Making a gingerbread house is a great and fun family project. What a wonderful way to kick start the Christmas season. Put your inner child to work and involve everyone! I was lucky to have my friends Becca and Mikaela make this for us.
A gingerbread house takes some planning as you have to allow the dough to chill before you cut it — a minimum of 2 hours and up to 2 weeks. You also have to be patient and allow all the parts you glue together to adhere well before you start decorating.
Here is what you are going to need to make a ginger bread house:
FOR THE DOUGH:
6 cups flour
½ tsp. baking powder
4 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. salt
4 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cloves
¾ cup unsalted, softened butter
1 ½ cups light brown sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1 cup dark molasses
1 TBS water
Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time and mix in well. Add the molasses and water. Mix well.
Slowly start incorporating the flour. Do not over mix the batter.
Once all the flour has been added to the butter mixture, dump it onto a clean board and softly knead it until it is all incorporated.
Form to large balls of your dough and wrap them in plastic. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours or up to 2 weeks. You can also freeze this dough for up to 4 months.
Make your patterns while that is getting ready. You will find the measurements at the bottom of this post.
When you are ready to bake the cookies – preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).
Place a piece of floured parchment paper on a large cutting board. Take out your dough a ball at a time and start rolling it out. It will probably be quite hard so half the dough and work it a little in your hands. Do not over work the dough as it will warm up and you want it to remain cold. Roll out your dough to about 1/4th inch thickness.
Place the molds on the dough and cut them all the way through to the parchment paper. Another way to do this, which might be easier, is to trace the molds onto the parchment paper and cut the pieces in advance. Whatever you decide, you will need to bake the dough with a piece of parchment paper underneath it. If you are going to have a door and window on your front piece – highly recommended—cut the door and window before baking the piece. If you forget, go ahead and cut it as soon as the cookie comes out of the oven, while it is still warm. Be careful not to break the cookie.
Place the dough with its parchment paper on a baking sheet. These cookies will not spread so you do not need to separate them too much. However, do not overcrowd them.
Bake the small pieces for about 7 to 8 minutes – or until they start browning on the bottom. The large pieces will take between 12 to 13 minutes. Half way through baking, turn your baking sheet so everything cooks evenly.
Remove the baked pieces from the oven and place the patterns on top – after a couple of minutes. If your cookie has lost its shape go ahead and cut it to the right shape. Be very careful not to break the cookie.
Allow the cookies to cool down on the sheets for a few minutes. They will be soft but will harden as they get cold. Transfer them to a cooling rack and allow them to cool down completely before you start making your house.
FOR THE ROYAL ICING:
2 egg whites
2 1/3rd cups of sifted confectioner’s sugar
Place the egg whites in a large bowl with 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar. Beat until it is all incorporated.
Slowly add the remaining sugar. Beat until you have stiff peaks.
Cover the icing with a damp paper towel all the time. If you do not have it under a damp towel it will dry up on you.
NOTE: You might need more than one recipe for your gingerbread house, depending on how much you use. We used 1 ½ recipes.
ASSEMBLE YOUR HOUSE:
You will have to decide what you are going to assemble your house on. We used the bottom of a cake carrier and wrapped it in foil. You can use a large platter or thick cardboard or a cutting board as well. You decide.
If you want to be successful with this you will have to be patient. Wait until all the parts are dry before you add more. What is more, let the whole house dry completely before you start decorating. We glued the chimney on the last day because we wanted to keep the house securely covered and were afraid that the chimney might not make it. We only did this because we live in the tropics and were afraid our house would be relocated by an army of ants!
Place some of the icing in a piping bag or a baggie which you have cut one of the corners off – if you are using a bag make sure to make a small cut.
Once you are ready to put your house together you will start with the back and one of the side walls. Stand the piece on the item you have decided to use (board, platter, etc.). Eyeball the length of the back wall and pipe a thick generous amount of icing to cover that length. Place the wall on it and carefully hold it into place – until it does not tip over if you let go. Reinforce the inside edge with more icing.
Now do the same with the side wall. Lay the side wall flat on the side it will go and eyeball the length. Pipe a generous amount of icing on the board and on the side of the back wall where you will glue the wall. Hold the side wall in place until it is completely glued. Go ahead and pipe some extra icing on the sides and corners of the side wall. You want to reinforce it as much as you can so the house does not collapse when you place the roof on because it is heavy and big.
All the decorating candies will also be heavy so you really need a good foundation for success. So, again, be patient and generous with your icing.
Repeat the process with the second side wall. Wait until everything is completely set before you add the front wall. This is very important.
Now place the front wall. You will not need icing at the door opening so place the piece on its back and eyeball the length of those pieces.
Do not forget to add icing to the sides where the wall will adhere. Cover the whole side so it glues well.
Hold on to the front piece until it is completely glued to the side walls. Make sure to reinforce the sides with extra icing.
Once the house is set it is time to add the roof. Measure the pieces to see that they will fit well. Apply icing only to the edges where the roof will be glued.
The roof is the part you will have to hold the longest as they are both the largest pieces and the heaviest. Press down softly on the parts until they are completely adhered to the house.
Once you have that ready glue your chimney. We found that we had to cut one of the flat pieces on the diagonal in order to ensure that the whole thing would glue to the roof.
You can glue the chimney to the roof now or wait until tomorrow. I do not recommend that you decorate the house as of yet. Wait for a day for all the parts to be securely adhered.
On the following day go ahead and decorate your house to your hearts content. Use your imagination and add as much candy as you would like.
We used wheat cereal for our roof. If you have frosted wheat squares that would work beautifully as it will look like snow. Whatever you do, have loads of fun!
MAKE YOUR PATTERNS:
Use a thick piece of paper for your patterns. Cardboard is probably the best option. Although you can make your house as big as you want these are the measurements we used.
For the chimney you will need 1 rectangular piece measuring 3×1 inches; 1 rectangular piece measuring 1 ½ x 1 inch and 1 pieces measuring 2 ¾ x 1x 1 ½ inches (you will cut out 2 pieces like this for the chimney sides).
For the sides you will need 1 rectangular piece measuring 3×5 inches which you will use to cut out 2 pieces of dough with.
For the front and back you will need a rectangle that is 7 ½ x 5 ½ inches. You will cut a roof slant leaving a 3 inch tall wall. Draw the window and door on the pattern and cut them out after you have cut the back wall from dough. Then proceed to cut the window and door on the dough before baking.
For the roof you need a 6 ½ x 7 inches pieces. You will cut 2 pieces of dough with this pattern.