Making a Gingerbread House
A Family Tradition
One of my family's Christmas traditions is making a gingerbread house. My family and I look forward to making a gingerbread house every year. It can be very time consuming, but the taste of the fresh gingerbread cookies and all of the fun we have is worth the effort. Oh and the wonderful fresh gingerbread smell is amazing. The boys and I make the dough the night before since it needs to be cold so it doesn't stick. The next morning I roll out the dough and cut out the shapes for the walls and roof etc... The boys and I come up with an idea first and cut it out of cardboard. Then we use the cardboard as a stencil. Last year we made a train, but unfortunately I can't find the picture. Then with all of the left over dough the kids use cookie cutters for cookies to decorate.
Gingerbread House 2009Click thumbnail to view full-size
Royal Icing Recipe
- 1/2 cup of cold water
- 4 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar
- 1/4 cup of meringue powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice
Mix the meringue powder and cold water together until stiff peaks form. Or If using egg whites then you don't need the water. Just mix the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Then slowly mix in the sugar. Then add the lemon juice. Try a little of the icing before you start. It can be tricky to get it just right. If it is too hard add a little water or if it is to soft add more sugar. Usually any royal icing is too sweat. So I add a few pinches of salt to tone it down a little. You could also try adding a little vanilla extract to get it to taste better. The icing is mostly used as cement so it isn't usually the best tasting. If you have a recipe that tastes better I would love to hear it. You can add food coloring for various colors. You will also need a pastry bag or similar device for dispensing the icing. Cover the unused icing with a damp cloth over the bowl or place in a sealed container or it will harden.
Gingerbread Cookie Dough Recipe
- 2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup of sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup of molasses
- 4 cups of flour
- 2 tablesppons of cocoa powder
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons of ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
- 1 and 3/4 tablespoons of ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
Kitchen Utensils: Electric mixer, large bowl or 2 if using a handheld mixer, spatula, measuring cups and spoons, rolling pin, parchment paper or silpat,
In a large bowl mix the butter and sugar together. Then add the 2 eggs and molasses and keep mixing until smooth. In another bowl sift together all of the dry ingredients. On low speed slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixture until thoroughly combined.
Next split the dough in half and form two discs. Then put the dough in Ziploc bags or cover in saran wrap to go in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours. Once the dough is cold it is a lot less sticky to work with. Flour a large area to use to roll out the dough. Add some flour on top of dough to help keep it from sticking to the rolling pin. Roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick. Then cut out your pieces for making the house and place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. If you spray the dough lightly with water or brush very lightly it will have more neatly rounded edges. Bake at 350 for 9-11 minutes. The cookies will turn a lighter brown. Let cookies cool for about 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack or just let them cool longer on the cookie sheet. While cookies are cooking the uncut dough will be getting softer. This is why I use two discs. I can put one back in the fridge to cool while I work with the other one. I use the remaining dough from the house to make gingerbread cookies.
Gingerbread Cookie Molds
John Wright's Gingerbread Molds
Every year I think about getting one of these but, for some reason or another I never do. They seem really cool and would add more detail to the house. You will end up with a very similar house every year. Although it is the decorations that make it really different. This would make sizing up the house a lot easier and should give perfect edges.I have heard some people leave them out during the holidays as a Christmas decoration.
Useful Tools for Making a Gingerbread House
I have a similar one from William Sanoma that works great.