Monday, December 15, 2014

Gingerbread House - Santa's Home

My Cutter Set - years old but perfect.
A few years back I bought a cutter set for a gingerbread house as I always wanted to make my own little creation. Everytime I saw one at one of the many Christmas markets I went to in my life, I thought, I want to make that (it's a curse as I think that about a lot of things). Anyway, there I was with my set and no idea how to start. Gingerbread has a long tradition in Germany, especially at Christmas time where stalls at Christmas markets are bursting with hearts decorated beautifully with coloured icing and adored by beautiful sayings (most of the times, the hearts would have been made months beforehand and didn't taste that nice anymore but it was delicious if you got a fresh-ish one).
Adding the roof tiles carefully

My wise mum stated the obvious 'have you ever made gingerbread before?' - so I went off and tried all recipes out there until I found the one that not only tasted nice but also stood up to the task of becoming a house covered in icing. The recipe below has been tested over years and I have made many houses and have given classes in making your own gingerbread house and it worked everytime.

It is great to make with children (although you might not get a standing house) as they have fun putting all the sprinkles on (so much that you will still find them around Easter in your kitchen) and it's a great way of getting kids involved in baking and cake decoration. And if you are not confident to start with a house, try your hands on a gingerbread heart instead. 


250g unsalted butter

200g dark muscovado sugar

7 tbsp golden syrup

600g plain flour

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

4 tsp ground ginger
Hardboil sweets (coloured) (optional) 
Sparkles, sugar decorations, mini marshmallows etc. 

Royal Icing

3 egg whites

450g icing sugar

½ teaspoon cream of tartar

½ teaspoon almond extract (optional)

Cake board to fit the house on (use a larger size to create a garden etc)

Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Melt the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan. Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger into a large bowl, then stir in the butter mixture to make a stiff dough. If it won’t quite come together, add a tiny splash of water.

Cut out a template (or buy cutters). Put a sheet of baking paper on your work surface and roll about one quarter of the dough to the thickness of about 0.5cm. Cut out one of the sections, and then slide the gingerbread, still on its baking paper, onto a baking sheet. You can cut out doors & windows. To create a 'glass window' crush some of the coloured (make sure they are the clear type sweets) and place it in the cutout of the window. It will melt during the baking process and creates a beautiful glass effect. Repeat with remaining dough, re-rolling the trimmings, until you have two sidewalls, a front and back wall and two roof panels. Any leftover dough can be cut into Christmas trees, if you like.

Bake all the sections for 12 mins or until firm and just a little darker at the edges. Leave to cool for a few mins to firm up, then trim around the templates again to give clean, sharp edges. Leave to cool completely.

I normally leave the gingerbread to dry overnight before I am starting to use it for building the house. 

When ready to start, prepare the royal icing. Beat all ingredients on high speed for 10 minutes. The icing will be thick and glossy. This icing hardens quickly, so leave the bowl covered with a damp cloth while working.

It is easier to decorate the  pieces before assembling the house, making sure that the roof tiles are not overloaded. Let your imagination run wild. 

Start with one wall piece and set it on icing
When the icing has dried on the gingerbread pieces, it is ready to be assembled. Start by spreading some of the icing on the cake board and gently press the first wall piece in it to stand up. Don't press too hard. Now, add the side wall to the first wall, again, pressing into the icing gently. Now, still while holding gently, pipe icing in the gap of the joining pieces. It should now stand on its own. Pressing it won't help, so let it be. If you think it is falling, pop something on the inside to hold it up. 

Continue with the other pieces until you have the foundation ready. Now comes the most frightening part, attaching the roof. Pipe a good measure of icing on the rim of the walls and attach the first roof tile, gently pressing it down. It should hold on its own - please don't press as you will move the tiles (trust me on this one). Wait until the icing sets before adding the last piece. 

In case you have used the hardboiled sweets and your door is wide enough, why not light a tea light and put it inside. The light from within will shine through the 'glass' windows. 

Please send me your photos if you are making your own gingerbread house - love to hear from you 

Creation at a class I gave in late November

Creation at a class I gave in late November

Pieces needed for a house with stained window effect

Have everything ready to go

Using an adapter helps if you like to use different nozzles for piping

Add the second wall

Pipe icing into the cap to join the 2 pieces

Adding finishing touches

Use different sprinkles and decorations

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