A confession: I did not actually let my young child decorate our first annual ginger bread house. I was having just a little too much fun doing it myself! Fortunately for me, she seemed perfectly content to participate in a supervisory capacity.
After some 20 years worth of gingerbread-house-less holidays I suddenly launched full-scale into building this one on a whim. I made the last one when I was 17, long before "google" was a verb, and, sadly, before it occurred to me that a quick library search might be beneficial before tackling some new project.
Of course not knowing what you're doing until you're hip deep is not necessarily the wrong way to embark, but these days I find the allure of an internet survey pretty hard to resist. It wasn't long before flickr and google images had introduced me to every variant of the gingerbread house world, from the charmingly dilapidated gum-drop studded variety to impeccably manicured grand mansions, and everything in between. I greatly admired all the complex architecture, but, eyeing my frisky 3-year old, I thought perhaps a more modest plan might be in order.
I really loved the way the extra section at the front made it look complex, but was really just two simple houses next to each other. I also liked the birdhouse/pentagon shape of the main house. It didn't hurt that a printable template was provided. I did make it a bit smaller, and changed the shape of chimney a bit.
It took me all week to get it done.
Monday night I mixed up the dough (adapted from several different recipes found on-line) and stuck it in the fridge. Tuesday morning I rolled it out, cut the pieces and froze them on cookie-sheets so they wouldn't spread too much when baked. That evening after using the oven for making dinner it was nice and hot for baking the pieces, and then afterwards I left them out all night to get a little stale/dry for assembly. Which was when I noticed that I'd forgotten to make the 4th chimney piece. Oops. Luckily, a little surgery on a graham cracker yielded a suitable substitute.
After I was done with the cardboard template pieces, I taped them together and let Isabel play with it. Turned out to be the perfect home for small plastic cats.
Wednesday morning I put them all together. The last time I made a gingerbread house, I used frosting to glue it together, but during my research phase, I'd been intrigued by the melted sugar method. And it turned out to be a really great way to do it. I just melted white sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat and then I used a spoon to spread it where I needed it, pressed the parts together and only had to hold a few seconds before it cooled enough to harden up. Much easier than propping everything up with glasses and hoping it doesn't fall apart before the frosting sets in a few hours!
Wednesday morning I did the first round of decorating with a little frosting to glue on the roof tiles (golden grahams cereal), candy-canes and tree-shaped gingerbread cookies. I didn't want to deal with the whole "raw egg" issue implicit in royal icing, so I just used powdered sugar and water and it seemed to work fine.
Thursday I made some little (baked) meringue "snow-covered bushes" and glued on some cheereos. Friday it occurred to me to add some frosting icicles.
All the following week, I kept getting wonderful little wiffs of ginger and cinnamon whenever I got near my cozy little house, not to mention the warm after-glow of a job reasonably well done and a good time had.
And then a week later, we took it all apart and ate it.
Make/read blog entry comments via flickr:
- Victoria, 2012-01-22
cooking insights based on weighing ingredients
- Victoria, 2011-07-01
Bread making for those lacking stand-mixers and copious free time.
- Victoria, 2011-07-01