or tea cookies. All of these houses are simple since no baking is required, but they are not edible. Remember that the best Christmas gifts aren’t expensive; they are the ones that are made by hand and come from the heart.
1. Graham Cracker Gingerbread House
Save your old milk cartons or any sturdy cardboard boxes which become the base for each gingerbread house. Use either hot glue or Royal Icing to glue the crackers to the box. The top of the milk carton becomes the roof; however, for added support, cut a little larger rectangle out of heavy cardboard and hot glue this as the roof. Don’t put crackers on the roof. After all the graham crackers are glued to the sides of the box, you can outline the roof and sides with Royal Icing Glue and let harden overnight. An inexpensive cake decorator works fine to decorate your house. When the icing outline has hardened, make another batch of icing. Smear icing on the roof first and then place candy into this icing. Continue decorating the sides and front until the house has enough candy. Jellybeans, M&M’s, peppermint candy canes, cinnamon red hots, gumdrops, small cookies (teddy bear grahams) and Christmas ribbon bows. The possibilities here are infinite, and your own imagination will kick in as your architectural skills expand. By the time you finish this project you will be well on your way to becoming a gingerbread house queen! Let the icing harden overnight after you complete your house.
These houses can be stored after Christmas and used for several years. It is also a wonderful activity for young kids, when you make the houses and pipe the edges several days before needed. All the kids have to do is decorate, an opportunity they will love. Have plenty of icing and candy and let the fun begin. These houses are a child’s delight.
Royal Icing Glue
2 large egg whites
1 16-ounce box powdered sugar
1 tablespoon water
Beat egg whites and water until foamy. Add sugar and beat until fluffy with soft peaks. The recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups of icing. If icing is not stiff enough, just add a little more sugar. If too stiff, add a little water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Since it dries quickly, keep the icing covered with a damp cloth while working. Do not make too far ahead.
A 9-inch wide and 14-inch tall graham cracker gingerbread house makes an outstanding centerpiece for a dining room table. Using a cardboard box, construct the size you desire. It’s also fun to make a tea cookie gingerbread house for each guest. Remember that an unexpected gift at an unexpected time always touches the heart. My mom made her first big gingerbread house when we lived in Charleston, SC. We lived in an old Charleston single house, and my five-year-old brother wanted to make “his” house. During the first night of drying, the house gave way due to the weight of the candy and was leaning sideways by the next morning. As my Mom said, “My son thought it was perfect because it looked just as if it had been through the great Charleston earthquake.” Since then I have made hundreds of gingerbread houses and realize they don’t have to be perfect, but we do learn from experience.
2. Tea Cookie Gingerbread House
Another way to make an easy gingerbread house is by using any good hard tea cookie. It takes 7 cookies per house. Hot glue the cookies together into the shape of a house starting with 1 bottom, 2 sides, 2 ends (trim the ends a little by cutting off the tips as shown in the picture) and 2 for the roof. Outline the whole house with Royal Icing Glue and let dry overnight. Sugar colored sprinkles on the “icing” roof adds another dimension before adding candy. These cute, smaller houses make nice favors to give at a Christmas tea party or family gathering.
3. “Open-End” Gingerbread House
To make an “open-end” gingerbread house, just cut off one side of a milk carton or leave off one end of a cookie house. Pipe icing around all the edges outlining the house and let dry overnight. Begin the next day by decorating the sides and top first. Smear some icing inside the house and add small Christmas figurines to create your very own snowy scene. These are easily personalized for friends and family by the scenes you create.
The following recipe is a very good Gingerbread House dough if you want to make an edible house.
Gingerbread House Dough
3 ½ cups flour, all-purpose
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon cloves
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup water
Blend together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves until well mixed. Set this flour mixture aside. Next combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and water in a large bowl and beat with a mixer at medium speed until combined. Stir in the flour mixture and work with your hands until the dough becomes smooth in consistency. Add a little more water if needed. Place the dough on a floured board and roll out to 1/4-inch thickness. Design a gingerbread house pattern, place the pattern pieces on the dough and cut out the design. There are 7 pattern pieces normally: 2 sides, 2 ends, 2 roofs, and 1 bottom (optional). Place the cut-out pieces on a cookie sheet lined with waxed or parchment paper. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool and enjoy the sweet aroma of gingerbread before building your house.
Yields: One 10-inch gingerbread house with 6 pieces (no bottom)
1 egg white
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Beat the egg white with the sugar, lemon juice, and cream of tartar. When decorating a 10-inch gingerbread house, double this recipe.
Courtney & Phronsie