Monday, December 15, 2008

Gingerbread Houses

I am officially half way done with law school. This afternoon I took my last final of the semester, and now I am on break. However, not being done with finals yet didn’t stop me from making some gingerbread houses over the weekend. I think people tend to think of gingerbread houses as a child’s activity, and to a degree I think I that’s true. But of course part of the holidays is being childish. People decorate, they make cookies, they look forward to presents, and if they’re doing it properly embrace at least a little of the childishness of the season. And of course there’s no better excuse to act childish than needing a break from law school finals.

I got the recipe I used for the gingerbread houses here. The recipe was really simple to make, though it took a lot of flour. I also broke one of my spatulas trying to turn the dough, so be careful, this stuff gets thick. For decorations use pretty much whatever you can think of. This recipe makes enough dough to make one house of the dimensions provided, plus a lot of extra cookies to cut out as men, Santas, trees, snowmen, or whatever else you might choose. If you’re planning on eating the cookies I recommend cooking them for a minute or two less than you cook the house parts for.

To make a gingerbread house you need to start by cutting out templates. I used the dimensions provided here.

Gingerbread House

Makes 1 house plus cookies

6 cups all purpose flour 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
4 teaspoons ground ginger 
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) butter, softened 
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar 
2 large eggs 
1 cup dark molasses 
1 Tbsp water1. Mix together the dry ingredients, flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.

2. Cream together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, molasses and water. Beat until fully combined. Add half the flour to the mixture, and beat to combine.

3. Combine the dough with the remaining flour and knead together (it gets a bit thick for a mixer). I actually found it easiest to use my hands to knead it together. Refrigerate the dough for at least two hours.

4. Take the dough out of the fridge and divide into halves or quarters. Working on a well floured surface, roll out the dough until it is an even thickness of ¼ inch thick. Spread a little flour on top of the dough, and gently press a template onto the dough. Using a sharp knife cut out the dough shapes.

5. Bake the cut out shapes for 12-15 minutes, or until browned and dry. Rotate the sheets half way through. Remove from the oven, trim off any pieces of the gingerbread to correct the pieces.

6. Let cool completely


Royal Icing

2 egg whites 
¼ tsp cream of tartar 
2 ¼ cups powdered sugar

1. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until frothy.

2. Beat in the sugar on high speed until frosting is smooth, glossy, and thick.



1. Cover a piece of cardboard or a baking pan with tin foil. Pipe a line of royal icing where you want the front of the house to be. Press the bottom edge of the front piece into the frosting. Use a heavy can to support it.

2. Pipe a line of frosting at a right angle to the front of the house, where one of the sides will be. Press the side into the icing. Pipe some frosting up the corner between the two pieces of gingerbread, both on the inside and outside of the house. Repeat this process with the other side of the house, and then the back. Allow the royal icing to set for a few minutes, until the house can stand on its own.

3. Pipe frosting all along the upper edges of the house. Apply the two roof pieces, and pipe some frosting at the crest of the roof between them. Hold the roof pieces in place until they will stay up on their own. Attach the chimney with a little more frosting.

4. Apply decorations as you choose, make more royal icing to add decorations as needed.

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