Gingerbread House

Karen Haigh
Originally From: the Ottawa Citizen, by writer Kathleen Walker
We've all been intimidated by the photos. Page after colourful page of the most amazing gingerbread houses you've ever seen. Gables and verandahs... Santa's workshop or Buckingham Palace. And you say "Forget it." Too bad, because it's not that hard and it's a lot of fun. This recipe proves it, as long as you remember the following points: (1) it will take all weekend (2) don't panic (3) have everything ready before you start.

Photo taken by me of my first attempt... (the chimney's on the other side)


You will need:

  • a pattern
  • one batch of gingerbread dough
  • four to five batches icing glue
  • cookie sheets
  • aluminium foil
  • room temperature butter
  • flour
  • rolling pin
  • knives
  • spatula
  • cooling racks
  • a plywood base on which to put the house
  • six unopened pop cans (to hold up the roof while icing dries)
  • pastry bags and tips (if you don't have them, use a knife and spread the icing)
  • lots of candies (lifesavers make good stained glass windows; ginger snaps make great shingles)
  • The Pattern

    Cut from paper the following:
    Roof: 2 rectangles, 7 inches by 11 inches
    Side walls: 2 rectangles, 5"x8"
    Front and Back: base 5", total height 9". Cut door from front.
                  /\       /\     -
                 /  \     /  \    4 inches
                /    \   /    \   _
               |      | |      |  |
               |  _   | |      |  5 inches
               | | |  | |      |  |
               |_|_|__| |______|  _
                       
               |--5"--| |--5"--|
        
    Chimney: (optional) 1" wide.
                 _            _            _        _
                | |          | |          | |      | |
                | |          |_|          | |      | |
                | |                       | /      \ |
                |_|                       |/        \|
                Front       Back         Side1  Side2
                2.5" tall   1.5" tall
        

    Dough

    Day 1

    1 cup butter at room temperature
    1 3/4 cups brown sugar
    1 1/4 cups white sugar
    2 tablespoons molasses
    6 eggs
    6 cups all-purpose flour
    2 teaspoons baking soda
    1 tablespoon ground ginger
    1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
    1 tablespoon allspice

    Line Several cookie sheets with aluminium foil. Butter and flour the foil.

    In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars. Beat in the molasses and eggs.

    In another large bowl, sift dry ingredients. Combine mixtures and knead into a smooth ball. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

    On a well-floured surface, roll out a small amount of the dough until it's 1/4 inch thick. Place one of the paper pattern pieces on the dough and cut around the edges. Gently, using the spatula, lift the dough and place it on the prepared cookie sheet.

    Put all scraps into a bowl and cover. Save these for the kids to play with, or to make gingerbread men.

    To make windows and the door: Cut out a rectangle from the appropriate side. Cut the window in half to make shutters. Fill empty window holes with crushed life-savers to form stained glass windows.

    To make the chimney: Cut out a rectangle big enough to hold all pieces of the chimney. When the baked dough is still warm and soft, lay the pattern on top and cut out the pieces.

    Preheat the oven to 325oF. Bake 15-20 minutes or until slightly firm. Let cool on racks until firm enough to handle. Peel the foil off the sections and set the pieces aside to dry thoroughly overnight.

    Icing Glue

    Day 2

    This recipe is for a single batch. You will probably need several, but if you make them all at once, keep them in separate bowls: it dries very quickly and is like cement. Keep it well covered: one piece of saran wrap touching the icing itself and another on the bowl.

    3 egg whites
    1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
    3 - 3 1/2 cups icing sugar

    In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until they begin to foam. Add the cream of tartar and beat until the whites are stiff but not dry. Gradually beat in the icing sugar, beating for about 5 minutes until it reaches spreading consistency. Keep it covered and refrigerated until needed.

    To Assemble

    Day 2

    Cover the plywood base with aluminium foil. Pipe (or spread with a knife) two straight lines of glue at a 90o angle from each other: one for a side wall and another for an end wall. Pipe glue on the side wall where it will meet the end wall. Place walls on base, touching each other. Hold them in place until they are dry enough to stand on their own (about 15 minutes, and you can use those pop cans as support).

    Repeat with the remaining two walls, running a line of icing glue along the corners so that all the walls are glued together. Again hold walls in place until the glue is dry.

    Let the roof-less house dry at least 30 minutes until the icing is firmly set.

    Banish small children from kitchen; find an extra pair of hands. Pipe a lot of icing along the tops of all the walls. Run a thick line along one long side of a roof. Stick the two roof sections together at an angle and sit the two pieces on top of the house. Make sure that the roof overhang is the same at both ends of the house.

    Hold the roof gently in place until it dries (the pop cans should be the right height to support them). Let dry half an hour.

    While the roof is drying, attach the door to the doorway by running a line of icing glue down one side and along the base. Make sure the door is open wide enough to slide a small flashlight inside later (so you can appreciate the stained glass windows). To attach the chimney: on one side of the roof near the peak, glue one angled piece to the roof. Glue the largest rectangle to the angled piece, then glue the second angled piece in place. Lastly, if there's room, glue the smallest rectangle to the other sections. Hide any mistakes under a "snow" of icing.

    Let the house dry until completely solid, preferably overnight.

    To Decorate

    Day 3

    Remove the soda cans. Attach shutters to windows. Decorate by gluing candy to house.

    From the Dinner Co-op