The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thank you, mom!
With Rebecca and David, 1988
Our first gingerbread house + Rebecca with with her cousin, Erica.
Gingerbread house circa '91. Rebecca was dealing with a bit of pre-teen angst at the time.
After dinner on Christmas, our gingerbread house stakes its claim as the centerpiece of the table. We turn out the lights, carry out our flaming brandied plum pudding, sing We Wish You a Merry Christmas as the blue flames blaze around the pudding, and when everyone is seated with plates full of my sister’s luscious pies and Christmas hats donning our heads, we start breaking off pieces of the house, just like Hansel and Gretel.
***This gingerbread cookie recipe, quadrupled for the house, is delicious. That’s why we actually eat it. Luckily there are enough scraps left over after cutting up the pieces for the house so that everyone gets some warm bites from the oven.
The first thing you want to do is make the templates for the house. The gingerbread fits into two large jellyroll pans (either 12x17x2 or 15x18x2 inches). My pans are the standard 12x17x2 so I have included the template pattern for a very simple house made in them, but you can make it any way you want. (One year Rachel and I made a gingerbread mission for her California Mission Project.) Just make sure you plan your design ahead of time and cut out the pattern pieces before the gingerbread goes into the oven. The gingerbread MUST be cut when it is warm or else it will crack.
Here is the template for the house. You will need to use the patterns TWICE using both pans:
If you want your roof to overhang a little, then cut the sides two inches shorter than the roof. I made mine on thin poster board, but if you can find big graph paper, that would be easier. Once you make the templates, you can use them year after year, so it’s worth the little bit of work the first year since from then on, it will be easy. I used my rotary mat and Omnigrid to make the templates for this post, but this is the first time I have been quite so fancy.
We make the gingerbread in the afternoon, cut it while it is still warm using the templates, and let cool on wire racks. Then, when it is cool, David and I assemble the house with royal icing. The royal icing dries hard as a rock so you don’t have to worry about the house collapsing. That evening after dinner, we decorate it.
For this post, I made half the recipe which I used to cut the shapes for a “cottage” so Archer and Fable can decorate their very own this year. I froze the cooled shapes and will defrost them on the day we make our larger house. (If you do this, make sure you defrost COMPLETELY before you unwrap them so they don’t get soggy).
Templates for gingerbread house
Royal Icing (see recipe below)
3 jars of vanilla frosting
All sorts of candy, the more types the more fun. Look at photos for ideas
2 2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/3 cup molasses
4 tsps. ground cinnamon
4 tsps. ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
3 sticks butter
6 tsps. Baking powder
12 cups flour (it helps to have someone counting while you measure since it is really easy to lose track of what cup you are on!)
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1. MAKE TEMPLATES FOR THE HOUSE AND CUT THEM OUT.
2. Preheat oven to 350. In a heavy-based pan over low heat, dissolve the sugar with the molasses, spices, and butter. Slowly and carefully bring the mixture to a boil, cool it to room temperature, then mix in the baking powder.
3. Place the flour in a LARGE bowl with a pinch of salt and make a well in the center. Pour in the cooled syrup mixture and the egg, and stir from the center to incorporate the flour.
4. Knead the dough in the bowl until smooth and flour is completely incorporated:
It should look shiny and kind of like fudge:
6. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Lay templates on the warm gingerbread and cut around them with a knife.
7. Let cool on wire racks:
Assembling the house:
1. Make royal icing:
2 cups powdered sugar
1 egg white
¾ teaspoon strained fresh lemon juice
Cover a large board with aluminum foil. Lay one end wall on the work surface. Spread a wall support with icing.
3. Stand one end up and attach one of the walls, generously using the icing to attach (you can ice the bottom, too, to help hold it).
4. Spread the top edges of the walls and the pitched roof with icing. Gently press one roof piece into position, holding it until it doesn’t slip.
6. Attach the two chimney pieces together using the royal icing.
7. Let house completely harden before decorating.
To decorate, put candies in bowls so everyone can share. Put house in center of the table. Make sure everyone gets his or her own spot to decorate (a side, a wall, a roof, etc). Frost house with frosting and add candy!
We frost the ground, too, and decorate the “yard” with paths, trees, snowmen and sometimes coconut for snow. Use your imagination….anything goes!!
Enjoy your family time together and Happy Holidays to all of you!
The how-to-assemble photos via Time/Life "The Good Cook"