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Dec 1, 2012 01:21 AM

Anyone else making a gingerbread house?

I've been inhaling Google Images. I like the houses with window cutouts, and I even saw a little front step overhang held up by candy sticks. I'm also keen on doing a snow covered mountain behind the house (the going plan is pile up some candy and cover it in icing and powdered sugar) and I'm considering a forest of meringue mushrooms, which I've made before for a bûche de nöel. Anyone else? Ideas/pictures/blueprints/icing recipes welcome :-)

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  1. Just finished the annual Gingerbread House party with 5 kids (ages 3-12)!

    Cheated this year with a cutter kit - made things uniform so none of the kids complained that "hers is better!"

    Icing - we assembled and decorated everything with a big bowl of basic royal icing - no measurements, I just dumped half a dozen egg whites in to the KA mixer and beat them til they were a little frothy, added a splash of white vinegar and then mixed in enough powdered sugar to make a fairly stiff icing. Used some in a piping bad with a very small cut in the end (no metal tip) - if you pipe a little blob on the eaves and pull away, you've got perfect icicles! All the extra got spread on the boards and sprinkled with coconut for snow.

    I loved the picture I saw with Shredded Wheat as a thatched roof. Someday I'm going to do a custom designed big one, but that's probably going to have to wait until my sous chefs are a little older.

    3 Replies
    1. re: tacosandbeer

      I love the candy cane details :-) Royal icing is really the gold standard for sturdiness, isn't it? Any idea whether it's safe to eat after sitting out for days/weeks? I'd really like the whole thing to be edible.

      1. re: jvanderh

        I've struggled w/ the edibleness of royal frosting. I'd eat it but mostly the kids eat them and they sit out for quite some time at room temperature. But, I've played with different frostings and it works best. When you come down to it, cookies sitting out for that long just don't taste good!

        1. re: jvanderh

          Agree with chowser below - although there's nothing inedible, I'm not so sure you'd WANT to!
          The dough I use is low on sugar, high on spices (I'm talking tablespoons of cinnamon, cloves and ginger per batch) and engineered for sturdiness - it does suffer in a humid enviroment, though, gets a little soft. Smells great when the room warms up, though!

      2. It has been many years since I've done a gingerbread house, which was a Saturday afternoon project I did with my good friend's little ones so she and her husband could have a weekend to do their shopping and have a night off. I made the walls of the house ahead of time and got an array of decorative items, but the kids chose the decor. The house was the kids' present to their parents for Christmas.

        I also like the cut out windows and made "glass" panes from lightly caramelized sugar. I recall shredded wheat for a thatched roof cottage, burnt sugar peanuts as bricks for the path, pretzels for some half-timber type details. It's been so long, I'm going to have to try and remember.

        9 Replies
        1. re: Terrie H.

          I cheat on the stained glass windows and use Jolly Ranchers. The funniest part is seeing kids w/ their faces/tongues pressed against the windows. I've done parties w/ kids and their contribution is to bring their favorite candies/decorations or leftover Halloween candy. It adds up fast to buy bags of decorations and the kids are excited to see theirs in use.

          1. re: chowser

            You are so right -- it can add up getting all the bits to decorate. Please tell me how you used the Jolly Ranchers for windows -- always love a cheat that works!

            1. re: Terrie H.

              I just cut out the windows, put in the Jolly Ranchers and bake. Different colors meld but are still distinct. If you want to control the color/thickness, you can crush them first but it works fine if you don't. Caramelized sugar is much nicer but this is easy.

              1. re: chowser

                But you have stained glass!! Love it.

                1. re: Terrie H.

                  I love both ideas! I have a handful of stale Jolly Ranchers left from Halloween, so that's perfect. I bet there are a lot of cool ways to use hard crack sugar. A big slab of clear stuff or dyed blue might make a really cool pond. It wouldn't even have to be the right shape because you could edge it with icing and powdered sugar or coconut.

                  1. re: jvanderh

                    Great idea for the pond. And, you could do the green dye/coconut for a little grass around it. I've only done individual houses, never landscapes but that would be fun.

                  2. re: chowser

                    I do the same, but with crushed Life Savers... looks so nice, doesn't it?

                2. re: chowser

                  It so does. I walked out of the store thinking "did I really just buy $15 worth of candy for an art project??"

              2. I make a gingerbread house every year. Each year it's different. I have a big board that I use so I am able to create an entire scene. I've created large houses, neighborhoods, downtown scenes. I've done a single home. It's so fun to use your imagination. There are a books with different gingerbread house ideas/scenes, but it's easy enough to come up with your own. I've already planned next year's scene. My ILs lake cottage and surrounding area. I'm going to see how closely I can replicate the entire area.

                Here's a picture of this year's scene. Good luck and let your imagination run wild!! Mostly have fun. I do this with my kids each year. It's a great tradition.

                2 Replies
                1. re: JKDLady

                  That's so cool. How did you do the rocks around the pond?

                  1. re: JKDLady

                    Super cool! I love your scene! We try to do something similar but ours is much more hodge podge! We cheat a little and use plastic trees and things from train sets, etc., to add to the effect. It is fun to see how our scenes have evolved as the children grow older. Even the teens like to participate! Probably the best part is remembering prior years' diasasters (houses collapsing because the icing cement hadn't dried enough or too much weight on the roof!). It is a wonderful family activity!

                  2. If doing it with young kids who are more interested in decorating, I've always thought this idea sweet:

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: limoen

                      Those ideas from Martha are really helpful. I knew there was a reason I bought Necco wafers- shingles!! I LOVE the candy stick/gumdrop streetlights. The candycane sled runners are brilliant. I had wanted a sled for my snowy hill but wasn't sure how to do it.

                    2. I'm sorry to report that my gingerbread house had certain, eh, fatal architectural deficiencies. But I thought I'd give a postgame analysis in case anyone else is still making one.

                      I used a corn syrup + sugar hard candy recipe to make a pond, and cooked just to hard crack stage so that it wouldn't turn brown. It looked pretty good, but would probably also look really cool with a drop of blue coloring added as you approach temperature. A cookie sheet lined with parchment works well to pour the candy onto.

                      Use the leftover candy liquid to make awesome looking and surprisingly sturdy icicles (just drip it off a spoon) and ice puddles.

                      Next time I will make the gingerbread thicker, probably 1/4 inch, bake until cooked but soft, trim against template, then continue baking on very low temperature until unequivocally hard and dry. My pieces were too misshapen to be glued together easily and were prone to breaking. It's fairly warm and very humid here, so that may have contributed also.

                      The awning and gazebo held up by candy sticks were really cool. However I recommend making the gingerbread house the same height as the sticks, because cutting them made them unstable even after filing the cut end with an emory board. I would also try putting indentations in the bottom of the gingerbread piece for the candy sticks to sit in, half the thickness of the gingerbread pieces.

                      The crushed hard candy did make really cool windows, with a couple caveats: it's better to put piles of color rather than mix them up (separate the pieces into piles of the same color, don't mix them together) otherwise they bleed together into clearish brown. Also however you do it they melt all over the edges of the window. The undersides of the gingerbread pieces had pock marks, so I couldn't just flip over the pieces. If you want to coat your house in snow, though, no big deal. I think they only take around 5 minutes in the oven to melt, so I might try adding them after trimming the pieces.

                      If you're making an awning, I recommend making the front of the house in two pieces, as a shorter rectangle + a triangle. That way, the edge of the awning can sit between the rectangle and the triangle and add stability.