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Gingerbread Houses: Tips & Techniques


flapjack willy
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My kids are finally old enough to enjoy helping me build and decorate a gingerbread house and I need help with a recepie that will yield the thick,dense "bread" that will stand up. I also need a refresher on royal icing. I was one of those students at the CIA, many moons ago, that did very very well until it cames to the pastry classes. I had determined by then that my affinity was for the hot line and not the deft hand of a pastry chef. It's a beautiful thing that we can all be together in a kitchen, each working our strong point.

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Hi

I'm just a home baker but I make gingerbread houses every year with the kids. I have already made one and gave it to friends as a hostess gift last night(as a kit they can decorate themselves).

This recipe is the one that I have always had good luck with. I've had problems with some recipes being too dry and crumbly and hard to roll but this one is always good. My kids love eating it as well.

gingerbread house recipe link here

There's also info on the link about the royal icing and building the house.

Have fun

Sandra

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Hi

I'm just a home baker but I make gingerbread houses every year with the kids.  I have already made one and gave it to friends as a hostess gift last night(as a kit they can decorate themselves).

This recipe is the one that I have always had good luck with.  I've had problems with some recipes being too dry and crumbly and hard to roll but this one is always good.  My kids love eating it as well.

gingerbread house recipe link here

There's also info on the link about the royal icing and building the house.

Have fun

Sandra

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The December issue of <cough> Martha Stewart Living has an interesting gingerbread house *cake*, where the gingerbread house is actually a solid cake, with appropriate cookie decoration for windows, etc.

Was an interesting variation to check out.

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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I use a recipe from Martha Stewart for my gingerbread. I'm sure it's posted on her site under cookies. I make a mock-up of my houses using cardboard first. Tape it together to make sure it all fits right. Then use the cardboard pieces as templates to cut your gingerbread.

For royal icing I use:

3 egg whites

1 tsp. cream of tartar

1 lb. xxxsugar

An important tip: royal icing that's very stiff (you'd have to use more sugar then the recipe I posted) and dry is less strong then royal icing that's moist. I think the recipe I've posted gives you a perfect royal icing consistancy.

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  • 1 year later...

Hello all. Wow, it's been a long time since I posted over here in the B&P section...!

Does anyone have a good recipe for gingerbread decor dough? It's the time of the year again for gingerbread houses. I've never found a recipe that I've totally liked, so I'm putting up to you all to supply me with a sturdy, easy, and cheap dough that does not spread when you bake it.

Thanks!!!

And I shameless promotion here... check out the thread on my wife and I opening our bakery in the New Jersey Forum. We're going to be making a gingerbread house for the restaurant that we're working out of...!

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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The King Arthur Flour The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook has a recipe for "construction grade gingerbread" with good "carrying capacity".

Gingerbread

3/4 C Buutermilk

6 T Butter or margarine

1 C Brown Sugar

1/2 C Molasses

1 Egg

5 Cups (KAF) AP or Whole Wheat Flour

1 t Baking Soda

1 t Ginger

1 t Cinnamon

1/2 t Salt

Melt Butter into Buttermilk - remove from heat

Add Brown Sugar & Molasses

Beat in Egg

Blend dry ingredients and quickly stir into liquid ingredients

Roll out 1/8" thick

Cut out with pattern

Bake on greased sheet 20-25 min

Cool on sheet

"Mortar"

3 1/2 C unsifted Confectioners Sugar

3 Egg Whites

1/2 t Cream of Tartar

Food Color/Flavor Extract (optional)

Mix all ingredients together

I used this recipe for gingerbread people, and they were sturdy, but also good eating.

Edited by srhcb (log)
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Hey, Dude, I will check that out in the NewJersey Forum and nice to see you.

Here lately, I used this recipe from this excellent website. Franky's is the bomb. That recipe did not spread and I overbaked it on purpose and it was still very good eating.

I used to use Nettie's recipe from Good Housekeeping but I can't find it. :biggrin:

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I haven't checked K8memsis' source recipe for duplication, but I do have an amzaing recipe that we have been using for many many years, perhaps thousands of houses were baked with it. Real butter, and ground almonds are both key. We use molten sugar for mortar, as it really holds! If you are seriously interested in dough recipe pm me as I don't know the exact source and if I can post it out to all.

How is the bakery coming???

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srhcb, we tried out your recipe this morning. We'll let it set up tonight, and we'll roll it out and bake it tomorrow. Thanks...

K8memphis, we'll try your tomorrow. Thank you.

SushiCat, I'd love to see your recipe with the butter and almonds. Since it has almonds in it, I'm not sure if it would be cost effictive to use on a decorative house, but it sounds tasty...

Thanks all for your help!

Stephen W.

Pastry Chef/Owner

The Sweet Life Bakery

Vineland, NJ

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If you are doing decorative and you will ice the outside, I mean where the outside walls of the house are covered and the gingerbread doesn't show through then using honey is better than using molasses. Honey binds the gingerbread cookie and resists sagging. Molasses yields easier to the air conditions. But of course the honey cookie is not as dark as the molasses ones. You could paint it too. Just a gingerbread thought for you.

We will get pictures won't we? :biggrin:

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One thing I found useful was the trimming process a few minutes after the gingerbread is out of the oven.

The pieces I made had spread just a bit. A sharp knife on the edges made them straight again. This really helped during the assembly process. The flat bottoms rested nicely on the countertop. The straight edges connected better to each other.

My engineering brain is trying to improve the trimming process even more. I was considering adding some notches and posts to assist in the assembly process. The ideas are still running around my mind but the basic concept is for the walls & roof to hold together via a series of dado joints. The frosting (mortar) would be additional strength.

The mortar + waiting process seemed too difficult. Walls would slip apart unless you held them for a while.

Has anyone else come up with a better way to expedite the building process?

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Hey, Dude, I will check that out in the NewJersey Forum and nice to see you.

Here lately, I used this recipe from this excellent website. Franky's is the bomb. That recipe did not spread and I overbaked it on purpose and it was still very good eating.

I used to use Nettie's recipe from Good Housekeeping but I can't find it.  :biggrin:

Thank you Kate for linking that web site , it sure is cool , lots of ideas and real progects .I made the dough you linked tonight and it is a very nice dough , will see if I can bake tomorrow , I choose a template from their many houses , lets hope I can do it :raz:.

Vanessa

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Vanessa, I know you can do it! I even trimmed this dough well after I baked it and I baked it off real dry for a project--I used it for the portable phonograph cake in my avatar--It's a gingerbread lid covered in fondant and gingerbread surrounding the speaker cloth on the front. Nice stuff to work with.

Hope you can get some photos.

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The mortar + waiting process seemed too difficult.  Walls would slip apart unless you held them for a while. 

Has anyone else come up with a better way to expedite the building process?

My MIL taught me a neat trick over t-giving, as I built my first-ever gingerbread house: use a couple of empty glass jars to hold up the first wall. Put some royal icing (our mortar) on the bottom, and then sandwich the wall between the two jars. Keep the jars in place while you get the rest of the walls up, appplying icing to the bottom as well as the sides that are in contact with the already-assembled walls. By the time the rest of the walls are up, the icing should be set enough to hold things in place without outside assistance.

Just remember to remove the jars before putting the roof on! :biggrin:

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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One thing I found useful was the trimming process a few minutes after the gingerbread is out of the oven.

The pieces I made had spread just a bit.  A sharp knife on the edges made them straight again.  This really helped during the assembly process. The flat bottoms rested nicely on the countertop.  The straight edges connected better to each other.

My engineering brain is trying to improve the trimming process even more.  I was considering adding some notches and posts to assist in the assembly process.  The ideas are still running around my mind but the basic concept is for the walls & roof to hold together via a series of dado joints.  The frosting (mortar) would be additional strength.

The mortar + waiting process seemed too difficult.  Walls would slip apart unless you held them for a while. 

Has anyone else come up with a better way to expedite the building process?

I used a dremel to route grooves in the roof that the walls would fit into. Also, as the project we were working on was rather large scale, we used hot glue to stick everything together and then used royal icing on the seams to hide/decorate.

Trimming is a very good idea.

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I second, third, whatever the trimming concept, forgot to mention, this is a VERY good idea. You have to trim while cookies are warm, immediately before removing from cookie sheet. When we do our production houses we trim with some thick copper cut outs of the size of our pieces. Hey, do you need dimensions etc.? I have two sizes and can provide if you want - mini house or regular house. Trees etc.

The almond thing, it is is just a small amount of ground almonds, seems to give the dough added stability. Also depending on your humidity level, royal icing is not mortar!

I'm looking for recipe today and will pm you.

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You can tie string around things like walls while they dry too.

Alana, you used a drimmel, too cool! How very Duff of you - hahaha (CharmCity Cakes.com--every watch him on Foodtv?? They got picked up for a second season y'know. His place is 5000 sq feet--be still my heart--but I thought we were talking about gingerbread, weren't we??? :raz: )

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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Hi,

I am making a gingerbread house cake that will be about 9" x 13" x 15" high. It will have a steep peak. I was hoping to have most of the roof covered in "snow". The effect that I would like is a smooth coating of snow that smoothly mounds right above the edge of the roofline. I have been trying out different possibilities but I'm not satisfied yet with the results and was hoping for more suggestions.

I would really like to avoid buttercream or fondant mostly for weight reasons. Ideally, Italian Meringue would look great, however, it would not be baked and I don't think that it would be stable long enough -- I am applying it the night before the event. I also considered Marshmallow Fluff -- perfect color, great consistency but I'm worried that it will flow off the cake because of the steep roofline and it takes a long time to firm up.

I'd appreciate any other suggestions. I know that this is an odd question but I figured there might be someone with some ideas out there.

Thanks so much!

Chris

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bELIEVE ME I HAVE MADE HUNDREDS OF GINGERBREAD HOUSES AND YOU NEED TO USE ROYAL ICING. sIFT PURE ICING SUGAR INTO A BOWL THEN ADD EGG WHITE UNTIL YOU GET A STIFF BUT PIPEABLE MIX IT MUST STILL HOLD ITS SHAPE AND NOT BE TOO SOFT. JUST EXPERIMENT YOU WILL GET IT. mAKE SURE YOU COVER IT WITH GLADWRAP AS SOON AS YOU MAKE THE ICING OR YOU WILL GET A CRUST ON IT AND BE UNABLE TO USE IT. gOOD LUCK

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Rather than marshmallow fluff, you can make actual marshmallow. Just stop mixing before the marshmallow gets too firm, then you can pipe or spread it onto your cake. It might make it a bit more difficult to cut through, but I think it would work for the look you are going for.

Hi,

I am making a gingerbread house cake that will be about 9" x 13" x 15" high. It will have a steep peak. I was hoping to have most of the roof covered in "snow". The effect that I would like is a smooth coating of snow that smoothly mounds right above the edge of the roofline. I have been trying out different possibilities but I'm not satisfied yet with the results and was hoping for more suggestions.

I would really like to avoid buttercream or fondant mostly for weight reasons. Ideally, Italian Meringue would look great, however, it would not be baked and I don't think that it would be stable long enough -- I am applying it the night before the event. I also considered Marshmallow Fluff -- perfect color, great consistency but I'm worried that it will flow off the cake because of the steep roofline and it takes a long time to firm up.

I'd appreciate any other suggestions. I know that this is an odd question but I figured there might be someone with some ideas out there.

Thanks so much!

Chris

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