Gingerbread Houses - Step by Step
by Alison Anton
There's no better way to spark up the
holiday cheer than to create a gingerbread house with the whole family.
My mom, brother and I made these every year that I can remember as a
child. My mom would make the dough from her old authentic German recipe
handed down from her mom's mom, and we'd cut out the patterns, assemble
the house, frost it and adorn it from top to bottom.
Things have changed a little bit since
then... I adapted the dough so that it is easier to work with, and I
always make sure to use all-natural ingredients and candies that have no
high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils or food colorings. I also
incorporate dried fruits, nuts and seeds (a phenomenon that would not
have occurred in the home-designs of the 70's). Goji berries and banana
chips were definitely the favorites this year!
Since the icing has to hold all the
candies in place throughout the weeks before Christmas, it uses about
one ton of powdered sugar that allows the icing to get rock-hard within
about 30-45 minutes of being exposed to the air. I generally do not
recommend powdered sugar since it is goes through such a vigorous
refinement process, but for such a specific purpose, I just don't see
any way around it.
Plan to set aside at least 3 hours for
making your gingerbread houses, from start to finish. The dough and
frosting can be made several days in advance (see storage techniques
below). The dough or baked cookies can be frozen for several months
until ready to use.
RECIPE: Gingerbread Houses -
Baking, Assembling and Decorating
Yield: 1 large house (House A) OR 2 medium houses (House B) and 1
small house (House C)
This recipe makes a crisp cookie that can
withstand the test of being frosted, adorned with candies and oogled
over for weeks during the holiday season. The extra dough can be rolled
and cut out into ginger people, but know that the cookies will be a
touch harder than a typical gingerbread cookie.
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups organic soft brown sugar
1 cup light organic sugar
1/4 cup molasses or sorghum syrup
4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon allspice
1/2 cup light organic sugar
MAKING THE DOUGH: Blend the butter
with the sugars and molasses in an electric mixer on medium speed until
light and creamy (put the molasses into the mixer before turning it on
or you will have molasses everywhere but in the dough). Add in the eggs
and blend another 1-2 minutes.
Whisk the dry ingredients together in a
large bowl and gradually add them into the mixer, scraping down the
sides until incorporated. The dough will be slightly crumbly.
Remove the dough to a large bowl or a
flat work surface. Bring the dough together with your hands, working it
until the dough forms a smooth mass that holds together easily. Wrap the
dough in plastic and refrigerate at least 30-60 minutes before rolling.
ROLLING: Divide the dough into
five pieces. Roll each piece out on a flat, floured work surface to
1/8-inch thickness. Cut out the patterns for the house using the
templates. Work quickly, as the dough is easier to cut and shape while
it is still cool. Using a pastry or pizza spatula, carefully lift the
pieces onto sheet pans lined with a baking liner or parchment paper (or
double up two sheet pans) to keep the cookies from burning.
BAKING: Preheat the oven to 325
degrees. Bake 10 minutes, until golden, rotating the cookies halfway
through baking. Cool on the pan for 1-2 minutes before removing them to
a cooling rack to cool completely before assembling.
SUGAR GLUE: Heat the 1/2 cup sugar
in a medium sauté pan over medium heat until it bubbles and turns a
very dark brown, 8-12 minutes.
ASSEMBLING: Have ready a sturdy
surface on which to place your house (inverted sheet pan, wooden or
plastic cutting board, sturdy cake board, etc.)
Prepare the sugar glue, keeping it on low
heat while working so that it doesn't harden up.
Have ready a house side panel and a front
or back panel. Place them together to get an idea of how they will fit.
Dip the edges that will come together into the sugar glue and very
quickly hold them together, assembling them at the proper angle. It
should hold within 10-20 seconds. Adhere the back panel and the other
side panel in the same fashion.
To assemble the roof, very quickly
drizzle the sugar glue onto the top edges of one side of the house.
Place one of the roof cutouts on top of the house, letting it adhere to
the glue. Repeat for the other roof cutout. Drizzle glue along the top
of the roof where the two panels come together.
Assemble the chimney by dipping the edges
of the pieces into the glue and holding them to the roof. Assemble the
door, leaving it slightly ajar. You can do the same for window panels,
Yield: for 1 large house (House A) OR 2 medium houses (House B) and 1
small house (House C)
This icing gets rock-hard in order to
keep the candies on top of the house and to hold throughout the weeks
before Christmas. If you plan to decorate a snow-drifted yard with your
house, make a double batch of the icing. This recipe uses raw egg
whites, but if you are hesitant, they can be substituted with meringue
powder for the same affect (use recipe from any packaged meringue
3 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 pound organic powdered sugar, sifted or whirled in a food processor
Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar
until stiff peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar until the frosting
stands in firm peaks and is stiff enough to hold a sharp line when cut
through with a knife.
STORAGE: Place a piece of plastic
wrap over the frosting so that the plastic is in direct contact with the
frosting. Wrap the bowl in plastic and store refrigerated for up to 2
While working, keep the bowl of frosting
covered with a damp towel to keep it from drying out. Once spread onto
the house and exposed to the air, it will harden up within 15-25
minutes. Decorate one panel at a time and work quickly!
Nuts and seeds
Chocolate dipped dried fruits
Candied ginger slices
Panda brand red licorice
Shredded coconut for icicles and frosty trees
Ice cream cone trees
About the Author
I am a Certified Nutritional Chef, food
writer and culinary instructor through Bauman College of Holistic
Nutrition and Culinary Arts in Northern California. I teach cooking and
nutrition classes through the Whole Foods Market Salud Cooking School
and write a monthly eLetter, also entitled Whole Gourmet Natural
Cooking, to a wide audience.