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Making gingerbread houses from scratch doesn’t have to be stressful or overwhelming. In fact when done right it can be a whole lot of fun.
Gingerbread house making is an annual Family activity in my home that I look forward to every year. Most years, we get together with friends and family and all make simple yet fun A-frame houses. However, one year my husband and I decided to go all Epic and we designed and built a larger scale house for a local gingerbread competition.
I have learned many helpful tips for making gingerbread houses from scratch (instead of having to settle for using graham crackers or a pre-made kit.) without getting stressed or overwhelmed.
1- Probably the most important step is finding a great quality gingerbread recipe that delivers consistent results.
Growing up the recipe we used was soo hit or miss. Nothing is more frustrating when trying to make a gingerbread house with gingerbread that is too soft and falls apart during assembly. Thankfully a few years ago I found an amazing recipe on Martha Stewart’s website that has NEVER let me down. (as a bonus there is even a super cute A-frame house template with the recipe that is super cute!)
2-As is mentioned in the recipe linked above make sure that after making the gingerbread dough that you take the time to chill it in the fridge (FOR AT LEAST 1 HOUR) before rolling it out.
It will take a bit of elbow grease to roll it out when chilled. however you will be thankful for the firmness when trying to roll it to a consistent thickness as well as cut it. Likewise, if the dough you are working with starts getting too soft then just stick it back in the fridge for a few minutes.
3-Parchment Paper is your Friend!
The last thing you want to have to do is try to move your dough after you have rolled it out and cut your pieces. More often than not, if you try, you will discover the frustration of your cutouts becoming distorted. I have found that the most effective method is to lay a sheet of parchment paper on your counter. sprinkle flour or grease (according to your preference). Roll out the gingerbread evenly. Cut your shapes. gently pull up the dough that surrounds your pieces. Then gently slide the whole sheet of parchment paper onto the cookie sheet.
4- Chill your gingerbread cut outs (cookie sheet and all) for at least 15 minutes before baking.
Chilling your gingerbread cut outs (cookie sheet and all) for at least 15 minutes then placing the cookie sheet directly into the oven from the freezer, helps the cut outs to retain their shape better while cooking. This is important (especially when making a more intricate gingerbread house.)
5- Have a good Royal Icing Recipe.
Royal icing needs to be pliable when wet and rock hard when dry to be good for gingerbread houses. If your royal icing is too think for the detail work after the house is assembled, you can always thin it out with a bit of milk…You can find some great recipe’s for Royal icing at Gingerbread House Heaven
6- Assemble the gingerbread house in advance of when you want to decorate.
Just ask my husband how frustrating git is to have your house continually fall apart when you are trying to decorate because you haven’t given the house adequate time to dry first. One year my husband was having sooo much trouble due to his impatience (the house kept falling apart and messing up his decorations) that he gobbed a bunch of icing inside to hold the walls and roof on, scraped off the ill fated, half finished decorations and wrote ditto and an arrow on the roof. He then placed it so the arrow pointed to mine. Personally I would suggest giving the icing on the structure at least an hour or two to dry and harden before attempting to decorate.
7- Canned goods make great structural supports while trying to assemble walls.
When assembling the walls, you will want to place one can on the inside corner then one on each wall on the outside of the walls to give support while the icing is initially drying. After all 4 main walls are sufficiently dry that you aren’t worrying about them falling over, then, gently add the roof.
What suggestions or tips do you have for the perfect Gingerbread making experience? Please share!
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