Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Beary Merry Gingerbread House

Welcome to our gingerbread house! It's a fun tradition that we started years ago, and we love it as much as the kids in our family do. My gingerbread houses are not painstakingly over-the-top, and I don't make them for competitions. In fact, they are like little rustic cottages, and I use whatever candy we have managed to gather up to decorate. Some years are more elaborate than others. This year, all I had was candy canes, Teddy Grahams, Lifesavers, mini marshmallows, and offbrand M&Ms (which are a bit bigger--but taste awful!).
The gingerbread madness started several years ago when I was searching for a simple-to-do recipe. I found one and from there sort of developed my own version. I cut wax paper templates, and keep using the original ones! If you've never made a gingerbread house, this one is pretty easy. Start with Day 1 - the baking.
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs

Egg whites and powdered sugar make the frosting.
Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. Beat together shortening and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and molasses and beat until fluffy, then slowly add the flour mixture and mix until the dough is smooth and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Divide the dough into three larger balls and one smaller. Place one ball of dough on the back of a cookie sheet and roll out with a floured rolling pin. Keep adding flour to your rolling pin as you go. Roll out to about a 1/8-inch thickness and use wax paper templates (measurements for those are below). Use a sharp knife and cut out two front/back pieces, removing excess dough. Cut out a front door. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. Cool slightly and move to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat with another dough ball, cutting and baking two side pieces. Optional: cut windows and fill with crushed lifesavers and bake for a stained glass effect. Bake the two roof pieces, and one base piece.
Front/back piece
Because we do not make our gingerbread house to actually eat, I let the pieces dry completely on wire racks overnight, so that they are nice and hard before we begin decorating.
Front/back template: 5X6-inches, 7.5" from bottom to roof peak (bake 2)
Side template: 5X7-inches (bake 2)
Roof template: 5X8-inches (bake 2)
Base: 7X6-inches (bake 1)

4 cups powdered sugar
3 egg whites (or equivalent in egg white powder)
Beat with whisk attachment in mixer until smooth and stiff--you do not want it to be too runny. If it is, add more powdered sugar until you get the consistency you want.
Fill your pastry bag with the frosting. Get out your candy assortment and you are ready to decorate! You should have enough leftover dough to also make some little gingerbread people, and I always make reindeers and put one on the roof!
Especially when children are helping, it is much easier when you are ready to decorate to place the pieces flat on a cookie sheet and decorate them flat, and then let them dry overnight.

Time to make another batch of frosting and "glue" the house together. One of the things that helps me when assembling the house is to use a few straight pins to keep it all together as I go--not many, just a few. Just keep assembling, piece by piece, and adding frosting where you need one piece to stick to the next, and if there are any gaps, just keep filling them in with frosting. My final touches are adding Lifesavers and a reindear cookie to the top of the roof.

I have baked a whole set of pieces now, waiting for the little boys in the family to decorate this week--they love making gingerbread houses every year, and we let them decorate however they want! I'm thinking about making another one too with all "stained glass" Lifesaver windows. Now, I can't say it isn't a bit of hard work--anytime you are rolling out dough, that's a workout--but it is fun and so worth it to have that wonderful gingerbread aroma around all during the holiday and these little cottages are fun to look at. This year, I broke one of my roof pieces (had to bake another) so I trimmed out a little bed to put inside for the Teddy Grahams! I glued it to the base piece and cut out a tortilla blankie! My little nephew loves to look in the gingerbread windows and see little bears inside! My teenage daughter even told me how much she enjoys our gingerbread house tradition--so it's never too late to start making your own!

It's still "drying" -- Oreo front steps were a last-minute addition!

From our house to yours--Merry Christmas!


  1. LOVE THIS! It's terribly cute, and I want to make one! No, two! NO, THREE!! I've never made a gingerbread house, and now it's all I can think about. Thanks, Sandy. :)

  2. Pam, you are so creative, you won't have any trouble!!

  3. I am so impressed when anyone bakes!! The kitchen is my least favourite room in the house. Thankyou for the lovely comment, hope you have a magical christmas!!

  4. Wow! Your gingerbread house is incredible. I cannot believe you do everything from scratch. What a great tradition. *hugs*