Gingerbread House Project

If your little one wants to make a house, I have some tips as I am a veteran in the trenches. We started making them when the girls were small and then it turned into a “thing.” They were originally supposed to invite one friend each to a sleep over and gingerbread making party and, yeah, you guessed it, it ballooned. At one point I had twenty little girls lined up all over my house on borrowed tables making gingerbread houses . . . talk about insanity.

The easiest kind to make and get success with are a simple kind using Graham crackers. They are small and easy to contain and if they break you can start over so the success rate is good.

I tried at least ten different recipes and many different ways of making the pieces. One of the problems is that they shrink during baking so that they are hard to fit. You make the fit by adding lots of frosting. The final solution was to buy a cast iron pan which I press the dough into and bake and the pieces come out perfectly. I’ll give you my recipe, it is by far the best I found for holding together, for manageability and for taste as well.

You also have to get a good icing recipe. It can’t taste good or it just won’t stick. Period! I’ll give you my recipe for icing as well, this is absolutely, kitchen tested, the best recipe. It does dry sort of quickly so you want to give younger kids a small amount and keep the rest covered in the fridge.

Here are some tips . . . Bake all the pieces several days before you want to have the “construction party.” This gives them time to completely cool and harden. If you try to bake and decorate on the same day, you’ll have pieces breaking. In fact I found that the best thing to do was to bake several days in advance then have a sleep over and have the kids construct the houses the night before and decorate them in the morning. That way they hardened during the night and they were not knocking down walls and caving in roofs when they put the candy on. They also, incidently, eat much less of the candy in the morning after having had breakfast than they would have done at night.

I always made several extra pieces of each part of the house in case a part did break we could just replace it quickly and not have an upset child.

It is much, much easier when all is said and done (in January) to be able to just pick the entire thing up and throw it away rather than trying to scrape it off of a plate or platter. The icing, while holding marvelous well, does sort of turn to glue. I usually used a very sturdy piece of cardboard for each house and covered it with aluminum foil. I made it slightly larger than the house and this gave the kids a little “yard” to decorate as well. Some of the “yards” were really quite fantastic. In fact, over the years the kids did some really remarkable things like cutting out pieces of the roof and covering it with colored plastic wrap and calling it a stained glass skylight.

I hope your little girl does get to make a house, they are great fun.

Gingerbread House

½ Cup shortening
½ Cup granulated sugar
½ Cup dark molasses
2 TB cold water
3 Cups flour
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. salt

Cream together shortening, sugar molasses and water. Sift together flour, spices and salt. Add dry ingredients to shortening mixture and mix well. Dough will be stiff. Chill at least 1 hour. Grease or spray mold with vegetable spray. Press dough into the mold. If not using mold press dough down on a flat surface and cut with shaped cardboard cutouts for house sides, front/back, roof sections, chimney sections.

Bake in pre-heated 350° oven for 25 minutes. Let gingerbread cool in the mold for 10 minutes. Carefully remove each piece of gingerbread to cooling rack, flat side down. Preheat with other side, front, roof and chimney (it is not necessary to repeat people or trees). It is better to bake gingerbread a day ahead of assembling to allow for stiffening. Assemble and decorate. Yield: 1 house.

Royal Icing

The following recipe is for sweet icing that will be used like "glue" to hold the house together and to decorate. It dries quickly into a hard candy consistency.

3 Egg whites at room temperature
3/4 tsp. of cream of tartar
1 lb. of 10X confectioner sugar - sifted.
(I’ve only made this recipe in my pan once, but it was WOWzers!)

Chocolate Candy House

Confectionery coating chocolate 1 ½ pounds (24 oz.)

Place un-greased mold in refrigerator one house or more to chill. Do not grease or condition the mold. Break coating chocolate into 1-inch pieces. Place in 1-quart glass measuring cup or microwave safe bowl. Microwave at 50% power (medium) 5 to 7 minutes, or until pieces are glossy and can be stirred smooth. Stir after half the time. (Can also melt chocolate over low heat or in double boiler.) Pour chocolate into chilled mold and refrigerate until hard, about 15 minutes. Carefully remove from mold. If needed re-melt remaining chocolate (one minute on 50% power) and pour remaining roof, side, front and chimney. Chill 15 minutes in mold and remove. Assemble and decorate.
Yield: 1 house.

NOTE: Never add water to chocolate. Be careful when using a double boiler not to get water in the chocolate.

by Edwina Peterson Cross