Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gingerbread Houses

Making gingerbread houses at Christmas time has been a family tradition since I was very small.

Most were given away to friends and neighbors, but we always kept at least one. Mom made us wait until after Christmas to eat it, although there were always candy pieces that mysteriously disappeared from seemingly discreet places.

The recipe below is my mother's recipe and it is AMAZING. I use this same recipe for cut-out gingerbread cookies. If you know the gingerbread houses won't get eaten, you can substitute vegetable shortening for the butter to cut costs.

One recipe will fill a 18" x 13" x 1" cookie sheet and is enough to make 1 large gingerbread house. Double the recipe and you can make 5 mini houses in two cookie sheets. Score the cookie dough with the pattern pieces before you bake the cookie sheet and then score the pattern again IMMEDIATELY after you take them out of the oven.

Gingerbread House Recipe
Makes one large gingerbread house
Preheat oven to 350ยบ F

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup dark molasses
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Cream butter and sugar. Add slightly beaten egg and dark molasses. Mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Cookie dough should pull away from the edges of the bowl, but should not be too dry (If you are rolling out the dough for cut out gingerbread cookies, add a bit more flour so that the dough is stiffer). Turn out dough onto an ungreased 18" x 13" x 1" cookie sheet and flatten dough, completely covering the bottom of the pan. Smooth, lay out gingerbread house pieces and score the pattern with a sharp paring knife.

Bake for 12 - 14 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Gingerbread is done when the top is golden brown. As soon as you remove the cookie sheet from the oven score the pattern pieces again. Allow cookie sheet to cool 15 minutes. Carefully remove the excess gingerbread pieces, then using a metal spatula carefully remove the gingerbread house pieces to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Use a meringue powder royal icing as "glue" to construct the house and attach the candies. If you aren't able to find meringue powder at your local grocery, craft, or baking store, use an egg white royal icing recipe. Please note that your eggs must be very fresh if the icing will be eaten by young children or anyone whose health could be compromised. You can be as simple or fancy as you want. When the kids are decorating, I just fill disposable plastic pastry bags with meringue powder royal icing and cut the tip of the bag off so that they can pipe the icing themselves. Use plastic bread bag closures or twist ties to secure the top of the pastry bag. Don't overfill bags! Little hands forget to squeeze from the top down.

Gingerbread houses don't last long at our house any more!

Gingerbread House Recipe
Gingerbread House Template

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