This year was the first year that I made a gingerbread house. Not the first year I made one from scratch… the first year I made one at all. I’m not quite sure how it’s escaped my attention for so long. Well, it has no longer!
Having never made one before, I initially underestimated how time-consuming this project would be. If you do not have several hours on 3 consecutive days to commit to the project then you should probably either make a gingerbread house with a kit or decorate Christmas cookies.
I chose this recipe, which I found on epicurious.com. The cookie is tasty and flavorful. My house is also very sturdy (it has been decorating my window sill for about a week and looks no worse for the wear).
A word of caution before using this recipe: it makes A LOT of gingerbread. I could have constructed a gingerbread metropolis and New York State would have been forced to assign it a zip code. I didn’t make the templates that are specified in the recipe, I bought cookie cutters from Target. My cookie cutters were much smaller than the template, but still yielded a nice sized house. I had plenty of extra gingerbread to make gingerbread men, Santa and all eight of his reindeer. I also made a very pretty Christmas tree that I wanted to add to my gingerbread house display. You may have noticed that there is no gingerbread tree in any of the pictures I’ve posted. That is because someone ate my tree! I would recommend that you hide your construction materials from watering mouths and snatching fingers until you are ready to assemble the house.
For the most part, the project ran quite smoothly. I did have a bit of difficulty when I was cutting the dough. After cooling the dough overnight, I needed to let it warm up slightly before I could roll it out. There is a very small window of time when the dough is warm enough to be worked with, and yet not too warm, which causes the dough to lose its shape. My gingerbread became somewhat crooked when I transferred it to my baking sheets. I think this is because of the molasses. While you never want to let any refrigerated cookie dough become too warm, once the gingerbread warmed up (~10 minutes) it would no longer hold its shape properly. This resulted in my house’s edges being not quite even. Despite that, I did not have many difficulties assembling the house and you can’t really tell it is uneven unless you look at it closely.
I did have a few hiccups with my choice of red licorice. I bought a cheap one that was wrapped up like a rope in its packaging. Unfortunately, this caused the licorice to have a curve to it and thus my door is crooked. I was going to use the same material to make windows, but when the door did not turn out as planned I opted to nix the windows. I would definitely recommend buying licorice that is in straight lines in its packaging. That should have remedied the problem. Also, I think choosing a really thin licorice, like I did, puts a lot of pressure on you to be very neat in your icing application. Even if my door was straight, the icing seeping out from under it looks messy. I think a thicker licorice would minimize that.
Overall, I would say this was a really fun project. It is ideal for a small group of people to do together. My brother helped me decorate the house. When I told him he could not eat the house until after I built it, he suddenly became very determined to help me finish. I wonder if this has anything to do with the mystery of my missing Christmas tree? Anyway, despite his ulterior motives he did come up with the idea to put icing on the chimney. Initially I was annoyed that he went rogue with my icing, but then I realized that snow on the chimney was really adorable. I’ll never admit this to him though. It is a hard day in the life of an older sister when you realize your younger brother thought of something clever that you didn’t.
I hope you enjoyed my Christmas project. I am now in the process of putting together a dinner party for some friends, which should be lots of fun. I am also very excited because, from the deep recesses of a cupboard, I just unearthed my grandmother’s cookbook from the 1940’s. Will provide updates as I make progress on both the dinner party and investigating The Settlement Cook Book (possibly will occur simultaneously).
Happy Eating 🙂