2/12 Days of Christmas Baking

Megan Klak, Staff Writer

So this weekend I decided to make a gingerbread house from scratch. I did not realize how crazy that was when I started. Seven hours of my weekend later, I tell you: if you are going to attempt this, know that it is HARD to do. I have added some interjections in brackets.

Ingredients:

Gingerbread…

  • 8 ounces unsalted butter (16 tablespoons or 2 sticks), softened
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Gingerbread House Template Additions…

  • Heavy cardboard base for the house
  • Pastry bag with a medium plain tip and a small plain tip
  • Frosted shredded mini-wheats for the roof, as needed
  • Mini tootsie rolls for a fence, as needed
  • White Hershey Kisses for roof top spikes, as needed
  • Small candy canes for a lamp post outside the door, as needed
  • Granulated sugar for snow drifts, as needed
  • Necco Wafers for a cobblestone path, as needed
  • 3 large marshmallows, for snowman
  • Pretzel sticks, for snowman arms, as needed
  • 2 whole cloves, for snowman eyes
  • Graham crackers to build a shed, as needed
  • Assorted candy such as gum drops, peppermint drops, M&M’s, white chocolate chips, red hots, non-pareils or snow caps, silver dragees, green mint jelly leaves, Life Savers, and Animal Crackers

Directions:

  1. In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and mix until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time until incorporated. Add the molasses and vanilla and mix.
  2. Sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, cloves, and salt. Working in batches, and mixing after each addition just until combined, add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture. Shape the dough into a thick disk, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease 2 cookie sheets.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough in half and roll each piece out into a large 1/4-inch thick sheet. Transfer the dough sheets to the sheet pans; then cut out the required shapes with your templates (see Gingerbread House Templates below).
  5. Bake until stiff and toast-y, about 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely (cool overnight).

Assemble and Decorate the House:

  1. Glue the house walls together by setting them up on the cardboard base, and piping the royal icing at the joints with a medium plain tip from the inside. Prop the sides up with wine or soda bottles and let set for 30 minutes. Attach the roof pieces, using the icing in the same way.
  2. Using a spatula to apply the icing, glue the frosted mini-wheats on the roof to look like thatching. Attach the front door, with hinges made from icing (leave it open to be more inviting).
  3. Decorate as you like, following the suggestions in the ingredient list, using the icing as glue, if needed. Use a small plain tip for any filigree style decorative line work, you may want.

Gingerbread House Templates:

You’ll need to make 7 templates by drawing the dimensions onto brown paper (or you can use parchment paper like I did) and cutting them out. Use the templates as a stencil to cut the dough into the required pieces. Here are the templates you’ll need:

  • Two front and rear walls: 5 inches high by 8 inches long. Cut out 2 windows from each wall, and 2 1/2 by 1 1/2-inch door in one.
  • Two side walls shaped like a house (triangle on a square): 5 inches high by 6 inches long, with a triangle 7 inches high on top (cut as 1 piece). Cut 1 window out of each side.
  • Two overhanging roof pieces: 4 1/2 inches wide by 9 inches long.
  • One door: 2 & 1/2 inches high by 1 & 1/2 inches wide.

(Follow the templates EXACTLY. I made my roof much steeper and had endless difficulties with sliding roof pieces).

Recipe by Gale Gand.

Now for the icing! (I used this icing recipe because it does not contain raw eggs.)

Ingredients:

  • Glossy Royal Icing
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, or more as needed

Directions:

  1. Stir warm water, corn syrup, and almond extract together in a small bowl until corn syrup and extract have dissolved.
  2. Place confectioners’ sugar into a separate bowl and add liquid ingredients.
  3. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until royal icing is smooth. Store in a lidded container for up to a week; stir thoroughly before using. (You can add more confectioners’ sugar if the icing is too thin.)

Recipe by Bevangelista.

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