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D I Y WITH LIZ Tricks for Making Successful Gingerbread Houses

November 27, 2018 5 min read 2 Comments

TRICKS FOR MAKING SUCCESSFUL GINGERBREAD HOUSES

Common Questions:

How to make the icing hold the pieces together?

How to prevent roof pieces from sliding down?

When is the best time to glue on candies?

How big should we make it?

 I'll show you how to put a basic house together successfully in this blog post!
  • Recipe for gingerbread dough and icing                                  
  • How to assemble a basic gingerbread house                                  
  • Resources for other gingerbread cookie projects

Step 1: make the dough & icing

INGREDIENTS for 8" tall house

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup white or brown sugar

1/2 cup light molasses

3 1/2 cups white all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup to 1/2 cup cold water

Blend butter and sugar together until creamy. Sift dry ingredients together in separate bowl. Combine two mixtures alternatively with 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of cold water to make a dough. Mix with hands into a ball, adjust with small amounts of flour if dough is too sticky. Roll dough 1/8" thick on lightly floured surface.

ICING RECIPE

One recipe makes enough icing for one 8" tall gingerbread house, but always have enough extra ingredients on hand to make more icing in case you need it. Use a pastry bag to apply it, or just plastic spoons. The pastry bag is nice if you want to draw thin icing designs, but it isn't essential.

INGREDIENTS

1 one pound box of powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

3 egg whites from large size eggs. Other egg white options: buy fresh egg whites in a carton from the dairy section in a grocery store; or dehydrated powdered egg white powder which mixes with water and can be purchased where cake decorating supplies and equipment are sold. It is often called "meringue powder".

Put all ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a rotary electric beater until still like toothpaste. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth until ready to use so the icing doesn't dry. Cookies must be cool before decorating or the icing will run.

Avoid doing a double recipe of frosting because the stiffness will be hard on your electric beater. 

These are the pattern pieces that I use for the front, back, sides and roof for an 8" tall house. Copy them  and scale them up so the front/back piece is 8". 

Use the paper pattern pieces to cut out the parts of the gingerbread house. Be careful when you transfer the cut out dough shapes so that you don't stretch and distort them. 

ASSEMBLING 

Prepare paper patterns using my drawing as a guide. The house "front" is 8" high. 

Roll out your dough 1/8" thick on a lightly floured surface and cut out two cookies from each pattern. Carefully transfer to the baking sheet (greased) and bake at 350 degrees F for 8- 10 minutes. Transfer to rack to cool. The cookies will harden as they cool.

Plan to build your house on a stiff piece of brown cardboard. It looks just like gingerbread and makes a convenient base. Or  you can bake a large base cookie and put it on top of a cardboard support base. 

Standing up the cookies is easy if you lean the first wall against a cup, then attach the next piece right away to help stabilize the first. Note how I positioned the side piece against the back of the front cookie. That will make it easier for the roof pieces to attach.

Note that the vertical cookies were already decorated with candies. Since this icing firms up relatively quickly, you should attach your candies to the front, back and side walls at least 30 minutes before assembling the house. Don't decorate the roof yet. You'll do that last.

If you want to use a pastry bag, only fill it 2/3 full and prop it in a glass while you spoon the icing into the bag. Twist the top of the bag to close it and hold tight!

Put a generous amount of thick icing on the edges of the cookies where the seams will be. Note that the icing is put on before the cookie is put into position. The cup serves as a temporary support until I get the second wall up.

Note how I attached the side walls to the INSIDE edge of the back piece. Attach the front piece in the same way.

putting on the roof

Once the sides are glued together and the icing is dry, you can attach the roof pieces. Wait a minimum of 30 minutes for the side seams to harden before adding the roof. If you are nervous, there is a trick to keeping the side walls from tumbling down: tie a long cotton string around the house like a big belt surrounding all of the vertical cookies. Tie a tight bow. Later you can untie it after the whole house is assembled and icing hardened. 

Prepare to add the roof by putting icing on all of the top edges of the house walls.

Then lay two long pieces of cotton string across the walls (like the drawing shows.)

When you put the roof pieces in place, bring up the string end ties and tie a bow to firmly hold the top roof seam together.

After you feel that the icing has hardened, snip loose the cotton strings. Don't try to pull them out. Just snip them close to the cookies.

Then resume decorating the roof and embellish! I like to play with the top seam and add more candies across the top ridge. 

Spread the icing on the cookie edges which will touch the underside of the roof. Be generous with the icing on the tops of the side walls.

Put some icing on the cookie roof pieces where they touch at  the top ridge. Use two pieces of string, as shown in the diagram to hold the roof pieces up and together.  This trick keeps the roof pieces from sliding down until the icing is dry enough to hold. 

I have to act fast, once I set the roof pieces onto the house, then I quickly bring up the string ends and tie them in bows at the top so they are nice and snug. In about 30 minutes the icing has set enough to untie the strings and snip them close to the cookie.

decorate

You can do so many different candy patterns and ideas on the roof: shingles with little cookies or candies, repeating patterns and designs with pretty candies. And the roof ridge is a great place to add candy canes. Don't forget to decorate over the seams and roof edges. And of course, the base! It's your candy garden, even if it is on cardboard. 

Shingles from flat candies or cookies

Cover the edges of the roof cookies

Design with candy

ready for more gingerbread?

The book

Do you want to make a giant size gingerbread house? 

Have you wondered about other types of structures to make in gingerbread, such as castles, or cookie centerpieces?

It's all in my GINGERBREAD SCULPTURE Activity Cook Book, plus more creative and fun ideas with gingerbread and candies.

 

It's much easier than you think, but I recommend starting with my basic house project so you gain confidence. 

Find out more ways to create with Gingerbread cookies in my book, The Gingerbread Sculpture Activity Cookbook. 

Get the book today on Amazon. 


2 Responses

Liz
Liz

November 28, 2018

Yes. Gingerbread houses are completely edible, depending on your taste for sweet things! My grandchildren have seen my blog post and are demanding we build a giant gingerbread house during the winter school break. I expect their parents to help so I can train them for the future.

joya deVivre
joya deVivre

November 28, 2018

this is amazing, i love the illustrations, and can’t wait to make my own. i have never made a gingerbread house. are they edible? seriously, I don’t know.

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