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Make a Christmas Gingerbread House

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published November 10th 2010
In some countries Christmas isn't Christmas without eating a house for dessert: a house made of gingerbread. These are hand made and hand decorated in bright coloured sweets and icing - and icing sugar snow, so they make an excellent centrepiece to your Christmas table decorations. In some houses you may even see a gingerbread baby Jesus in a gingerbread manger. Gingerbread houses are another Christmas craft that's surprisingly easy to make at home - to the genuine pleasure of visitors, especially if you give your gingerbread house a makeover similar to your own home's. The hardest part is keeping it safe from marauding Hansels and Gretels until the day.

The Planning Phase:
Building a gingerbread house follows the same general principles as building a house made of more common building materials. First you need to design your house to make sure that it will be structurally sound. You don't have to stick to the basic boxy house shape that children seem to prefer to draw, you can make your 'home' in any shape you like.
Make a posterboard tester before you start construction in gingerbread by cutting out all the shapes for your house in posterboard and seeing if it will stand. If it stands in posterboard it should stand in gingerbread. As well as posterboard, you'll also need one more non-edible ingredient: a large baking tray or piece of strong board or wood covered in foil. This will be your concrete slab to build on, so make sure your posterboard house fits on it with room to spare.
Here are some examples for inspiration.

Preparing the Materials Phase:
Now that the planning stage is finished you need to make the gingerbread, which will be your main construction ingredient. You need to make this ahead of time and let it cool properly before you try and put your house together. To make the dough you need:
1 1/2 cups of whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1tbs ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 1/2 cups of brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tbs baking soda
1 1/3 cups of dark molasses
9 cups of plain flour

1.Line your largest baking sheets (tray without rims) with baking paper.
2.Whip the cream with the vanilla until it peaks
3. Mix the spices, brown sugar and baking soda in together and gradually stir in the molasses, followed by the vanilla cream. When it's well combined mix it up even further with an electric mixer and then start adding the flour gradually.
4. When it's all mixed in dust some flour over a large board or mat and separate about a third of the dough and roll it out flat about a quarter of an inch thick, then transfer it to the baking sheets. Take care keeping your gingerbread of an even thickness - it makes it less brittle. You know how big your posterboard templates are so you know how big you need to make the gingerbread sheets. Test it out by laying your templates on top quite close together and seeing if they fit - you probably won't be baking everything on one tray or rack.
5. The baking time, in a preheated oven at 150C, will depend on the size of your sheets. After half an hour in the oven you should take them out, lay your templates on top of your gingerbread and cut around them with a sharp knife, removing the extra bits and changing the position of your racks in the oven at the same time.
6. The gingerbread needs to be hard in the centre of each piece, so start checking on them after they've been in the over for about an hour and 45 minutes, then keep checking them until they seem ready.
7. When they're done take them out of the oven and make sure they're not attached to the baking paper. Then let them cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool properly.

Make your icing, or cement, in this case, by mixing up the whites of 2 large eggs, an 1/8 of a tsp of cream of tartar, 2 tsp of water and 3 cups of sifted icing sugar.

The Construction Phase:
This stage in the process varies depending on your flair for design. If you want to coat your house's walls or roof in icing them you'll need to thin it down a bit using water and apply it to the walls or roof before you put them up. If not then proceed directly to the erection phase. Use an icing bag to apply the icing that will hold your structure together. Line the edge of one side of your join with plenty of icing then press the two pieces of the join together and hold them until it feels a bit set and ready to stand alone. If you're not convinced it's set add a bit more icing to the inside of the structure.
When it's up it's time to value-add your house. You can add pretty much anything you want to your gingerbread house, from other gingerbread shapes, or other kinds of cookies, to sweets, jubes, licorice, chocolates, sprinkles or those silver balls you always see in baking books. To attach it all to your house apply a bit of icing to the back of each 'addition' and hold in place until it sticks.
Add candy cane trees to your garden, then sprinkle with icing sugar snow and populate with effigies of your friends and family rendered in gingerbread...for the personalised touch.
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When: Make it no more than a week before you want to devour it.
Comments
That is a very good summary and advice on how to make a gingerbread house, something to try for the next Christmas since I read this too late. All we made was chocolate cake and lots of drinking and turkey. I have in mind to make rum balls and gingerbread house for next time. Nice review!
By Lil Uni Girl - senior reviewer
Saturday, 1st of January @ 06:27 am
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