Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Heirloom Week: Gingerbread Houses

Any kid, whatever age, would appreciate a spicy, crunchy house on the sideboard, just waiting for post-Christmas munchies. The best place on the 'Net to learn about this art is Ultimate Gingerbread, a website that will help build your own place, from getting out the ginger to frosting that final brick.It also helps you submit your creation for any number of contests!

Here's a basic recipe to get you started. (Thanks, Ultimate Gingerbread.)

Debbie's Gingerbread House Dough Recipe

Comments from Debbie:  I have made a gingerbread house every Christmas since I graduated from college in the late 70s. At first I used to make them and take them home for my cousins to decorate and eat. Then they became great masterpieces that looked like the house I was living in and they had stained glass (lollipop) windows and lights inside (an old Christmas tree bulb rigged up on a cord with a plug). Now I make a house every November with my kids, before the seasonal preparations get too crazy. We put all our leftover Halloween candy on the houses (a great way to use it up!). We have a tradition of having a house eating party on New Years Day, when we invite the neighbor children to sit in the backyard with our kids and break apart the house and eat whatever part they want. Its pretty gross and dusty at that point but it doesnt seem to matter. They never eat that much of it anyway but it is fun to break it apart! This recipe makes a good crisp cookie that smells delicious baking and gets very hard for good strong walls. It hardly puffs at all so you will keep good definition in window holes and doors.

Mix together:
  • 6 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Stir together over medium heat till margarine is melted:
  • 1 1/2 cups Karo Syrup
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup margarine

Add to the flour mixture and blend till the dough is easy to handle, I do it in my Kitchenaid mixer. It's a firm dough and gets harder as it cools. I like to roll it out while it's still warm!
Cut out a front/back wall and a side wall shape from paper. Use the top edge of each of those 2 pieces to make a roof piece, it should be a little bigger so it hangs over the walls. Now line your cookie sheet with heavy duty foil (moisten it to keep it from sliding), spray very lightly with Pam spray, roll 2 1/3-3 cups dough 1/4" thick, use paring knife to cut around shapes and peel scraps off sheet. Cut windows and doors. Leave 1/2" minimum between pieces. Bakes at 350 12-15 minutes, cool on foil. If it puffs at all, you can trim around the windows or edges to make the lines square while it is still hot out of the oven. Once it cools, it is very hard.

Windows (lollipop mixture)
bring to a boil:
  • 1 cup water

remove from heat. Add and stir till dissolved:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup light Karo corn syrup
  • 1 Tbsp butter

Return to heat. When boiling cover about 3 minutes so the steam can wash down crystals. Uncover and cook at high heat without stirring to 300. Take off heat and let the bubbles subside.

Very carefully spoon or pour mixture into window holes. BE CAREFUL THIS IS VERY HOT AND STICKY. ONLY GROWNUPS DO THIS PART. Have ice water handy in a bowl for emergency first aid. Can be colored but is naturally a nice light amber color.
Royal Icing
  • 2 Tbsp meringue powder (available at cake decorating supply store)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
beat till foamy
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
Beat till stiff and white on high speed for about 5 minutes. Keep bowl covered with a damp towel when not in use. Can be thinned slightly and tinted for spreading to Paint@ a wall. I like to put in a pastry bag and pipe it onto the joints of the house with a star tip #16. Hold the walls in place with cans and bottles from the cupboard. Let the walls dry overnight before you put on the roof.
Let the roof dry overnight before you start putting on the candy. Walls can be decorated before they are put together, let them dry overnight. I put a light on the tray and tape it down before I start construction, then build the house around the cord. Put anything inside the an ice cream cone spread with green icing and covered with sprinkles (for a Christmas tree) or little pieces of lace (on either side of the windows for curtains) before you put the roof on top. Coconut tinted green (shake it in a zip lock bag with green food color and 2 tsp water, spread it out on a cookie sheet to dry) makes great grass, or leftover white frosting makes good snow piled in drifts against the house, or dripping from the roof in icicles. Cookies and cereal and sticks of gum and necco wafers make a great roof. I love this site, what a great place to share ideas! Good Luck! And have fun!

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