Making Your Own Gingerbread House
The gingerbread house is a wonderful tradition that is anticipated by both young and old alike; but buying a kit to build one can be very cost prohibitive, especially in these lean economic times. You and your family can still enjoy the fun and magic of a gingerbread house this holiday season by following the instructions below to make it yourself.
This recipe for gingerbread was provided courtesy of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York. It is adapted from Baking At Home with The Culinary Institute of America (John Wiley & Sons, 2004):
Gingerbread House Dough
(To be prepared during Step 4 of the assembly instructions listed below)
15 cups all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp ground allspice
4 tsp salt
4 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups tightly packed dark brown sugar
4 cups honey
8 large eggs
Flourless cooking spray
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly spray cookie sheets with cooking spray or line them with parchment paper. Sift together the flour, baking soda, ginger, allspice, and salt and set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and honey on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and mix until smooth and light, another 2-3 minutes. Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until the dough is evenly mixed.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, pat into an even disk, and chill for 10 minutes.
Gingerbread House Assembly
1) Make construction paper templates:
2 each 2”x 8” rectangles — side walls
2 each 1”x 3.5” rectangles — chimney pieces
2 each 1”x 3.5” rectangles with a triangle cut from the bottom — chimney pieces (see figure A)
2 each 9”x 12” rectangles — roof pieces
2 each 9”x 12” rectangles cut into triangles — front and back of house (see figure B)
2) Transfer the designs to cardboard (optional).
3) Create a base for the gingerbread house. This can be made out of an overturned cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil, sturdy cardboard, or any other stable base. If cardboard is used, it is helpful to make a double layer to ensure that it does not bend.
4) Make the gingerbread dough.
5) Roll the dough out to about ¼” thickness and place a template on the dough. Cut the shape out using a pizza cutter, knife, or pastry cutter.
6) Bake the dough for 6-7 minutes, then remove it from the oven. Place the templates back on top of the corresponding dough shapes and trim the edges using the pizza cutter, knife, or pastry cutter. At this time you can also cut the door out of one of the large triangles. Return the dough to the oven and finish baking for another 6-7 minutes.
7) Let the gingerbread cool completely.
Meanwhile, mix the royal icing that will serve as the glue:
10 egg whites
4.5 lbs. confectioner’s sugar (about 16.5 cups)
Note: Royal icing dries very quickly. In order to keep it from hardening, it must be stored in a sealed container with a damp paper towel directly on its surface. Another option for making the royal icing is to use meringue powder instead of egg whites. Follow the directions on the packaging for making royal icing.
9) Using a pastry bag or heavy duty freezer bag fitted with a small round piping tip; glue the front of the house down to the base. You may need to hold the pieces together for about 30 seconds. Glue the side walls to the base and to the inside edge of the front of the house. Then, glue the back of the house to the base and the side walls. Let this set for about 1 hour.
10) Glue the roof pieces to the front and back walls of the house. To prevent the roof pieces from sliding down, they can be propped up using rolled up paper towels. Let this set for 1 hour.
11) Glue the chimney pieces with the triangle cut out over the peak of the roof, and then glue the other chimney pieces to those. Don’t worry if this doesn’t look perfect. You can always cover it with royal icing later. Allow this to set for about 30 minutes.
12) Use the royal icing to pipe designs and to glue various candies onto the house. Remember to immediately place the candies into the icing as it dries very quickly! The icing can also be spread onto the base to look like snow.
13) For a finishing touch, sift a little bit of powdered sugar onto the house for a “just snowed” look.
Some notes about making the house:
- Working quickly once the icing has been piped is very important.
- Royal icing does not keep well because it has raw egg whites in it, and should be thrown out once the house is decorated.
- Other options besides candy for decorations: peanuts, raisins, chocolate, or yogurt covered raisins.
- If the royal icing seems too thick, it can be thinned with a tablespoon of water.
- Icing to be used for spreading can be thinner than icing for piping.
- It is best not to rush this process and to allow plenty of time between assembly steps so that the royal icing can properly dry.
- For ease of piping, designs can be piped on the pieces before gluing them together, but no candy should be placed until the house is assembled. The weight from the candy could make the house more likely to fall down while the icing dries.
If you make this a family project, it can be a great way to get the kids into the kitchen for some baking lessons. It’s also an excellent way of bringing the family together in the true spirit of the holidays.