The gingerbread house is a traditional holiday staple, right up there with popcorn garland for the tree and that Christmas cake no one eats.
Since this publication is all about real estate and finding the right REALTOR® to help you buy or sell your home, there’s no more fitting recipe than that of the gingerbread house.
The tradition of making decorated gingerbread houses started in Germany in the early 1800s. According to some researchers, the first gingerbread houses resulted after the well-known Grimm’s fairytale Hansel and Gretel was published. In the story, two children abandoned in a forest find an edible house where a witch lives. Riding on the success of this story, bakers began baking ornamented fairytale houses of lebkuchen that became especially popular during Christmas.
Making your own gingerbread house isn’t as hard as it looks, and it’s a great activity for family and friends of all ages. Here’s a fairly fool-proof recipe to try over the holidays.
Classic Gingerbread House
Prep time: 1.5 hours
Cook time: 15 minutes
Makes: One small house; double for a larger house, or more
• 1/2 cup butter, at room temp
• 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
• 1/4 cup light molasses or dark corn syrup
• 1 tablespoon cinnamon
• 1 tablespoon ground ginger
• 1½ teaspoons ground cloves
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 tablespoons water
• Candy for decorating (gumdrops, licorice, peppermint candies, pretzels, sprinkles, dragées, etc.)
• 1 pound (3¾ cups) powdered sugar, sifted if lumpy
• 1 to 2 large egg whites, or substitute 4 teaspoons packaged egg whites and 1/4 cup water
• 1 teaspoon almond extract, vanilla extract or lemon juice
1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and baking soda together until smooth. Blend in the flour and water to make a stiff dough. Chill at least 30 minutes or until firm enough to handle.
2. Preheat oven to 375°F.
3. Cut out paper patterns for the house. Example: Two rectangles, 3 by 5 inches, to make the front and back of the house. Two rectangles, 3 by 5 1/2 inches for the roof. Two pieces for the ends of the house, 3 inches wide at the base, 3 inches to the roof line, and slanted to a peak 5 1/2 inches from the bottom. Four smaller rectangles, 1 1/2 by 1 inch for the roof and sides of the entryway. And one piece, 2 inches wide at the base, 1 1/2 inches to the roof line, and slanted to a peak 2 1/2 inches from the bottom for the front of the entryway. It’s also possible to download patterns from the internet and print those for use as your outlines. If you’re using a different template, or one you’ve created on your own, make sure you’ve prepared enough dough for whichever pattern you pick.
4. Roll gingerbread dough out to the edges of a large, rimless cookie sheet. Place paper patterns onto the rolled out dough. Using a knife, cut around each of the pieces while in the pan.
5. Bake at 375°F for about 15 minutes until dough feels firm.
6. Using a clean knife, retrace the shapes you cut out to make sure all the pieces are detached from each other. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.
7. Place royal icing into a pastry bag with a writing tip and press out to decorate individual parts of house, piping on decorations, windows, door, etc., as desired. Let dry until hardened. You can also use a plastic baggie with one corner cut out to form a small hole as your pastry bag.
8. Glue the sides, front and back of the house together at the corners using royal icing. Place an object against the pieces to prop them up until the icing is dry (it only takes a few minutes) or have someone hold them in place for you.
9. Glue the two roof pieces to the pitched roofline of the house. Then glue the sides and roof of the entryway together with icing. Attach the entryway to the front of the house.
10. Continue decorating the house, gluing on gumdrops, licorice and peppermint, as desired. Tip: Frosted wheat squares cereal make fun and easy shingles. You can also buy pre-made candy in the shape of wreaths, candy canes, etc. The discount store is a great place to start, or any bulk buy store.
1. Mix all of the ingredients together using an electric hand mixer, until the icing is smooth and thin enough to be pressed through a pastry bag fitted with a writing (small) tip. Add more lemon juice to thin, if necessary.
It’s also possible to buy gingerbread forms or pans that imprint patterns into your gingerbread as they bake.
If you’re really ambitious, you can make an entire village of gingerbread houses. A gingerbread house doesn’t have to be a house, although this shape is the most common. It can be anything from a castle to a small cabin, a church, an art museum, Santa’s workshop, or even a sports stadium, and can include other items like cars, sleighs, furniture, plants, animals and people. The only limit is what your imagination can come up with. Have fun decorating!