Nothing makes a more impressive centerpiece during the holidays than a homemade gingerbread house, and they are not as difficult to make as they might appear. It is also a great way to get your children involved in the holiday festivities. You can put the basic frame structure together and watch the kids have a ball decorating with their favorite candies.
- Cookie Dough:
- 1-1/2 cups whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2-1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons baking soda
- 1 Tablespoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1-1/3 cups light or dark molasses
- 9 cups all-purpose flour
- Icing Cement:
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 teaspoons water
- 3 cups sifted powdered sugar
Beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and water until frothy. Blend in sugar on high speed until stiff, 5 to 10 minutes. Use immediately or cover and use within 8 hours.
Here's What You Do~
• Cut the basic structure templates for your house from poster board and test first by taping the pieces together. If it will stand as made out of poster board, then most likely it will be structurally safe for your gingerbread house.
• Do not limit yourself to a plain box house. You can make virtually any shape, from igloo to Victorian to farmhouse. Or, use a loaf mold in the shape of a house to eliminate the construction steps.
• Prepare a base for your house. Use a piece of plywood covered with foil, a large heavy platter or baking tray. You will want to be able to move the entire structure easily. You can use a sheet of gingerbread on top of the base if you wish, but it is not necessary.
• Keep in mind that the dimensions of your gingerbread house will be restricted to the size of a 12-by 15-inch baking sheet, and cut your templates accordingly.
• Maximum thickness for dough should be 3/8-inch. For houses larger than 6 inches square, use 1/4-inch thickness and for smaller houses, use 1/8-inch. Weight-bearing walls should be just slightly thicker.
• If you want the walls covered in icing, you may need to thin the icing with a few drops of water and then spread gently on the sides before assembling. Let sit for the icing to dry.
• When assembling, apply the "glue" icing using a pastry bag, and let sit for 30 minutes to set before actually assembling. This will help the pieces adhere better, resulting in a more stable structure.
• When assembling, apply a generous (but not dripping) amount of icing glue to one side of the joint. Press un-iced piece to the iced edge and hold briefly until the icing sets. If you want more stability, you can also icing-glue the walls to the base.
• For the icing decoration, use a pastry bag with various decorating tips or a knife. You can easily fill in gaps and smooth construction errors with icing and candy decorations. Wipe off smudges or drips with a clean, damp paper towel.
• To apply candy decorations, dab a small amount of icing to the underside of the candy and hold in place until set.
• You can use dough scraps to roll out added decorative cut-outs to be applied with icing glue. These cutouts can be impressed with designs before baking.
• If you do not have time to do the baking, you can use cardboard or graham crackers and still show off your decorating skills.