The snow is coming down and I know I’m not the only one who has retreated into my house for months of baking and crafts. The cold tends to bring families together, and one of the best ways to pass the time during those blustery days is to make a gingerbread house. Although, this can prove to be a more involved task than you might think. That’s why I’ve decided to bring to you the ultimate gingerbread house guide. So, grab a friend and a pad of paper- and let the ideas flow!
Before We Begin!
A few things you’ll need to make sure you have together before you begin:
- Find a good gingerbread recipe. If you’re using a recipe you’ve found online, read the reviews. You want your final product to be firm and strong. If you’re planning on eating your gingerbread house, your recipe should be delicious as well!
- Sketch your design out and commit to your pattern before you begin. If you don’t feel confident with your drafting skills, there are many printable patterns available online. Thicker paper or cardstock, stenciled and then cut with an exacto-knife or sharp scissors will yield the best results.
- Keep a running list of ideas for the decorating phase so you can bounce the best ones off of your craft partners.
The baking process is a bit tricky because your pieces must shaped and cut perfectly if you want to build the best gingerbread house. Some tips:
- After you make the dough, place it in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes so you can shape it easily.
- Roll the dough out with wax paper on one side and parchment paper on the other. The wax paper is more transparent, so you’ll be able to see what you’re doing better and the parchment paper should be left on during paper. Your dough should stay at about ¼ inch thick. If you are having trouble shaping the dough, use your hands to push it in the correct shape between the two pieces of paper before you roll it.
- Use a sharp pastry knife or non-serrated knife to cut the sides of your house from the stencil. If your knife is sticking, you can flour it to keep it gliding smoothly.
- Use Capital I-shaped cuts in your walls to create windows with shutters. You can also cut out doors and add details like window boxes at this time.
- Before you bake, make sure you punch holes in the four corners of each of your walls.
- If you’re committed to making the best gingerbread house ever, crush up Jolly Ranchers or Lifesavers in the windows and add them during the last few minutes of your bake time on the gingerbread. This will give you beautiful stained-glass windows!
- Any extra dough can be pressed into rounds or rolled out to use with cookie cutters.
Assemble With Caution!
- If you have a small cardboard box with similar dimensions, you can build your gingerbread house around the box to help it stay upright.
- Use twist-ties to connect the holes in the corners of each sheet to their matches.
- Take care to frost the corners where the walls meet with extra frosting and extra care. This will ensure that your house does not fall down.
- You can use peppermint sticks or candy canes to help provide structural support for your gingerbread house.
- If you do not plan on eating your gingerbread house, adding a bit of vinegar to your frosting will help it cement your house together.
Devil in the details
Here’s where your running list comes in. When people look at your masterpiece, they’re not going to be concerned about your shoddy construction or overly crispy walls. They will be wowed by how much effort you put into the little details:
- Any food is really fair game to decorate your gingerbread house. The classics include peppermints, red and green M&Ms, licorice, and gumdrops.
- Do something crazy-creative for the wow-factor. Use pink or white cotton candy to simulate snow, use different sized marshmallows to build snowmen in your yard, or layer Life cereal with frosting on your roof to create beautiful, stunning shingles. A light dusting of powdered sugar through a fine sieve adds a beautiful snow effect as well.
- Lastly, if you’re feeling brave, string Christmas lights into your cardboard box to bring out the glow. If you plan on doing this, your pre-baking blueprints should reflect a hole cut for the lights at the back of the house, and your inner cardboard structure should have holes where your windows are.
Work as a team!
This is a fun project to do with family, friends, classmates, or members of your church. There are many different little pieces that come together, and every age range can contribute. You can delegate different decorative duties to your kids- a 5 year old could make the snowmen, but you might want to leave the shingles on the roof to an older child. My toddler was content to eat the frosting, and even the dog helped with the mess on the floor!
You will have a blast making the best gingerbread house ever with your family and friends. Work hard and have fun!
Writer, mom, and gingerbread enthusiast, Miranda Imperi, contributed this article on behalf of CandyCrate.com, your one stop shop for all your gingerbread house needs this holiday season.