So as promised, today’s post is about our first Gingerbread House in the The Flavor Bender household, and how we decorated it, along with the gingerbread house recipe and template! We have already decided that this is going to be a holiday tradition for us that we can build some fun memories around in the years to come! 🙂
Updated: December 2017
I first made this gingerbread house in 2014. We wanted to make one every year, but honestly we didn’t have the patience between making gingerbread cookies and waiting for the house to be decorated. It was easier to bake the gingerbread cookies, ice them and then just stuff our faces with ’em! Still, there’s something exciting and quintessentially Christmassy about decorating gingerbread houses with kids and all the people you love! 🙂
I’ve also realized that if I were to make a gingerbread house for a crowd, I may have to make TWO. One for the others to decorate, and the second just for me. My inner control freak will not let me rest otherwise. 🙂
The recipe I first made for gingerbread was from Sweetapolita, but since then I have changed my recipe considerably to suit my own tastes. This took lots of recipe testing but it was worth it because it’s perfect for me now! Plus I also to make sure that I have enough to make the entire house PLUS extra dough to make small cut out cookies too. Plus the scraps you end up with can also be baked and turned into these delicious gingerbread bourbon cookie truffles too!
So here goes. This is my workflow for making gingerbread houses.
Day one – Make the gingerbread dough in the morning. Roll and bake the gingerbread in the evening. (You can split this into two days too).
Day two – Make the royal icing “cement”. Stick the gingerbread walls and roof together. You will have to stick just two walls together first, and follow that with each section every hour or so. I used drinking glasses and boxes to keep the walls straight, until the “cement” dries up.
I colored a portion of the royal icing in different colors and frosted the cookie cut outs as well. This includes any Christmas trees, gingerbread men/women, gingerbread snowmen etc. These were left to dry up overnight as well.
Day three – This is the fun part! You get to decorate the gingerbread house however you like! If you placed the gingerbread house on a tray, you can decorate the whole landscape, or you can just decorate the house. Get more royal icing, candy and chocolate ready to decorate the house.
You can still check out how I decorated the gingerbread house I made in 2014, at the bottom of this post (after the recipe).
For the new gingerbread house that I made this time, I opted to go with minimal colors. You can definitely have multiple colors of royal icing, but I kept it mostly white (and I left out the chimney from the 2014 version of my gingerbread house too).
I used 3D royal icing to pipe windowsill “baskets” and filled them with sprinkles. I piped 3D flower beds for the front of the house, and filled them with sprinkles too (can you tell that I love sprinkles?).
For the roof, I created scalloped royal icing patterns that I brushed (like for royal icing brush embroidery). The icing sugar that was brushed on top creates the look of light snow fall too, which I think is a beautiful touch.
I decorated the outside of the house with white royal icing, and made these adorable 3D gingerbread cookies using the set here.
And of course our house wouldn’t be complete without the gingerbread versions of K and I right? 🙂
Have you checked out my new cookbook?
THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE TEMPLATE
The templates were printed on A4 sheets. The A4 sheets were glued onto cardboard and then cut out using a craft knife (or a pair of scissors).
You can change the shape and positions of the windows and doors however you like!
ROYAL ICING RECIPE
The royal icing recipe I used is included in this gingerbread house recipe below. I used TWO batches of the royal icing for this entire gingerbread house. I used the recipe just as is for the “cement”. But I mixed in a little water to thin it out as needed for decorating the cookie cut outs. Make sure to add only a little water at a time when you do this.
Gingerbread Dough and Gingerbread House Recipe
- 1.1 kg / 39 oz all purpose flour approximately 8.75 cups (spoon and leveled)
- 5 teaspoons cinnamon
- 6 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1.5 teaspoons allspice
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 285 g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature 2 ½ sticks (1 ¼ cups butter or 10 oz)
- 255 g dark brown sugar light brown can be used too. (about 1 ¼ cup + 1 tbsp)
- 3 large eggs
- 1.5 cups unsulphered molasses 360 g
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 10 mL
- 1/2 cup flour 63 g
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup meringue powder
- 100 mL water
- 1 lb confectioner's sugar (icing sugar) sifted (it's important that it be sifted) about 4 cups
- A few drops of colorless flavoring (vanilla or lemon)
- In a large bowl, sift all the dry ingredients - 1 kg flour, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, salt, baking soda, cloves and nutmeg. Set aside the 100g of flour.
- You will need a stand mixer for this as there is a large amount of dough to handle. You can easily halve the recipe if you wish.
- With the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes until fluffy and pale in color.
- Reduce the speed to medium and add eggs, one at a time, mixing well between additions.
- Add molasses and vanilla and mix until well incorporated.
- On stir speed (or low speed), add flour and mix until a dough is formed. You may need to use your hands to knead the dough at the end to make sure it's mixed well. Remove the dough from the bowl, and knead it gently a few times to form a smooth ball (dust the work surface with flour if necessary). Add the extra 100g flour only if the dough is too wet, and you require more.
- Divide the dough into 4 portions, and flatten each into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap (see photo in post).
- Chill all the discs of dough for at least 2 hours in the fridge (I keep it overnight).
- For the dusting flour - mix the flour and spices together and use this to dust the surface you will be rolling the cookies on. You can make more of the dusting flour (you will need more) as you need it (optional).
- Preheat oven to 325 F/170 C.
- Remove one dough disc and then remove the plastic wrap. Place this on a floured (with dusting flour) parchment paper and flour the top of the disc and roll out the dough with a rolling pin (use another parchment paper if the flour is sticking to the rolling pin). Make sure to flip the dough over half way through to smoothly and evenly roll it out. Keep it lightly dusted so that it doesn't stick to the surface.
- To ensure that you get an even thickness throughout the dough, use two 5 mm dowels on either side of the dough (or you can use rolling pin rings).
- Cut out the shapes of the gingerbread house. 1st portion - walls. 2nd portion - front and back. 3rd and 4th - roof. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes from the leftover scraps of dough. Cut the windows and doors from the gingerbread house pieces, but do not remove them - this is because the dough expands as it bakes. I prefer to cut them out after they have been baked.
- Knead the scraps to form a rough disc and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and reuse.
- Place the cookies on a cookie tray (lined with parchment paper) with 1 1/2 inches of space between them. Transfer to the freezer for another 10 -15 minutes, or the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Bake in the oven.
7 minutes for smaller cookies.
10 - 12 minutes for the walls and front and back.
15 - 18 minutes for the roof. (Longer for larger pieces like the roof or walls). Bake in the oven until the edges JUST start to brown.
- Cool the cookies on the tray for about 20 minutes and transfer them to the cooling tray to finish cooling.
- Using a sharp knife or craft cutter, cut out the doors and windows of the gingerbread house, while it's still fairly warm on the tray.
- I left the larger cookies on the cookie tray to cool down completely.
- Use royal icing or melted chocolate to stick the pieces of the house together. If you use royal icing, you will need to leave it to dry for at least 8 hours at room temperature, until it completely hardens up. I keep it for 24 hours.
- Make sure you use the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, or mixer attachment of your hand mixer to make this royal icing. You do not want to incorporate too much air.
- Place the meringue powder and water together in a bowl. Whisk together until foamy.
- Add the sifted confectioner's sugar (1/3 at a time to prevent a sugar storm!), and mix on low until all of it is incorporated. Mix on medium-high until the royal icing becomes thick and glossy.
- Keep mixing until the royal icing forms stiff peaks. Add the flavoring and mix to combine. Stop immediately after you mix in the flavoring. Place the royal icing in a bowl or in a pastry bag. If you place the royal icing in a bowl, cover the surface completely with plastic wrap to avoid crusting.
- To color royal icing - portion the royal icing and mix in a few drops of the color(s) you prefer. To thin out the royal icing - portion the royal icing that you need. Mix in a small spoonful of water a time, until you get the desired consistency. If it get's too thin, you can fix this by adding a little sifted confectioner's sugar.
“This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.”
These are the details of the gingerbread house that I decorated the first time around in 2014 –
My husband suggested Christmas lights, so we piped colorful lights all along the edges of the roof.
I even piped a Christmas wreath on the front door of our gingerbread house.
So what lessons did I learn from my first gingerbread house?
- Patience young grasshopper, patience! Especially when it comes to decorating the cookies with royal icing. I also need more practice in terms of flooding the cookies with icing and spreading it out to make it look neater.
- You need quite a bit of confectioner’s sugar on hand and a few mixing bowls (I used my coffee mugs) to mix in colours.
- Buy extra candies, but stay away from anything cherry flavoured. I had forgotten how much I hate artificial cherry flavoured life savers. They taste too much like cough syrup. More gummy snakes and MnMs please!
- I might use a thicker base board next time. Mostly because it was harder to move the gingerbread house around for pictures later on.
I know breaking the house and eating it is half the fun, but I have to say breaking my first gingerbread house broke my heart a little too! But I can definitely see it getting more enjoyable in the future. I can confirm that breaking gingerbread houses DO get easier with time. I was more than happy to break this gingerbread house because devouring it was our goal, ha!
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