It should comes as no surprise that I love gingerbread, my ginger man and cooking—see Cooklander cookbook page 281-282. Sooooo I’ve made gingerbread house or few, before, but it had been quite some time. This seemed like a good year to try my paws at it again. If you’ve never made one, they really aren’t that hard. But you need to allow several days for drying time between stages. This project took about a week. I typically like to design my own patterns to create the shape, style or details that I want. But there are several cookie cutter kits that make this process easy. Amazon has several nice options: R & M 2090 Gingerbread 7-Piece Cookie Cutter and Baking Set with Recipe and Directions, Christmas House Cookie Cutter Set, Bake Your Own Small Gingerbread House Kit, Chocolate House, Haunted House, or Fox Run Gingerbread House Cookie Cutter Bake Set.
If you opt to design your own, keep this very important mental note in the back of your head when designing. Make sure any panel pieces (ie. walls and roof) will fit onto your cookie sheet and that it fits into your oven. Yes, I made that mistake once 😂😂😂 and had to redesign and make my Dickens style townhouse duplex smaller AFTER I was already in the process of cutting out the dough.
I find card stock works well for designing and creating a pattern for cutting out shapes from. It also allows you to build a 3D model (with help from a little tape) to make sure things fit together. You then use this as your pattern when cutting out dough.
Once you have your design picked out, you will need a base. Smaller houses work well on cardboard cake rounds. I’ve also used real plates from thrift stores for small ones. This gives a sturdy nice base, but allows me to give the gingerbread house as a gift. For larger ones, I use wood. Either plywood cut to size or round table rounds from local big box hardware stores. This year, I included a small LED nightlight to illuminate the inside of the house. This is a fun thing to do, especially if you cut out windows and/or use hard candy to make window glass.
Next step is to make gingerbread cookie dough. For this house one batch of dough was enough for the walls. I needed to make a second batch to do the roof. My left over bits were used to make details or cookies for eating. The dough will need to chill for 1 hour at least, but can be chilled for several days.
Don’t laugh. I forgot to make pictures of rolling and cutting out the gingerbread—we had company and I got distracted 😱. I recommend rolling your dough out on lightly floured parchment paper. This allows you to transfer the cutout directly to cookie sheet. If you are using your own design, a pizza cutter works really well to cut walls.
Bake the gingerbread as directed. This dough makes a fairly crisp gingerbread cookie, but if you have rolled your panels out a tad thick, it may take a little longer to bake. If you plan to cut your window panes out, check part way through cooking—the edges sometimes grow on you 😂. If you plan to use hard candy to create “glass” panes, this is also a good time to place your your candy in the windows openings to allow them to melt down to form flat “window glass” in the window, while the cookie continues to finish baking. Any hard candy seems to work, it just depends on what color you want your glass to be. Butterscotch discs work well for a nice yellow candle lit glow from within. You can break the candy into medium chunks with a ziplock bag, wrapped in towel and tapping with hammer 🔨. But I’ve also left the candy whole, and it usually does just fine.
After making, transfer the parchment sheet and cookie to a drying rack to cool. After it has cooled for an hour or so, I remove the parchment sheet and let continue to dry for several days. This is to allow the panels to be dry and crisp enough to start assembly of the structure.
When you are ready, the next step is assembly. Get everything you need together before starting. You will need your base, cookie walls, something to help support your walls after they are “glued” together with royal icing and left to dry for at least 1 day, I’ve used canned goods, because a couple of these stacked together, on both sides, is usually enough weight to keep things in place. But this year I happened to have some heavy duty, no slip book ends handy, so I used them.
Next step, time to make the royal icing. If you aren’t familiar with this whipped egg white/powdered sugar icing, it dries to become a very hard icing and is often used to decorate cookies. It works very well for glueing gingerbread houses together and decorating them. While, I don’t usually eat my gingerbread houses afterwards (they are quite stale at after sitting out for the holidays), some people do, so mentioning this. When working with egg whites, there is very small chance of salmonella poisoning from improperly stored eggs, when icing is consumed. So pasteurized, refrigerated egg whites or meringue powder can be substituted. Follow the Cooklander recipe or directions on meringue powder, if using. I tend to make this batch a little thicker and stiffer, than the batches I use for decorating. This is to prevent the icing from running as I work with it. I think of it as brick mortar and go for that consistency with this batch.
The icing is white and can be colored with food safe dyes. This year I mixed a bit of brown coloring to get graham cracker colored icing. When it comes to assembling the house, I usually use a pastry bag, with no icing tip added, to pipe the icing along the edges, but if you don’t have one, feel free to spread it carefully with a butter knife.
Once I’ve iced the right and left edges of wall panels, I begin assembly and set up supports for walls. I smooth the seams either with a finger or butter knife, to make things flatter and fill in any holes. Make sure your supports have walls in the position you want the structure to dry to. Then let it set. Check on in in the first couple of hours to make sure nothing has shifted, before it dries hard. I like to let this structure dry 1-3 days before trying to attach the roof, to prevent structure from collapsing from weight of roof. If you are doing a rather small house, one day dry time is sufficient.
I use this next couple of days to make any decorations, structures or trees that I want to go along with the finished project.
This year, I was opting to have the inside of the house visible through the open door. It’s the first time I’ve ever attempted to show the inside of a gingerbread house, so I wanted to have a fully decorated Christmas tree for the inside. I usually use ice cream cones or paper plates cut and stapled together to form the desired size tree. For this tree I used a waffle cone, which can be more fragile than a regular smaller ice cream cone, and a bit lopsided. To remedy this, I placed some some royal icing inside the waffle cone and inserted the smaller ice cream cone to give support and keep the tree straight. I let this dry overnight.
I mixed up a batch of icing, tinting it the desired shade of green. This icing I make normal consistency to just a tad runnier for piping. I first spread some icing on cone as background. This isn’t necessary for any reason other than it made it easier to make sure I had green showing between “tree branches” and not ice cream cone. I use a star tip with pastry bag. Size is your choice. I start at the bottom and start piping stars in a natural tree sort of irregular pattern.
Side note: I should probably point out at this stage of the blog, that while I’m pretty creative, working in a bakery and piping icing, is a job I’ll probably never get, because I don’t think I could pipe a row of bakery cake perfect stars if I tried 😂. I’m telling you this because, even though I can’t paint a straight line or do this, that’s the beauty of making a gingerbread house. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Trees in real life have a nice organic irregular nature about them. The icicles that I put on the house later are the same way. Fortunately my inability to pipe perfect stars ultimately gives it a real natural feel. So don’t let your inexperience with working with a piping bag hold your creative side back. Just go with it. And if you are lucky enough to be good with decorating tools, then use this experience to push yourself to try new stuff. Ok, pep talk over, back to gingerbread decorating.
After piping my branches on the tree, before the icing started to dry, I added bits of cookie decorating nonpareils for ornaments and candy canes. I let the tree dry a few hours then piped garland on the tree. Normally I would used white royal icing, but I hadn’t made up a batch yet, so I used melted white candy coating. Wilton and Ck products both make a meltable tube of candy “writing” coating. It’s the same stuff as the meltable coating wafers, but in a handy little tube. You just place it in hot (not boiling) water to let melt. Then squeeze it to decorate. It harder back to candy state pretty quick. It’s very handy for this or other projects (chocolates, cake pops, cupcakes, etc) and the tubes can be remelted numerous times. So rather than make up a batch of royal icing that day, I used it to make my garland and sprinkled it with gold sugar as I went. Then I sat it aside until I needed it and started working on the other things I planned to put on this inside of this house. I used left over green icing to pipe some wreaths for the door and house on parchment paper.
I let my creative side have fun. Made a baby Ruth candy bar fireplace, complete with family portrait (with a little help from those handy candy writing tubes). I melted some orange and yellow hard candies to make flames for fireplace. Made a kitchen cabinet out of graham crackers with some baking supplies. Then I attempted a snowman with some white chocolate truffles and malted milk ball, rolled in royal icing. This was much harder than the other details. If the icing didn’t stick well and was kinda hard to roll out a “snowball” with it. But nothing has no be perfect, including his lopsidedness and quirky smile. I laugh, because it reminds me of a dog I once knew.
Then I started working on the roof. Sometimes I attach the roof first, then add shingles. But because I was still working on the inside of the house, I shingled the roof with golden graham type cereal pieces. You can use all sorts of things. Mini shredded wheat, candy wafers, or chocolate coated candy pieces. It all depends on the effect you are going. You can pipe or spread royal icing onto the roof and start applying shingles from the bottom and overlapping in an irregularly regular pattern to resemble offset shingles. I like to let the icing peak through like snow. I sprinkled it with some white decorating sugar. I sat this aside to dry for another day.
The time to assemble the inside of the house finally came. Yes, I was excited to see if things would work. I made a graham cracker floor and placed pieces where I wanted, then held them in place with a dab of royal icing.
Next step was to attach the roof. Made another thick batch of royal icing and piped a row of icing along the top edge of the walls. Place roof carefully into place and helped hold it up into place with canned goods to prevent it from sliding off. This can be a tricky part, so have a variety of size cans ready to see what fits. I also had the help of several cardboard coasters to raise things up a tiny bit more until the roof it perfectly and could stay support for 1-2 days until it dried completely. Once this step was done, the gingerbread house was complete except for landscaping the base. This is probably my favorite part and probably the easiest.
Fun stuff. Made more royal icing to create icicles hanging off the roof. Added some drifting snow to the roof. Placed a candy stepping stone path to the door. Attached wreaths to the door and house. Made another batch of icing to spread the snow on the ground and the other details, including a marzipan pig as my homage to the great white sow.
Last thing to do was wait until that night, turn on the light and hope that it all came together and worked like I imagined and planned. Thankfully it did. It was a fun creative holiday project and the bonus was my home smelled like gingerbread for days. Yummmmm
If you decide to make a gingerbread house and have questions, feel free to ask. If you’ve made one, PLEASE share pics and comments.
If you want to save 15% off Cooklander Cookbook, use coupon code BoutonsGingerman (expires December 30, 2017)
Meanwhile, happy Cooklander cooking and baking this holiday season 😘.
To read the rest, go to her blog. Look for her in Savannah st the gathering. She will have Cooklander cookbooks to sell.
Guest blogger for Cooklander.com
"Chicken and stews and bears, oh my"
Lauren’s Chicken Corn Chowder (7 ingredients for delicious soup) submitted by @TweeterLauren page 33
I am currently working on Lauren's chicken Corn Chowder. I have Zippy helping me.
It is a nice small recipe. Our house hold is usually just two people so this was nice to find. Very simple ingredients and not a great deal of time to make.
Welsh Cake (Pice Ary Maen)* submitted by Bear Strength Clothing ⭐️ page 239
Tonight I had a grand time. I was interested in the Welsh Cake recipe and it required the Homemade British Mixed Spices.
As I looked it up in the ‘this and that’ section, I was pleasantly surprised to see many of the spices that my Mom used in deserts when I was a child. So I mixed up the spices enjoying the smells that reminded me of my Mom. As I made the Welsh Cakes I giggled a bit about the currants, which I have always loved. The pastry blender came out of the drawer and made the crumbling of the flour mixture and the butter and shortening easy. I used my large frying pan as I do not have a griddle. The first batch were a little wonky but the second round looked lovely.
Being that I was the only one awake when I made them, I became the taste tester. Well!!! The spice mixed just hugged me. It struck memory cords, but I couldn't put my finger on what it was. Again, I have lucked out and found something to add to the weekend breakfast list. The other good thing for me is that it was a small recipe; with two in the house, it is much easier to eat up the food, without waste.😀
I did not have castor sugar, so I looked up the substitute and discovered I could make it myself. Out came the coffee grinder (I never use it for coffee because I don't drink the stuff, lol) 20 seconds later I had castor sugar!
Blondie love submitted by Liz Mercado ⭐️ & Pamela Warford page 266
Tonight was try a new dessert. We chose this just because of the title. Blondie Love, was something I had never heard of. While reading through the ingredients, I was intrigued by the use of almond butter and quinoa flour. So Zippy and I began the relatively easy task of measuring, mixing and placing in parchment lined pan. I baked the Blondie Love for 30 minutes and allowed it to sit for the complete cooling time.
Moms’s Beef Stew submitted by Kathryn Anderson Page 112
We have a busy week between piano lessons and meetings I want to make some hearty meat and potatoes type food. Good thing I own two ...well, three large pots. I plan to use at least two tonight. My helper decided to go sliding, so I was on my own. 🙂 I found the Mom's Beef Stew the other day and had marked it to try soon. Today is soon. I used a tenderer cut of meat, than stewing beef so I was able to cut down the cooking time. Also, I did not have red wine so I used white wine instead. I used the homemade beef broth I had made a few nights ago. It looks lovely. When I go to season it I will use kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Back to the stove I go to cook some more!
This was a nice mild flavour. I think it would be different if you used red wine. So next time when I make it I will make sure I have red wine in the house. Was a very mild flavour. I will make it again. Zippy liked it, so that is great.
My mother’s Cazuela submitted by E.L. James ⭐️ page 116
In a mood for some good therapy so yes this is the second large dish tonight. We should be good for 4 or 5 days—LOL; unless my taste test crew at school read what I have been up to. This dish reminds me of something my Mom used to make. We called it Plow. No one else I know, other than a few family members make anything like it. Apparently it was brought from some relatives in Oklahoma/ Nebraska when the family immigrated to Canada around World War I. Anyway some of the stuff in that recipe are in this one as well. I used fresh herbs and veggies from my garden when I could.
Will send more when it's done.
Rough cut sweet potato I can do! 😄
It's done now and I have tasted it. Lovely flavour. In the recipe it talks about eating the soup part first and then the meat. It works as a full meal. I will make it again with some of the veggies I did not have. Will likely add a few more fresh herbs. Another success for Cooklander!!
Cajun roasted chick peas submitted by Richard Kahan 😀 page 26
Sunday morning and very blustery. Blizzard warnings so... Perfect day to get to the stove. I have used chickpeas a few times but wanted to try Richard Kahan's recipe. Snack food is always in demand with Zippy and my big kid so I decided today was the day. Extremely easy to put together and easily adjusted to suit your personal spice level.
I used parchment paper under the chickpeas instead of a non stick pan. It seemed to work fine.
Done! I think I would have this together with some kind of flat bread or corn chips. That would balance out the flavours for the kids. I might even mash it up and included it as filling 🙂
Blueberry dumplins submitted by Laura Prince page 255
We love Blueberries (Saskatoons if you are from the Canadian Prairies--Similar flavour and can be substituted for each other in most recipes). Now I actually prefer the wild berries with a wonderfully intense flavour, unfortunately I don't have any, but I do have fresh blueberries. We did not have dumplings growing up, so I have just begun trying different things on the kids lately.
This recipe was fantastically easy and satisfying. I made half of the recipe because Zippy and I were the only ones at home right now. He loved it. Finished one bowl and asked for more. To me, that makes it a keeper!
Not too sweet for a lazy Sunday afternoon.🙂
Socca (Chickpea flatbread) submitted by Richard Kahan 😀 page 213
Today we have a severe weather warning, -40 overnight. I decided this would be a great day to make Socca page 213. Now I have not used chickpea flour before, so I thought this would be fun. It was easy to mix together, as my local bulk food store had the flour.
I used my oven safe frying pan and all things were going well. Then I was talking on the phone to my older son, while I was finishing the dish. I removed it safely from the oven with oven mitts on. Then I took the mitts off to get the spices for finishing. Well, I was talking instead of thinking and grabbed the handle of the hot pan! 😱 that hurt! I dropped the phone and did not break it. No swearing either 👍🏼. I bandaged up my hand, put on my purple rubber gloves and finished the flatbread. My word, silly things happen when I don't concentrate. So please be careful when you are doing this.
Zippy and I both thought it was good. Next time I will try the flour combination that Richard used and will bake it a minute longer and broil the maximum time listed. Now back to making Gary's Leek soup for the 8th time. I think I might need it as the temperature keeps going down.
So please be careful. I intend to not talk on the phone when I make this the next time. To the stove! Helps keep you warm in -40 !
Elaine Owen @findjoyingiving
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