Well, I enjoy making Gingerbread Houses every year with my girls. I know I don’t have a whole lot of time left with them – especially my oldest who is 10. Even if we do not eat them, it is just a fun time that I get to spend with my family and create something that is not too hard for a non-crafty-person that I am!
The history of gingerbread is interesting or at least to me. It is a favorite food of an Armenian monk, Gregory of Nicopolis. He brought gingerbread to Europe around 992 AD and taught French Christians to bake it. I did not know this either, but gingerbread was often used in religious ceremonies and was baked to be sturdy as it was often molded into images of saints.
No one can forget the famous tale of Hansel and Gretel. The Brothers’ Grimm for the idea of a gingerbread house. The German gingerbread guilds picked up on the idea and put it into a more festive use by making snowy cottages made from – of course – the spicy-sweet treat.
As if I would need to tell you how to observe this special holiday, but if you have not already I would gather your family together (or at least the young children), bake up some gingerbread (or buy the kits in the store) and start building! In case you need one or would like some ideas for creating the perfect Gingerbread House – below is a recipe:
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup light molasses or dark corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons water
- For assemblage and decoration:
- Melted white chocolate or Royal Icing (recipe follows)
- Gumdrops, licorice and peppermint, as desired
- Royal Icing:
- 1 pound (3-3/4 cups) powdered sugar, sifted if lumpy
- 1 to 2 large egg whites, or substitute 4 teaspoons packaged egg whites and 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon almond extract, vanilla or lemon juice
Directions for the Gingerbread House:
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and baking soda together until the mixture is smooth. Blend in the flour and water to make a stiff dough. Chill at least 30 minutes or until firm.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Cut out the following paper patterns for the gingerbread house template:
Two rectangles, 3 by 5 inches, to make the front and back of the house. Two rectangles, 3 by 5 1/2 inches for the roof. Two pieces for the ends of the house, 3 inches wide at the base, 3 inches to the roof line, and slanted to a peak 5 1/2 inches from the bottom. Four smaller rectangles, 1 1/2 by 1 inch for the roof and sides of the entryway. And one piece, 2 inches wide at the base, 1 1/2 inches to the roof line, and slanted to a peak 2 1/2 inches from the bottom for the front of the entryway.
Roll gingerbread dough out to edges on a large, rimless cookie sheet. Place paper patterns onto the rolled out dough. With a sharp, straight edged knife, cut around each of the pieces, but leave pieces in place.
Bake at 375 degrees F for about 15 minutes until dough feels firm.
Place patterns on top of the gingerbread again and trim shapes, cutting edges with a straight-edged sharp knife. Leave to cool on baking sheet.
Glue sides, front and back of house together at corners using royal icing. Place an object against the pieces to prop up until icing is dry (it only takes a few minutes).
Glue the two roof pieces to the pitched roofline of the house. Then, similarly, glue the sides and roof of the entryway together with icing. Attach the entryway to the front of the house.
Continue decorating the house, glueing on gumdrops, licorice and peppermint, as desired.
Mix all of the ingredients together using an electric hand mixer, until the icing is smooth and thin enough to be pressed through a pastry bag with a writing tip. Add more lemon juice, if necessary.
In case you were wondering I found this at Food Network or www.foodnetwork.com and research it. Or you can, like our family, find one you can build at a local store. And, of course: Have fun!