For years before my sisters starting getting married, having babies and spending Christmas with their in-laws, we made gingerbread houses together. We did all of it: made the gingerbread dough, baked all the pieces, assembled the house, and decorated the house using nothing but edible candies, chocolate, etc. We would spend the days before Christmas, and sometimes a day or two afterward, perfecting the house and adding more detail. It was so much fun.
So, I was pretty excited about this challenge. When I really started to think about it, I got a little sad. I had no one to help me! No one to stay up til 2 am with, piping icing on gingerbread cars to put in the gingerbread carport. No one to spend hours with, piping icicles on the eaves. To make things even more difficult, we’re going out of town for the holidays so no one is really going to see it. My great excitement for my gingerbread house was dwindling.
Despite my negativity toward this challenge, I was determined to complete it. I am glad I did, because I ended up having a fun time despite the fact that my house looks like a bunch of 3-year olds decorated it for me. Merry Christmas!
The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.
I used the gingerbread recipe from Good Housekeeping. I have made gingerbread for a gingerbread house before, and never had such a hard time with the dough. Your dough needs to be sturdier than gingerbread you would use for cookies. This dough was so dry and crumbly that I almost gave up on the house altogether. I ended up being able to roll it out and cut it into the shapes for the house, but it took a lot of time, patience and self-control not to throw the gingerbread on the floor and give up.
I made royal icing as the glue to hold the house together. You can buy meringue powder to make this, but using egg whites is easy and much less expensive. Here is the recipe I used. It hardens up very well, and pipes easily from a pastry bag or zip-loc.
- 3 egg whites
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, peppermint or any flavor extract
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs whites and cream of tartar until foamy.
- With mixer running on low, add in powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time.
- Beat on medium speed until stiff and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
- You can add food coloring if desired. If not, place icing in pastry bag and pipe onto gingerbread.
After making the icing, it was time to assemble my lovely gingerbread house. I open the container where I stored my walls and roof pieces to discover that one wall had cracked into two pieces.
Thankfully, the pieces were not shattered, just split down the middle. But again, I considered giving up. I figured that I would try to put it together first and then abandon the project if things started to head downhill. It was a Christmas miracle! I managed to put the house pieces together and you could barely see the crack. Lovely.
I put cans of food inside the house and on the outer walls for support. I let this phase of construction set up for a few hours before attaching the roof pieces. Since I am always thinking and never make mistakes (ha!) I left a can of food inside the house when I attached the roof, so the only resident of this house is a can of pickled jalapeños. It was pretty funny to both Ben and me.
Now, we decorate! I bought a bunch of different candies, and proceeded from here without a plan.
I started with a Cinnamon Toast Crunch roof. So cute! Little sugary shingles.
Then I make a walkway with peppermint patties.
I lined the front of the house with gum drops, and attached candy cane pillars.
I made the log pile out of Oreo cookie sticks. Tootsie rolls work well for a log pile also.
I am proud of this tree. I think it is adorable. I cut a few things out with the leftover gingerbread dough, including this little tree and my little gingerbread man. I used green gumdrops and green Jujyfruits along with one single yellow gumdrop as the star for my tree. I like the contrasting textures and slightly different greens.
A candy rock wall.
Good n’ Plentys serve as the bricks for this wall.
The back of the house is embarrassing! What was I thinking? Maybe I just wanted to finish the house? I do not know, but it is not exactly a work of art. Hershey bars and Jujyfruits. I’m sure someone could’ve done something incredible with these candies, but I could not.
This wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had making a gingerbread house, but I had a good time. This is something that I hope to do every year. Next time, I will recruit some friends to help me.