Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gingerbread Houses: Make & Decorate

After receiving a request email from a loyal reader to make a gingerbread house from scratch, I knew it would be a challenge I could not ignore. Much to even my surprise, I was able to successfully (at least I think so) bake, build and decorate a gingerbread house. Nothing quite puts a home in the Christmas spirit as the smell of freshly baked gingerbread and a decorated house to display. Thanks to Haydn for putting me up to the challenge!

Recipe yields 2 gingerbread houses (with enough dough left over to make a few gingerbread men and a snowman or two!)

The gingerbread house recipe was adapted from along with the stencil dimensions.

1 1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup unsulphured molasses
3 tbsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cloves
3 tsp baking soda
6 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 - 3/4 cup water

Plenty of candy to decorate with (and snack on!)

Stencil Details (See image below for shapes)
2 rectangles 3 x 5 inches
2 rectangles 3 x 5 1/2 inches
2 pieces (rectangle with triangle on top) 3 inches at the base, 3 inches to the roof line and a slanted peak 5 1/2 inches from the bottom
4 rectangles 1 1/2 x 1 inches
1 piece (rectangle with triangle on top) 2 inches at the base, 1 1/2 inches to the roof line and a slanted peak 2 1/2 inches from the bottom

Icing (Edible glue!) - You will need multiple batches, but start off one at a time as the icing tends to thicken up very quickly
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tbsp cream of tarter
5 tbsp water (more as needed to thin it out)

It took all day Saturday for Hollie and I to make these but it was well worth it! Start off by making your stencils. It is a good idea to make them out of cardboard or thick paper so they don't rip easily. Once those are set, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and baking soda in a medium bowl until all ingredients are incorporated.

Mix together the butter until smooth and add the molasses until combined.

Add the sugar mixture to the butter and molasses and mix until all dry ingredients are well combined.

In intervals, add flour (while continuously mixing) and then a few tablespoons of water. Continue to add flour and then water until all flour is combined. Only add water as needed if the mixture becomes to dry to mix.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

While the dough is in the refrigerator, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare your baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper. Take the dough out of the fridge and place about 1/2 onto one of your baking sheets. Sprinkle the top with a little flour to prevent sticking.

Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough so you have an even layer about 1/4 inch thick. Line up your stencils over your dough and using a sharp knife, cut around your stencils.

Remove excess dough but leave your pieces in place. Bake for 15 minutes.

Once finished in the oven, remove baking sheet. You will notice your shapes have become slightly deformed, so place the stencils back over each piece and trim off the excess cookie. Be sure to do this quick, the cookies harden very quickly and it will become hard to trim them and they will crack easily.

Now let the cookie cool to become completely hard. We threw ours in the fridge to speed up the process. Once the cookies are ready, you can make your first batch of icing. Don't make it too early or it will harden up. Combine sugar, cream of tartar and water in a bowl and mix for 5-7 minutes.

Once you have your pieces and your glue (I mean icing!) it is time to assemble your house. Glue together all edges and hold together for a few seconds until the icing begins to harden. Then let the house sit for about 45 minutes to an hour until it has completely hardened and is sturdy for decorating.

Once it is all set, it is time to decorate your house. Be creative! Below are a few shots of our finished house. Good luck to anyone making a gingerbread house this year!

Frosty snuck in on this photo!

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