My daughter wants to make a gingerbread house (I'm sure mostly so she can eat the candy) and I am hesitant to buy a prefabricated one, I think we'd have fun making it--any suggestions for an easy way to make them? (not using graham crackers!)Or are there some "kits" that might be interesting?
There are kits out there that deliver a good product. Sur Le Table etc. have them. One of the cast iron companies also makes molds. You can also draw up plans for what you want to make and then make a template for the different sections and cut out the just out of the oven gingerbread/snap dough while it is still warm and has not stiffened. I imagine you could do that with any thinly rolled crisp cookie dough like shortbread or a sugar cookie. If making from scratch you will need to make royal icing from powdered sugar and egg whites to for the glue which holds it all together. Oh, and you will need lots of patience.
Cooking is such a great learning experience for kids. Would you consider making your own? Here is the recipe my kids used for years. It's easy to do and makes tasty, sturdy gingerbread that doesn't distort on baking — nevertheless, roll it out and cut from templates directly on your cookie sheets.
I'd double the recipe for a good sized house.
Brown Bag Cookie Mold Gingerbread
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar — not packed
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. ground clove
pinch cayenne powder (optional)
Directions paraphrased by rainey
In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients well and set them aside.
Cream the butter & sugar together. Stir in the molasses first and then the egg. Now combine the wet and dry ingredients to produce a playdough-like dough. If the dough seems a little moist, you can add another 2 tablespoons of flour. Knead the dough lightly. Wrap in plastic and let rest in the fridge for about 40 minutes.
Roll out to about 1/4" thick and cut with templates and a sharp knife or an X-acto with a new, clean blade.
Bake on parchment covered cookie sheets at 350 ̊ for about 10 or 12 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies brown.
Let house pieces rest on the parchment for 5 minutes before transferring to cooling racks. Let them cool completely before you attempt construction.
Honestly, this dough is *very* easy to work with. The rule at my kids' school was that teacher presents had to be made by the kids and my 10 yo used to organize and lead this project for my 7 yo. They both had 3 teachers so they had a whole production line going but I never had to ask if they were going to do it again because they were the stars of the whole school when they took these houses in decorated in colorful candy.
Oh, and the Royal icing is sooooo much easier to do if you get a product called Just Egg Whites or go to a cake decorating store and get meringue powder.
It's a fun project, but depending on your daughter's age, making it could get old really easily so I'd make it small. When you come down to it, it doesn't matter how it tastes because it's mostly for decoration, esp. since the royal frosting uses raw egg whites. Plus, making it smaller is easier to hold together. Just use cardstock to cut out the sides and roof, and use those as templates for the house. After you bake, you might want to trim the pieces straight. Also, use lifesavers or hard candy to make stained glass windows--the kids love that. It's fun to take them shopping and let them use their imagination on what can be used and how. I'll warn you that with buying all the stuff for the decorations, it adds up fast!
If you don't want to make your own, I saw an inexpensive one at Costco. I remember thinking I couldn't make it for less.
The December 2006 issue of Country Living Magazine has a simple recipe, template and instructions for construction. It is also on their web site. The magazine has additional suggestions on 'building supplies' such as using AllBran cereal for a thatched roof and jelly beans (earthy colors of course) to look like a stone cottage. http://magazines.ivillage.com/country....
We used to landscape our gingerbread houses with decorated cookies. Our favorites to add were a Santa, Christmas trees and a "chocolate dog."
On my first attempt I got overly ambitious and made the house parts unmanageably large. It took forever to put together and listed horribly. (The cookie sheets warped in the oven.) The chimney just wanted to slide down the roof. When do we get to decorate it? was a question I endured over the course of two full days. I'm happy to say my second attempt went much more smoothely. Good luck!
Last year I found a kit made by Anna's (the co. that makes the Swedish ginger thins cookies) at Ikea. It was good gingerbread, easy to put together, *very* inexpensive (something like $3-$4) and included only the house (no frosting mix, candy, etc.) I haven't been to Ikea for a while so I don't know if they have them again this year.
I'm not trying to talk you out of building your own, but if you decide to go with a kit and are near an ikea this is a good alternative.