Make gingerbread houses with your kids (recipe and decorating tips)

Why not start a new holiday tradition and spend an afternoon in the kitchen making a gingerbread house with your kids?



Susan Nye

There is something magical about gingerbread houses. It doesn’t matter if they are architectural masterpieces built by fabulous pastry chefs or sweet little houses built by young, would-be artists. They are all wonderful. Why not start a new holiday tradition and spend an afternoon in the kitchen making a gingerbread house with your kids?

Gingerbread is not difficult to make but it does take some advanced planning. The dough needs to chill for several hours or it will be a sticky mess and impossible to roll out. It’s also a good idea to bake the cookie walls and roof a day ahead to let them stiffen up overnight before construction and decoration begins.

Sound complicated? If your days leading up to Christmas are non-stop crazy, don’t worry. You can always buy the walls and roof from a bakery or find a kit at the crafts store. Remember the fun is in the decorating and the time spent with your children.

Spicy Gingerbread Houses and Cookies
You can use this recipe to make a gingerbread house or gingerbread cookies.

6 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 T. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 c. brown sugar

2 eggs

1 c. dark molasses

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Snowy Icing (recipe follows)

For decorations: Assortment of colorful candies such as Necco Wafers, gum drops, peppermint drops, M & M’s, chocolate chips, raisins, Red Hots, Snow Caps, Life Savers, mini Tootsie rolls, candy canes and a variety sanding sugars and granulated sugar

For snow people: Marzipan and food coloring or marshmallows and pretzel sticks

For a base of the gingerbread house: Heavy cardboard or a cutting board

To make the gingerbread dough:

Put flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg in large bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, molasses and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Add dry ingredients a little at a time, mixing after each addition until just combined. Shape the dough into 3 or 4 thick disks, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

To bake, assemble and decorate a Gingerbread House:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for your gingerbread house mold or line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats.

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out 1/4-inch thick and press into mold. If you don’t have a mold, cut out walls and roof (you find see some templates and examples here on Pinterest).

Bake until firm about 10 to 15 minutes. Cool completely.

Find a spare cutting board or cut a heavy cardboard base that is large enough to hold your house, a few snowdrifts and a snowman or two. Use a pastry bag filled with icing and fitted with a medium plain tip to assemble your house. Glue house walls together by setting them up on the base and piping icing at the joints.

Go out in the snow and play for 30 minutes while the walls set.

Using the pastry bag and medium tip; attach the roof pieces with more icing.

While the roof pieces are setting, make snow people. For marzipan snow people, use food coloring to dye the marzipan. Work the marzipan like Play-Doh to form figurines. For marshmallow snow people, use a dab of snowy icing to glue marshmallows together. Create arms with pretzel sticks and eyes with whole cloves or mini chocolate chips.

When the roof has set, decorate your house and yard with more snowy icing, colorful candies and white sanding or granulated sugar.

To bake and decorate gingerbread cookies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats

Cut dough with a variety of holiday cookie cutters. Lay cookies onto baking sheets about 1-inch apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes; cool on the pan for 5-10 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Use pastry bag filled with icing and fitted with a small tip to decorate cookies. Sprinkle cookies with colorful sanding sugar and embellish with colorful candies, chocolate chips or raisins.

Snowy Icing

1 lb. confectioners' sugar, plus more if needed

6 T. egg white powder

About 1/4 c. water

With a hand mixer beat sugar, egg white powder and water on low speed until smooth. Add more sugar or water to get a pipeable consistency.

Susan Nye writes for magazines throughout New England. Named one of the Top 100 Foodie Bloggers of 2012 by BlueStar Range, she shares many of her favorite recipes and stories about family and friendship on her blog at www.susannye.wordpress.com.

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