Do you wanna build a
snowman Gingerbread house?
For me, Christmas always meant putting up the fake tree (they didn’t sell the real deal on every street corner in Japan like they do in NYC), sneakily or attempting to be sneaky while making/wrapping presents for my family, putting up more christmas decorations, and baking/buying cookies for santa. Okay, back in elementary school decorating seemed a lot more fun than making cookies *gasp* I know. I believe my sister was in 5th grade or so when she decided that we should decorate a gingerbread house and my mom, who was constantly open to letting us try new cultural things, would buy us one of those decorate a gingerbread house kits.
Those were fun. Taste-wise, they weren’t so great. They tasted like cinnamon-y cardboard and to be honest I was all about the “gumdrops” and chocolate doors more so than the actual house. I also always loved seeing the gingerbread confections in hotel lobbies. My family used to spend Christmas in Hawaii and always at the Moana Surfrider, they had elaborate gingerbread confections with lights in the windows and I if I recall correctly a train. It was gorgeous. Seeing those, I always thought that one day I would have to make my own epic gingerbread house. Obviously that’s taken a few years. The first year my sister made gingerbread cookies I was amazed. The cookies were soft and chewy and the taste! It was definitely nothing like the store bought gingerbread house. Anyway, this year, I thought I would give it a go. My family friends gave me the Joy of Cooking cook book as a graduation present and I decided to use the gingerbread house recipe. Now I don’t think I’m good enough to make elaborate gingerbread towns and towers. Ahem dear friend of mine who challenged me to make a Hobbit themed Gingerbread tower, while I love your confidence in me, I fear that at this point in my amateur gingerbread baking days it’s best to keep it simple. I mean, I’m no Nerdy Nummies Rosanna Pansino, so I decided to keep mine simple. And I liked it.
Maybe next year?
Anyway, let’s get started!
-1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
-1/2 granulated sugar
-1/2 cup molasses
-2 and 1/4 cup AP flour plus 1/4 cup
-1/2 tbsp ground ginger
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp nutmeg
-1 egg white
-2 cups powdered sugar
- In a small sauce pot, melt the butter over low heat. Once the butter is completely melted add the sugar and molasses. Once the sugar is melted (no longer gritty), turn off the heat and let the butter-sugar-molasses mixture cool.
- In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (AP flour, spices, baking soda, salt)
- Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the butter-sugar-molasses mixture into the well. Using a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula, mix until a nice dough forms.
- Once the dough forms, you may have to incorporate the additional 1/4 cup of AP flour if it’s still sticky and hard to work with. The dough should be firm, but completely pliable.
- Tightly wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to firm up (about 3 hours or overnight).
- While the dough is chilling, make your templates. I like using thick sheet of paper and cutting out the shapes.
- For the sides, you will need two 3 inch by 4 inch rectangles*
- For the roof, you will need two 4 inch by 4 inch rectangles
- For the front and back of the house, you will need two 6 1/2 inch by 4 inch rectangles. Once you have the bigger rectangle, place it vertically in front of you. So the rectangle should measure about 4 inch across and 6 1/2 inches high. Now measure up to 3 inches and draw a line horizontally across the rectangle. So now you should have a rectangle with a line about halfway through it one side will be 3 inches thick and the other should be 3 and 1/2. Then taking a ruler, draw a diagonal line from the edge of the line to the center of the top edge of the rectangle. So you should have a sort of triangle above your 3 inch by 4 inch rectangle. Here is a picture for reference since it sounds horribly confusing.
- For the base you will need a 6 inch by 6 inch square.
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Once you’ve cut out your templates, dust a clean surface or a silpat and your templates with some AP flour and roll out the gingerbread dough to about 1/8 inch thick. Place the template over the dough and cut along it using a sharp knife. I also advise cutting out windows and doors before transferring the pieces on a lines baking sheet. It’s a lot easier than doing straight out the oven.
- Bake for about 8 to 9 minutes. Once the pieces are baked, quickly place the template over the warm pieces and neaten the edges. The cookies do expand a tad bit, doing this ensures that the cookies will fit together nicely.
- While the cookies cool, make the frosting. Whip the egg white until nice and frothy. Add the powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time. You want this frosting to be thick like cement. It should thickly coat your finger and not slide off the back of a spoon. When you lift the spoon, it should dollop off the spoon in thick globs.
- Fill a plastic bag or piping bag with the frosting and working with one piece at a time, apply the frosting to the edges. I like starting with a side, evenly coating the bottom and holding it on the base until the frosting starts to harden. Then start with the back, applying icing to the side that will adhere to the gingerbread piece that’s already anchored and the bottom. And then keep going. Once the house and roof are done, I suggest, icing over the seams (aka the house corners, the roof top, etc.). Then you can thin the icing with a bit of water and start decorating! I used mini m&ms, a candy cane and mini marsh mallows dipped in frosting and then rolled in green sanding sugar. Go sugar crazy!
The dough will make one house plus a few cookies or two miniature gingerbread houses. For the mini ones, I reduced the templates by about half the size. The yielded one larger gingerbread house and two smaller ones. Of course you could probably make two larger gingerbread houses or just use the leftovers to make cookies, whatever you fancy. These also make great little gifts for little ones. I made gingerbread house kits of my own, using the leftover dough and gave them to my co-worker and office manager, who have kids of their own.
Let me know what your favorite gingerbread house decoration is and if you make one, please share a photo!
Hugs and puppies!