The gingerbread house experiment

I absolutely love gingerbread as it includes all the delicious spices of Christmas and its smell revives happy childhood memories. Every Christmas I make a big batch of gingerbread biscuits to give as gifts, but this year I decided to think big and try to construct a gingerbread house, without having the required prerequisite engineering degree! I also thought it would be a lovely project for my two daughters to decorate with loads of lollies.

Let the experiment begin!

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As I regularly make gingerbread, I decided to make my own houses using printable templates courtesy of Google; a small house for each of my daughters to decorate and a larger one for me. It’s a good idea to make the gingerbread the day before you want to decorate it as it has to be completely cool and hard before you can glue the house pieces together. Though considering the tediousness of making loads of gingerbread dough, I completely understand why people use ready made houses!!

Gingerbread recipe

  • 2 tblsp black treacle
  • 2 tblsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 120 g unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180 c/350 f. Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.

Sift the flour in a large bowl.

In a saucepan, add together the treacle, sugar and spices with 1 teaspoon of water. Stir until all the ingredients combine and bring it to the boil. Remove it from the heat and stir through the butter, bicarb and baking powder.

Add the hot spice mix to the flour and stir thoroughly until a dough is formed. As the dough is a bit wet and buttery, I roll the dough between two sheets of baking paper. Place it in the fridge on a baking tray for 5 minutes so that the dough firms up and is ready for cutting. You will need to re roll your gingerbread to get all your template pieces.

Place your cut out template pieces on the rolled gingerbread and using a sharp knife cut around the template. Gently remove the excess gingerbread around the template and place the house sections on the baking trays. Bake for 10 minutes or until it has darkened a bit. Let it cool completely. I ended up having to make 3 batches of this gingerbread recipe to make enough for the three houses.

Royal Icing recipe (the glue)

  • 250 g pure icing sugar (don’t use icing sugar mixture as it contains cornflour and your icing will stay soft)
  • 1 egg white

There are many royal icing recipes around, but this recipe makes a thick glue that is great for constructing gingerbread houses and sticking on lollies, but it is way too thick for delicate piping.

Using a mixer, whisk the egg white until it starts to thicken and froth. Gradually add in the pure icing sugar and let it mix through before adding more. Once you have added in the last of the sugar, mix it thoroughly until it is glossy and has no lumps. As royal icing can start to harden in only a few minutes, quickly scoop the icing into piping bags and seal the ends.

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I glued all the house pieces together as my daughters are still young and heavy handed! Ice around the edges and gently press them to their corresponding parts. I was the most worried about this process as I thought I’d snap the pieces in half, but it miraculously worked without too much cursing.

I gave my daughter’s their icing in snap seal or clip lock bags that were easier for them to handle. When they were ready to start decorating I just snipped off a small corner of the bag.

I bought quite a variety of lollies to decorate the houses, as I knew my daughters would be eating them as they were decorating! I had to help my three year old, but my six year old happily was icing and decorating her house with ease.

We had so much fun decorating these gingerbread houses that we’ll definitely make them next year. My only problem is that they fill the house with tempting deliciousness and I have to resist nibbling on them every time I walk past. I’ll be happy if they last until Christmas Day!

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Merry Christmas everyone!

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