Time to make the gingerbread houses
Gifts of love!
It is that wonderful time of year again that family and friends make the effort to connect and memories and traditions are born. I actually like Thanksgiving better than Christmas because the focus is on family and food instead of gifts. However, that said, there is something magical about Christmas with its decorated trees, thoughtful gifts and my favorite part of Christmas family traditions.
As a busy working mother simple traditions like opening one present on Christmas Eve,enticing anticipation for Santa's visit to planning the perfect family meal, with well set table and festive house decorations were my goal. With more time on my hands and a spread out family, gifts of love have replaced those goals with the gingerbread house tradition. Gingerbread houses can be individualized to a person or situation. They have never failed to bring a smile to the face of the recipient. I have brought them to friends in nursing homes, had girl scout raffles, donated them for fundraisers and every year make them as gifts for family. Pictured above is Chloe, my great niece with her gingerbread house from last year.
I have the advantage of working in food service with large counter space, multiple ovens and a commercial mixer. I can make a great amount of gingerbread dough at one time. But weather you are making one or ten gingerbread houses the most important ingredient is patience. It is not a one day project I have learned the hard way. Every year I shop early for the decorations with each recipient in mind. This year I found a chocolate Santa in sleigh with four reindeer's for the top of Chloe's house because she is the oldest and has seen lots of gingerbread houses. I have my first grandchild this year so I will decorate with animal crackers and cheerios that she can enjoy and I think Bella Rose's house will also sport a Christmas teething ring.
Today I begin by making the dough. I have two well worn stoneware molds for the gingerbread house that include a chimney, snowman and Christmas tree. I make enough dough for four houses and fill both molds and bake for twenty minutes at 350@. There are many different recipes for gingerbread and royal frosting. The gingerbread recipe I use came with the molds but any other recipe would work just as well. I choose not to use the royal frosting and opt instead for my homemade butter cream frosting which is yummy and edible. It looks like fluffs of snow on and around the house. Once baked I put a cooling rack on top of the mold and flip over to remove the pieces from the mold before they cool and stick. The rest of the dough gets wrapped in Saran and refrigerated. The molds have to cool before I can bake another house and the house has to cool before I can decorate and assemble.
Day two, I decorate the pieces of the house with different candy after I spread on the frosting. This makes the roof quite heavy so I let it sit another day to harden a bit before I assemble. I cut out some cardboard and cover it with foil as the base of the gingerbread house and spread a nice amount of frosting to secure the sides and glue the corners together with the frosting. I decorate around the house with the snowmen and Christmas trees and set this aside to dry with the roof. When the roof is ready I spread frosting on all attaching parts and hold it firmly in place until it drys enough not to slide. Then I decorate the top of the house and add any extras unique to each recipient. Another Christmas smile is born!
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