I made these Gingerbread Houses because Dewi Anwar encouraged me to. If not by her persistence, I would have not made them at all. Thanks, un 🙂
Coincidently, Sugar High Friday #26‘s theme is Sugar Art. I’m not sure if this post is qualified, knowing that gingerbread house is very common in western countries. But I sent my entry anyway (hi, Danielle 🙂 ).
(Update: Check out her wonderful roundup here!)
At first, I almost cracked from the pressure and intimidating thoughts of how hard it would be. Silly, huh? I mean, even kids can do it! Maybe it’s because I tried making it last year and it was a total failure due to the wrong cookie recipe. It crumbled to dust, it didn’t even make it to a wall. So it’s very important to use a good recipe that is not only delicious, but also firm enough to make a sturdy house.
Dewi suggested a recipe from Wilton, and I was soooo satisfied with the result. It’s firm, delicious, and smelled wonderful! The corn syrup’s sugary smell enhanced and locked the aroma of the spices, giving it a long lasting smell that would still be intact days after baking. It’s also important to use good quality spices as they distinguish your gingerbread house from the store-bought mass-products.
Enough for the rambling, now let’s build a house.
What you need:
- Your favorite house pattern
- 1 Recipe of Wilton’s Grandma’s Gingerbread (recipe below)
- 1-2 Recipe of thick royal icing (I used Yasa Boga’s — recipe below)
- Small knife (I used pizza cutter sparingly with the knife)
- Cake board(s)
- Parchment/baking paper
- Piping bags
- Various candies and sprinkles
- Red and green food coloring, if needed (you can omit coloring and use all candy and sprinkle to add colors to the house).
Use water-based or gel-based food coloring. Do not use oil-based as it will ruin the royal icing.
- Patience and a cheerful heart 🙂
Prepare the pattern:
- Transfer the pattern onto carton paper, or carddbox, or other kind of thick paper or plastic.
- Cut them according to the pattern lines. Keep the pattern pieces in one big envelope so you won’t lose any of them.
Prepare the gingerbread:
Make the gingerbread according to the recipe below.
Wilton’s Grandma’s Gingerbread
5 to 5 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons powdered ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups unsulphured molasses (I used Karo Dark Corn Syrup)
2 eggs, beaten
- Preheat oven 375°F. Line your cookie pan with parchment/baking paper. Thoroughly mix flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Melt shortening in large saucepan. Cool slightly. Add sugar, molasses and eggs; mix well. Add four cups of the dry ingredients and mix again.
- Turn mixture onto lightly floured surface. Knead in remaining dry ingredients by hand. Add a little more flour, if necessary, to make the dough firm. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to a 1/4 inch thickness and cut out cookies following your gingerbread house pattern.
- Bake 6-10 minutes for small to medium size cookies and 10-15 minutes for large cookies, or until the cookies are hard enough.
- Let cool on a rack. Keep it in an airtight container or wrap it in plastic until assembling time.
- If you’re not going to use the dough right away, wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate. Refrigerated dough will keep for a week, but be sure to remove it 3 hours prior to rolling so it softens and is workable.
- Substitute 1 1/4 cups light corn syrup for molasses to make Blonde Gingerbread.
Assemble the house:
Make a thick Royal Icing according to the recipe below.
Thick Royal Icing
from the book “Cookies” by Yasa Boga
1 egg white
250 gr powdered sugar
1-3 tsp vinegar or freshly squeezed lime/lemon juice
- Beat egg white until stiff.
- Gradually add powdered sugar. Continue beating after each addition until smooth before adding some more.
- Beat in vinegar or lime/lemon juice until smooth. If you think the icing is too stiff, add a little more vinegar or lime/lemon juice.
- Color some royal icing red and green, if needed. Spoon the royal icing into piping bags, twist the ends. Keep the remaining icing in a bowl covered with damp cloth to avoid drying.
Use this royal icing as a ‘glue’ to put the house pieces together. Cut the tip of the piping bags to make a small hole, enough to flow the icing out.
You can start by gluing the base to the cake board. Continue with two walls to the base, hold them together for 5-15 seconds before the icing starts to set and you can let them hold themselves.
Continue with the other walls, then roofs, door(s), and the stack (smoke pipe). Use cans, bottles, or other heavy items to hold the position of the cookies until they’re all set.
Decorate the house:
- Once the house is standing firmly, you are ready to decorate the house.
- Prepare the candies, sprinkles, colored royal icing (if using), then start decorating as you like.
- You’d want to think the royal icing as the ‘snow’ and put them anywhere you think the snow would rest.
- Let dry in room temperature.
- You can find gingerbread house patterns on the net or make it yourself. Here I used one made by uni Dewi. If you ask her nicely, big chance is she might give it to you freely 🙂
- Use good quality spices. You want the house to taste good and smell good. If it’s only good to look at, then you’re just degrading yourself.
- Roll the cookie dough between 2 sheets of baking paper to make transfering to pan easy. Cut the dough according to pattern (still on baking paper), take the remaining dough back the the bowl. Lift the paper, turn it onto your palm (so the cut dough is now laying on your palm), position your palm on the pan, then slowly and carefully lower the cookie onto the pan and release. Peel off the paper. Now you’ve got a smooth piece of a house.
- Do not use candies that could melt unwrapped in hot and humid weather like Jakarta (trust me, I learnt the hard way 😀 ). I found jelly candies work best for this kind of condition.
- Royal icing will set when it’s exposed to dry, warm, moving air. So, do not dry them in a refrigerator or air conditioned room as they would not make it set. Let it dry in a room with good air circulation at regular room temperature. Don’t worry about the cookies would soften, because they won’t.
- Have fun!