The construction of your gingerbread house will closely follow the building concepts of a real house. Proper planning is essential. You can make the gingerbread ahead of time, making sure to let it thoroughly cool in a dry area before wrapping securely to store. Be sure to allot plenty of time to put the baked pieces together and to allow drying time.
I’ve selected a recipe which can be used for not only a gingerbread house with icing, but also gingerbread cookies, so don’t miss them! Here are a few simple tips:
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.
Cover poster board pattern pieces with clear contact paper or laminate them. This allows pattern pieces to be cleaned after use and protects them from getting stained. Don’t limit yourself to a plain box house. You can make virtually any shape, from igloo to Victorian to farmhouse.
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 without base bending. You can use a sheet of gingerbread on top of the base if you wish, but it’s not necessary. Keep in mind that the dimensions of your gingerbread house will be restricted to the size of a 12 x 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, roof slightly thinner, due to weight of the gingerbread.
If you would like your 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 icing dry completely before assembly. You may cover walls with rolled fondant with different imprints on fondant to look like real house walls.
When assembling gingerbread house, apply Royal Icing the “glue” icing using a pastry bag with a tip #21 or 32. Make sure everything is grease free, or the icing will not dry hard. Place a small cup with un-cooked white rice, glue a plastic or paper cup inside center of house; this will help absorb moisture, especially in high humidity areas. Also, if high humidity is in the air you might want to brush inside walls with a thin coat of Royal Icing or Candy Chocolate Coating, this will help make the house more stable and to keep it from absorbing moisture. Let dry before assembly.
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, grease free, 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 may make dough scraps cut-outs, bake and applied with icing glue. These cut-outs can be impressed with designs before baking.
If you run out of time for baking a gingerbread house, you may use card board and apply graham crackers or buy a gingerbread house kit and decorate using your own decorating skills and candy.
Let house dry completely before wrapping for storage. If you are not going to eat your creation and want to store it for the next year, spray with an Acrylic spray. Acrylic sprays can be found at craft stores and comes in Matte or High Gloss finishes. Apply several coats and wait to dry in between coats. This will also keep houses from attracting ants.
To wrap and store your house use, Easter Basket Cellophane Wrap, found at Floral Supply Stores. The Cellophane comes in a variety of colors, sizes and widths.
Kathy’s Favorite Gingerbread Recipe #1
- 5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon cloves
- 1 teaspoon B & V – Butter Vanilla Powder
- 1 cup shortening (or) sweet unsalted butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 ¼ cups Light or Dark Molasses
- 2 eggs beaten
Thoroughly sift flour, soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves together. Melt shortening in a large saucepan over low heat until just melted, not hot. Add in order sugar, molasses and eggs; mix well. Then add and mix dry ingredients and mix well. Turn mixture onto lightly floured surface; knead in extra flour if too sticky and to make firm dough if necessary.
If you’re not going to make your gingerbread house right away, place dough in large Ziploc bag, refrigerate. Refrigerated dough will keep for one week. Be sure to remove it 3 hours prior to rolling, or soften in microwave 30 seconds at a time until pliable workable.
Note: One recipe of gingerbread dough will make usually one house. This recipe is one of the best that I have developed to work with. It is not only wonderful for houses, but awesome to eat!
Making & Baking Gingerbread
1. Working with approximately 1/3 of the dough, place on back of cookie sheet with a little flour dusted on the sheet. Press dough to flatten. Lightly dust dough and rolling pin with flour to keep gingerbread from sticking, and roll out dough to approximately ¼” thickness. As you roll, work dough out from the center of the cookie sheet, concentrating on rolling it in an even rectangle shape, not to thin on edges and not to thick in center. (Hint: Place dampened towel under cookie sheet to prevent it slipping as you roll out the dough.)
2. To make any gingerbread house you will need 2 each of the House Front, Back, Roof, Eaves and Side Walls. Always cut the same size pieces out on the same cookie sheet; if you do not, smaller pieces back faster than larger pieces.
3. Place pattern pieces on dough, cut out pieces with pizza cutter or knife. If you want windows or shutters you will need to cut them at the same time, before you bake. You will be unable to cut anything out of the walls once they are baked. Press any designs you might want in dough before baking, such as brick look or eaves on roof.
Carefully remove pattern and excess dough from cut edges. Repeat rolling and cutting procedures, using additional cookie sheets.
4. Bake gingerbread in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes, depending on how large pieces are. To test gingerbread for doneness, lightly touch, if it leave imprint it needs to bake longer until done; the more crisp the better. (If gingerbread is too soft it will not hold up.) After baking, place pattern on hot gingerbread and check sizes; trim any excess with sharp knife to ensure that all edges are straight and will fit together properly; then loosen from pans. This will make assembly much easier if pieces are straight.
Remove gingerbread pieces from cookie sheet and place on rack overnight to ensure pieces cool completely. (Hint: Bake gingerbread 24 to 48 hours before assembly.)