It has been many years since I made a gingerbread house from scratch. I have a vague memory of doing this as a kid, and in between I did one from a kit that had pre made house pieces and awful tasting royal icing. I had a whim this week that it might be fun to make a gingerbread house with Melody, so here we go!
I downloaded some instructions from King Arthur Flour (click the link, it is packed with info!). The gingerbread recipe was easy to follow, if a bit bland. I had hoped for a more gingery gingerbread. Next time I’ll stick with my mother’s or grandmother’s recipe. The first batch was so dry I had to add a bit of milk just to get the final dry clumps to bind with the rest of the dough. The second batch was insanely sticky. Go figure, I used the exact measurements and measuring cups for each recipe. ??? I chilled it for an hour, then with my sister’s words of wisdom ringing in my head, I floured the heck out of my work surface, plopped down some dough, floured it again, and then floured it some more for good measure! The dough when chilled was stretchy and rubbery. I had a hard time rolling it thin enough, but did have enough left over to make some trees, elves and a Santa Claus cut out.
Instead of square windows on Melody’s house, we used a small heart cookie cutter. Awww, it was pretty cute. :-) We allowed the gingerbread pieces to cool quite a long time before assembly. In the meantime I made royal icing. The key to good royal icing is beating it a long time, not quite to merengue state, but close. You want it thick so it doesn’t drip right off or run. I used a plastic zipper type bag in a gallon size as my pastry bag, and snipped off one corner. It worked great! The freezer weight bags are quite durable.
I piped a bead on the bottom edge of the wall and stood it up, then did the same with the next wall, all the way through four walls. How did I get them to stay up you ask? Well I used cans to prop them up heh. Even though the royal icing was nice and thick, gravity is stronger haha. We left these to set overnight, then put on the roof pieces in the morning. Here we ran into trouble. On the Pixie House, one front wall was actually curved, and one roof piece was too short. Not sure how that happened since I used the same pattern piece to cut them both. I also have not figured out how to make the gingerbread bake flat. Ours was ripply and lumpy. Hrmm. we used the can technique to set the roof pieces and watched some TV for an hour.
Finally, we went to town decorating. I got a little crazy buying candy for this escapade because I didn’t know exactly what we would want. I like to have lots of choices! We had Twizzlers, M-n-M’s, Skittles, gum drops, Dots, peppermints, bell shaped chocolates, candy canes in two sizes, plus stick pretzels and mini Oreos. Oops! But, it paid off and we have really colorful houses!
One last note about the templates. The chimney on the King Arthur house left something to be desired. But the chimney for the Pixie House was very nice and sits very sturdily on top of the house. A combination of the two house templates might work if you have the right roof pitch for the “good” chimney to work.
I lost Melody at this point. She wanted to get it done and go play. She was a trooper though and spent a good 3 1/2 hours doing this! She came back at the end to sprinkle the coconut for the snow. She was also high as a kite from eating plenty of the candy. :-)
This was a really fun activity but I think in the future I will only make one house. I’m glad we both had a house to decorate because we had very different ideas of what should be included and of course different levels of talent. But if we do this next year, Melody will decorate the house and we will enjoy it however she decides to do it!