For years, starting when I was about 12, and annually until sometime in my 20s, I made a gingerbread house at Christmas time. It was a major production, and got to be a thing - people expected it, so you did it, so people expected it. I think I've been asked about it every year ever since.
This year, what with the girl having turned 10, I thought it was time to resuscitate the tradition, and so we did. We laid in candy. I located the templates - which had surfaced as we were cleaning out my mother's house. [Have I mentioned that she kept everything? She did.] I made a batch of dough. I dug out the frosting syringe; I got out all the cookie sheets. I convinced my husband to wire an extension switch onto a little battery powered light, and several days later, we were done.
You want to make one too, right?
Here goes. [And if Christmas is twelve days, this post isn't too late!]
You'll need candy. I'm very particular - no chocolate allowed, fruit flavors only under duress. It's a gingerbread house; the flavors need to be complementary. Or something. So:
CANDY SHOPPING LIST
- spice drops (spice flavored gum drops)
- Necco wafers (7-8 rolls - for roof tiles)
- cinnamon red hots
- wintergreen Lifesavers (or another solid white flavor)
- green & white starlights
- candy canes
- red Mike and Ikes (chimney bricks)
- sour balls or five flavor Lifesavers - or other multi-colored hard candy (for the stained glass windows)
- mini marshmallows
You'll need dough. Make it today, bake it tomorrow.
GINGERBREAD DOUGH (adapted from the New York Times cookbook)
2/3 cup shortening
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 T. ground ginger
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1 1/2 t. salt
3/4 cup molasses
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
Cream together the shortening, brown sugar, spices and salt. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Add the molasses and blend. Stir the baking soda and baking powder into the flour; add flour to wet ingredients and stir well until blended. Chill overnight. [Note: this will make enough for the house - if you want to make gingerbread trees or people or stars, bump it up by 50%, or double the recipe.]
You'll need glue, to glue all of the pieces together and to attach all the candy. Make it last, though, right before you want to assemble the house.
ROYAL ICING (a/k/a glue)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 egg white
1 t. lemon juice
pinch of salt
Put it all in a standing mixer and beat the hell out of it - it wants to be smooth and white and it will look almost like meringue. Seriously, 5-7 minutes in the standing mixer. Sure, you can do it with a hand mixer, but you'll get bored and tired. Use the stand mixer. After you've loaded up your frosting syringe, keep the bowl covered with a damp towel while you're working on the house. Otherwise the icing gets crusty. [If you're squeamish about the raw egg white, it is possible to make royal icing with powdered egg whites, but you're on your own for the recipe.]
You'll need templates. Use mine - print out the pdf onto card stock, or trace it onto shirt cardboard. Make sure you note which pieces you need two of - nothing worse than having all of the dough baked and realizing that you've forgotten one of the four sides of the house. Or be adventurous and design your own house. You might should make it simple the first time out, though.
Lay in some parchment - it's essential for transferring the dough onto the cookie sheets. Lots of cookie sheets help, as does a Silpat.
Okay - you have everything in hand?
The instructions continue here: Gingerbread House, part 2