Believe it or not, this is my first Gingerbread house to make. I have made ginger snaps (cookies) and, gingerbread (loafs) many times over the years, but have never constructed a house out of gingersnap cookie dough and decorated it.
In the grocery store I saw a gingerbread house kit. It contained cookies baked into the needed shapes to form a house, icing, and several different types of candy for decorating.
I thought, well I have a great gingersnap cookie recipe; I can bake my own cookies, making my icing, and come up with the decorations.
Fun facts about Gingerbread houses:
- The story of “Hansel and Gretel” made gingerbread houses famous.
- The tradition of decorated gingerbread houses began in Germany in the early 1800s,
- The English started the tradition of painting gingerbread and displaying it n shop windows.
- It was in England that decorating the gingerbread house became a holiday tradition.
- It is reported that George Washington’s mother wrote one of the most popular gingerbread recipes
- The Wilton baking company is the largest gingerbread house kit manufacturer in the U.S
- 6 cups Flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- 1 cup solid vegetable shortening
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 cup corn syrup
- 2 beaten eggs beat in a small bowl with a fork
- Preheat oven to 375. Melt shortening in the microwave
- In a large mixing bowl add flour, baking soda, salt, and spices
- Add sugar, corn syrup and beaten eggs to flour mixture
- Add melted shortening. Mix well stiring by hand.
- Turn mixture out onto floured work surface. Knead the dough to make sure it is all combined and mixed together. Add a little bit of flour if needed to firm up the dough.
- Roll dough out to 1/4 inch for cutting out shapes and cookies.
- Bake cookies on parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Large cookies will need to bake for about 10-15 minutes and small cookies for about 5-10 minutes. Watch cookies closely.
- This recipe will make about 4 dozen regular size cookies
- To store leftover dough, place it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to one week.
How I Decorated the Gingerbread Houses
Making the Structure…
The first decision to make is what shape or style to you want your gingerbread house to have. Will it have a fireplace ( chimney) or not, will it be one story or two story. I would recommend starting off with a one story house.
Do you have ideas about what types of food items you would like to use in the design. For me, I knew I wanted to use shredded wheat breakfast cereal as the roof, so I did not want a chimney made of another material.
After I mixed up the dough for the house structure, I knew that I was going to have more than enough dough for one gingerbread house. I decided then to also make a smaller size house with a different style and make some cut out cookies to use in the decorating.
Making the walls to the house:
Roll the gingerbread dough out to about 1/4 inch thick, place your template for your house on the dough and cut out the imagine. You can use a printed template or make your own.
I added some colored sugar to a couple of windows before baking the pieces
When the cookies had cooled, I began building the structure. I started with placing the front of the house right side down and applying a generous piping line of royal icing down one side of the front piece. If you need a Easy To Work With Royal Icing recipe, here you go.
Raising the Walls
Sprinkle containers cam ein handy to support the walls of the house as the royal icing dried.
I knew from the start that I wanted to use shredded wheat cereal as the roof. This was a tedeous process with glueing each piece of cereal with piping gel and holding the piece of cereal in place until it stuck.
Thankfully, I had the Hallmark channel on and I was watching a Christmas movie while decorating.
Framing the doorway and window:
I had decided before starting that I was not going to decorate the gingerbread house with a lot of candy. I was striving to have a rustic looking house that possibly one would find in the woods. I used a few M&Ms and Candy Canes To outline the house frame and door and window frame in a minimal way.
The next step is waiting for the icing to dry so decorating can continue. While waiting for drying to happen, I started the workshop.
Log cabin Gingerbread House
I started a second little house ( maybe it is a workshop on the property) since I had left over dough from constructing the main gingerbread house. This structure, still going with a rustic theme, I decided to make the look be that of a log cabin.
Building the log cabin
Like with the ginger bread house, I made a template and cut out the dough for the 4 outside walls and 2 panels for the roof. The cookies are baked and when cooled, the walls were uprighted using royal icing as the glue.
Pretzels were glued onto the gingerbread walls using piping gel.
Adding the roof
For workshop, I wanted a shingle roof. Using fondant, I added brown food coloring to white fondant and mix it well. Next, I rolled it and cut it into about 1 1/2 inch squares. Starting at the bottom of the roof line , the fondant squares were added to the gingerbread roof. Piping gel was not required for adding the shingle since they nicely stayed in place.
Once the fondant roof was all in place, I painted the fondant shingles with a darker color of brown to obtain color depth.
Decorating the Houses
I used gingerbread cookies to decorate the house. I cut out Gingerbread men, Christmas trees Reindeer and red birds with the remaining dough from making the houses. I made Christmas stocking, trees, bows, and a door wreath with royal icing.
Here are a views around the different sides of the houses. The standing Christmas tree are also made from gingerbread. Chick this link How to Make 3-D Christmas Tree Cookies to learn how I made these cute cookies.
The biggest challenge was decorating the vertical walls with items that needed to be adhered with piping gel or royal icing.
I will try with the next gingerbread house decorating the walls below they are put into place to see if there is a difference. I am thinking despite the weight with the decorations it will not require the same amount of supports as what was needed with decorating on vertical walls.
I would recommend forgoing the kits sold in stores and making your own structure. The structures are easy to make and wonderful aroma that fills the kitchen set the mood for having having with building and decorating your house.
Building the gingerbread house was not a day project for me. I waited in-between constructing the walls and decorating. I built the structure one day, made the cookies and decorated the next day.
Next time, I will bake the structure , decorate the structure and assemble the house the next day.
If you make a Gingerbread house, please share your picture and let me know in the comments what worked well.
Merry Christmas….Happy Baking