Friday, December 2, 2011

Gingerbread House

December has arrived! It still amazes me that November came and went already and 2011 is trickling down with only 1 month left. I am not one to overlook Thanksgiving for Christmas, so I refused to do anything Christmasy until after Thanksgiving is over. But now that December has come, DECK THE HALLS BABY!

Christmas lights are strung outside. Christmas tree is up and lit waiting to be decorated when my Dad comes to visit tomorrow. Christmas tree numero dos is decorated and lit out on the front step. And of course all the little Christmas trinkets, snow globes, and other Christmas decor is set out for the season.

This year I decided to start a new tradition in our house. One that I brought with me from my family and hope to carry on and share with my future children...The art of Gingerbread Houses.

Growing up my Mom would make a batch of gingerbread dough. She would roll it, cut it, and bake it into pieces to make our houses. She assembled all 6 houses using stiff frosting, and then she would let us go wild using our imaginations to create our masterpieces. She would make one herself as well, and would usually always add something fancy like a porch with an overhang and lots of icicles. We were always in awe at how beautiful hers was.

This year much fun was had making our houses. Dan really impressed me with his! I am not sure if it was his competitive bone, his inner child's Christmas spirit, or the fact that he was threatened with a spatula smack if he didn't take it seriously, but he had great ideas and really took his time decorating...His roof was by far the best.

 My Gingerbread House. Bright with colors.

 My House
Dan's Clean Cut Gingerbread House. Check out that roof!

 Dan's House

 Jenna's House straight from the Tundra

Here is the recipe below that I used for our houses. I tripled it as there were 3 of us.

Gingerbread House
(Original Recipe from Beatrice Ojakangas Adapted by Food Network and Myself)

Dough for 1 Gingerbread House
1/2 cup (1 stick butter) at room temperature
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup light molasses
1 TB cinnamon
3/4-1 TB ground ginger
1- 1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups all purpose flour
2 TB water

Royal Icing 
(For assembly and decoration)
 1 pound (3 3/4 cups) powdered sugar
1-2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla

Other Materials
Card board and Tinfoil for platform
Assorted Candy of choice
Pastry Bag with tips to dispense frosting onto house

Gingerbread Directions
-In mixer or large bowl cream the butter, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and baking soda together until mixture is smooth. 
-Switch to a hook handle on the mixer if using a mixer and blend in the flour and water until it makes a stiff dough.
-Chill at least 30 minutes or until firm.
-Cut paper patterns for the house. 3 x 5 inch rectangle (sides of house), 3 x 5 1/2 inch rectangle (roof), and piece for the end of the house with 3 x 3 inch square topped with a triangle which will measure 5 1/2 inches from top tip to bottom of square. (see picture)
-Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
-Roll Gingerbread dough out to edges on a large rimless cookie sheet. Place the patterns onto the rolled out dough. With a sharp knife, cut around each pattern twice, making 6 total, 2 of each pattern. Remove extra dough from around the shapes and reserve to make cookies with:)
-Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the dough feels firm. It will get pretty dark.
-When they come out of the oven leave them on the cookie sheet to cool.
- If you are a perfectionist, lay the patterns on top the pieces while they are still warm and cut around them again to trim them up.
-I sped up my cooling process by placing the cookie sheet in the freezer. I am an impatient person. Once they are cooled, remove from pan.

Royal Icing Directions
-Mix all of the ingredients together using an electric mixer until the icing is smooth and thin enough to be pressed through a pastry bag with a tip. 

Platform Directions
-Cut a piece of cardboard in a square or rectangle and cover it with tinfoil. You will set your house on this so you can move it around after it is done. 
-This platform can also be used to make fences, trees, place little gingerbread people, etc. so plan your size and shape accordingly. 

Assembly of House
-Put royal icing in pastry bag with tip.
-Glue sides, front, and back of house together and to platform using the royal icing. If need be, place an object against the pieces to help hold up until dry. (It only takes a couple minutes).
-Glue the roof pieces (3 x 5 1/2) on to the house and hold for a minute or so until dry.
-Either let the house set up and dry for about 10 minutes, or even leave until later in the afternoon or next day to decorate. 
-Decorate the house using the Royal Icing for glue to stick on the assorted candy. 
-Use your imagination - dye your frosting different colors, use different tips, and try all sorts of candy:)

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