DIY Gingerbread House

13 December, 2019

Crack open the ginger snaps and get your creative brain on because it’s time to build a ginger bread house! You will laugh and most certainly cry as you try to create the masterpiece full of gingerbread, frosting and lollies. If this is your first time making a gingerbread house, don’t stress; this can be overwhelming and not an easy task, but take a swig of your Christmas cherry and get cracking. There’s no time like the present.

What you will need (besides wine)

6 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup dark molasses
1 Tbsp water

You can find all of these ingredients at Woolworths.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until fluffy and well blended. Beat in the eggs, molasses and water until well combined. Time to combine the wet and dry ingredients and get kneady (haha get it.) Beat half of the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until well blended and smooth. Stir in the remaining flour. Knead until well blended. If dough is too soft, add a little more flour.

Wrap the dough in cling wrap and refrigerate at least two hours but preferably overnight. You can make it up to 3 days ahead of time. Let it sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before rolling out. Time to get creative and cut out your patterns. Create your gingerbread house pattern by cutting out pieces of cardboard. Create your house model using the cardboard.

1. Prepare oven and cookie sheets: Preheat oven to 180°C, with the oven rack in the middle. Have several flat cookie sheets ready, you’ll need them.

2. Roll out the dough: Divide the dough in two. Spread baking paper on a large flat surface for rolling and dust the paper lightly with flour.

Work with one portion of the dough at a time. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to an even thickness of 1/4-inch. Add a little flour to the surface of the dough, and check for sticking as you roll it out. If it sticks to either the rolling pin or the rolling surface, dust with more flour. If the rolled out dough is too soft, you may want to freeze it for an hour before cutting out the patterns.

3. Time to cut out your house design. Rub flour over the surface of the dough so the cardboard doesn’t stick to the dough. Place the pattern pieces on the dough and use a small sharp knife to cut out the pattern pieces from the dough, wiping the knife surface clean in between each cut. Space the pieces on the cookie sheet an inch apart from each other. If dough pieces stretch during the transfer process, push them back into shape.

4. Bake in a 180°C oven until the edges are just beginning to darken, 11-15 minutes for the large pieces, 6-8 minutes for the small pieces. Rotate the cookie sheets half way through the baking for more even browning. Remove the sheets to racks to cool, about 15 minutes.

5. Trim the pieces and cut out your door and windows while warm. While the pieces are still slightly warm, lay the pattern pieces over them and use a large straight chef’s knife to trim off any parts of the pieces that have through cooking spread beyond the pattern.

Time to stick it all together. You’ll need to make the icing that holds it all together but it’s super easy. You’ll need 2 large egg whites and 2 2/3 cup powdered sugar, divided.

1.  Whisk the egg whites together until smooth and add 1 1/3 cups of the powdered sugar.
2. Add more powdered sugar and beat to stiff peaks: Add the remaining 1 1/3 cup of powdered sugar to the sugar egg mixture. Using an electric mixer, beat on high speed until the icing holds stiff peaks. If it doesn’t form stiff peaks, add more powdered sugar.

3. Place a clean dampened towel over the icing bowl to keep it from drying out.
4. Time to pipe up. When you are ready to decorate, fill a pastry bag with the icing. If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can make your own with a re-sealable plastic freezer bag, just cut off the tip (a small cut) of one of the corners of the bag. Plastic or metal piping tips are available at Woolworths which you can also use with a freezer bag, for more controlled piping.

Now, it’s time to bring out your inner architect. Get creating! This takes both time and patience, so don’t rush it or you will ruin it. This part needs multiple people involved so
invite your neighbour over to help.

1. Cut out a piece of sturdy cardboard as your base and wrap it in aluminium foil.
2. Pipe a thick line of icing along a short end of one of the side pieces. Press the iced side piece against the edge of either the front or back pieces.
3. Hold in place for a few minutes until the icing is partially set. Repeat with the other side piece. If you don’t have someone helping you, prop them up with cans. Repeat with the other short edges of the side pieces and the remaining front/back piece.
4. Pipe icing along the seams, inside and outside of the house, to fill in any gaps and to add extra stability. Pipe icing along the edges of the house where it meets the base. Let this set for at least an hour. You will not be able to add the roof pieces if you skip this step.

5. Once the icing has dried enough so the base structure is solid, you can go to work on the roof. Pipe icing all along the top edges of the structure, front and back and two sides. Place the roof pieces so the long ends of the rectangle are running along the top of the house.

It helps if you have two people working together to place the roof pieces on the house at the same time so that they meet easily at the top centre, and extend out a little bit, forming an overhang at each end. Gently hold the roof pieces in place for a few minutes until they are set enough so they don’t slide off when you remove your hands.

6. Pipe the top seam of the house with extra icing. Let the house stand for at least an hour, and preferably 8 hours before decorating.

Now it’s time to decorate your gingerbread house. In our view, this is by far the most important step of the whole house designing process. Grab your m&m’s, candy canes and tiny marshmallows and design to your hearts content. This is usually the step where parents let their kids go nuts.

And seriously, if it fails and breaks into a thousand little pieces, add a toy dinosaur and pretend like it’s supposed to be like that.