With some extra time at home and baking on the list of things to do this year to keep our families sane over the holidays, a gingerbread house sounds like a welcomed way to fill our extra hours indoors.
The beauty of gingerbread houses is their ability to be changed and customized to your own imagination! Typically, you'll use a gingerbread base, which is a lot easier to make when you bake it with a gingerbread cookie mold. You can also use a template online to form your own gingerbread pieces.
For the dough, there are plenty of brands like Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines that make pre-made mixes where you simply add 2-3 ingredients, but you can also make it from scratch for an authentic flavor.
For an easy gingerbread house recipe with sturdy walls, all you need is 6 cups flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 4 tsp ground ginger, 4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground allspice (or cloves), 1/2 tsp salt, 1-1/2 sticks of butter, 1-1/2 cups light brown sugar, 2 large eggs, 1 cup dark molasses, and 1 tbsp water. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, beat the brown sugar and butter until well blended and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, molasses, and water until fully combined. Beat half the dry ingredient mixture into the molasses mixture until smooth. Stir in the rest of the flour and knead until well-blended. If the dough is too soft, add more flour. Divide the dough and chill overnight.
It seems like a funny concept: a house made out of cookies. Apparently, the first known recipe for gingerbread comes from Greece in 2400 B.C. The hard cookies became a popular staple in Medieval England, France, Germany, and Holland. Queen Elizabeth I is credited with decorating the cookies in their traditional fashion with white piped icing, as she used to decorate them to resemble dignitaries who visited her court.
Gingerbread houses became popular in 16th century Germany, decorated with foil, gold leaf, and the famous piped icing. However, the concept was especially popularized by the Brothers Grimm tale of Hansel and Gretel. The famous witch in their story lived in a gingerbread house adorned entirely with sweets.
The edible adhesive for gingerbread houses is called "royal icing," and it's made of cream, egg whites, and powdered sugar. While this is traditional, if you're experiencing the frustration that I have in the past, and you're not trying to eat your house, sometimes a little bit of real glue is necessary.
The perfect icing that will hold together your beautiful gingerbread creation
a few seconds
cream of tartar
In a mixing bowl, whip egg whites until light and foamy, then add the cream of tartar. Continue mixing for 30 seconds
Gradually add in powdered sugar, mixing well.
Turn mixer on high and continue beating until thickened and the icing holds its shape (this should be about 3-5 minutes).
Surprisingly, gingerbread houses don't have to be made of just gingerbread! You can also use pop-tarts, graham crackers, or even waffles for a fun twist on the classic home.
These are just ideas to get you started. Let your imagination run wild! Whether it's an iconic house from one of your favorite or a replica of your own, let your creative side take charge and see what happens!