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The Perfect Gingerbread

Growing up, our Christmas preparations often included a day devoted to gingerbread house-making. I remember having our fair share of disasters: scratch-made gingerbread that cracked or houses that slid apart. Those bad experiences made me hesitant to attempt a DIY gingerbread house. But, those fears are now gone. If you want to try your hand at a homemade house this year, these recipes for gingerbread and royal icing (the “glue” that holds it together) won’t disappoint.

The Perfect Gingerbread

Gingerbread House Dough

Yields enough dough for 1 large house
Gingerbread House Dough

Ingredients

 

  • 6 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 cup shortening, melted 
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 16 ounces molasses

 

Directions

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, spices and salt. In a large bowl, combine the melted shortening (heat in microwave to melt) and the sugar. Beat with an electric mixer until combined. Add the egg and molasses and beat well. With the mixer running, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat until just combined. Transfer gingerbread dough onto a piece of parchment paper and form it into a ball. Place a second piece of parchment on top. Roll out gingerbread to 1/4-inch thickness. Freeze dough for 20 minutes. Cut shapes out of the gingerbread and place on parchment- or silicone-lined baking sheets. Re-roll dough as needed. Bake at 300°F for approximately 45 minutes. Cool gingerbread on the tray for 10 minutes and transfer to a wire cooling rack. Cool completely before assembling gingerbread house.




Royal Icing

Yields enough to assemble/decorate 1 large house
Royal Icing

Ingredients

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 6 cups powdered sugar

Directions

 

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar. Once they are well combined, start adding the sugar—1 cup at a time. Continue to beat at medium speed until all the sugar is incorporated. Scrape the bowl with a spatula as needed. Transfer royal icing to a piping bag fitted with a decorating tip and use this thick icing to “glue” gingerbread pieces together. To decorate the gingerbread house, thin the royal icing with water, adding 1 teaspoon at a time until icing is easy to pipe. Dye with food coloring, if desired. When not in use, cover royal icing with plastic wrap pressed against the surface of the icing; store at room temperature. 

 



 

Free Gingerbread House Template >>

Gingerbread Tips

  • Trace the pattern on cardboard. (A cereal box works great for this.) 
  • Roll out your dough on top of a piece of parchment or on a silicone baking mat; roll it with a piece of parchment on top to prevent sticking. 
  • Freeze dough for 20 minutes before cutting out shapes. Return it to the freezer if it gets soft. 
  • Dust your pattern with flour so it won’t stick to your dough.
  • Roll dough out to an even thickness. 1/4 inch works well for the front, back and sides. The roof pieces can be slightly thinner. 
  • Cut around your pattern with a sharp knife. 
  • Cut out your gingerbread pieces on the silicone baking mat or parchment and transfer the mat or parchment to your baking sheet, otherwise gingerbread can stretch when you move it. 
  • Cut out any doors or windows before baking.
  • For a stained-glass effect crush hard candies and place them into the doors and windows just after removing from oven. Return to the oven for 5 minutes, or until melted completely. 
  • Cool gingerbread completely on baking sheet for at least 10 minutes; then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely (at least an hour, or overnight) before assembling the house. 
  • Before assembling, pick a sturdy base for your house. 
  • To assemble the house, pipe thick royal icing onto edges of the gingerbread and press them together. Pipe additional royal icing inside the joints for extra support.  
  • Attach the sides to the back of the house; then attach the front. Allow the base to dry for at least an hour before attaching the roof. 
  • For the chimney, attach the short chimney piece to the short sides of the angled pieces with icing. Allow to dry. Then, attach the tall piece to the long sides of angled pieces. Attach to the roof. 
  • If any of the pieces are slightly crooked, use a microplane grater to straighten the edges. 
  • For the tree(s), attach the support to the back of the tree with icing so that the right angle is at the bottom of the tree. 
  • Thin royal icing to a piping consistency, color it with food dye, and decorate the house. Add candy and sprinkles. (The dollar store is a great place to find candy.)
  • Place a battery-operated light inside the house for a glow-effect.