As a family tradition, we take an evening during the Christmas season to hold a friendly competition making gingerbread houses. This year it was decided that the guys would get one house and the girls would get the other. But before we get into the decorating details I will share the recipe I have used year after year to make the structure of this sturdy houses. Please note: If you are looking for a gingerbread recipe to eat, this is not it. The cookies get as hard as rocks...which is a good thing when you are using them for construction.
Here is what you will need to make enough dough for 2 houses, some extra house pieces (just in case any break in the building process) and extra complementary cutouts (people, trees, animals, etc.) PLUS 2 large bags of construction frosting:
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 8 Tbsp butter
- 1 cup SUCANAT
- 3/4 cup molasses
- 2 medium eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 8 cups hard wheat flour
- 4 pounds (approximately) powdered sugar
- 8 egg whites
Remove the yogurt mixture from the stove and add, in the following order, the SUCANAT and molasses.
Finally add the eggs and the spices to the pan, as the other ingredients will sufficiently cool the mixture so the eggs will not cook when added.
Then transfer the liquid mixture to a mixer, add the baking powder, and slowly add the flour, one cup at a time, until you have a stiff dough.
Quickly cover the dough, in order to keep it warm...
...and roll out a bit at a time on sheets of parchment.
Note: If the dough is sufficiently warm you will not need to add extra flour when rolling it out. If your dough should happen to cool down, you can either put the bowl into a warm water bath, place it on top of the warm stove (where you are baking your cookies below), or you can microwave it for a few seconds.
Next, using a pre-made set of gingerbread house cookie cutters, cut two full sets for the houses and all of the extra pieces you desire.
Then remove the extra dough between the cut cookies, making sure not to move the houses pieces. This is very important since moving the pieces will cause them to change shape and you may end up with walls or a roof that is not square.
Finally, bake each batch at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes.
After the cookies have completely cooled, then you can go on to constructing the houses.
Here is where all my rules for "no candy in the house" flies out the window...and those who choose to eat from the construction materials usually pay for it with awful consequences soon thereafter...but, for a once a year tradition I feel it is worth the price paid. So, load up on candies that will add color and interest to your structures.
Now, using the final two ingredients in the list above, mix 4 egg whites with about 1 3/4 pounds of powdered sugar to make the construction glue. And then put the whole mixture into a gallon baggie and seal. Warning: You do not want to expose this frosting to air for very long since it hardens quickly and is not recoverable. REPEAT with the second half of the egg white and powdered sugar to make the second bag of frosting. When you are ready to use the frosting, just cut a small amount off one of the bottom tips of the baggie and use it to pipe out your frosting.
In doing the actual house building we have learned some key lessons over the years and so I thought I would highlight some of them:
- A pieces of cardboard covered with foil makes a great base for building a house and a yard.
- Stick two pieces together at a time, making sure to also adhere the pieces to the board you are constructing upon as you go along
- Make sure to add any interior decorations to your house BEFORE putting on your roof
- Do not add the roof until all of your house sides are COMPLETELY dry and able to support the weight
- Keep the frosting pushed down from the baggie zipper, otherwise your frosting may get squeezed out the wrong end...and all over you