I love gingerbread houses. There's something magical about an edible house covered in a myriad of colourful, enticing candies. It's like something out of your childhood dreams! Wouldn't a life-sized one be amazing? Just like Hansel and Gretel! :)
So anyway, I've never made a gingerbread house before this, only gingerbread men and Christmas trees and such. This year, I decided to try a whole house instead of just wee little men and trees. It's actually not hard to do at all!
First, I decided on the shape and size of the house and made some templates from cardboard. A pentagonal shape for the front and back, a rectangle for the walls and another rectangle for the roofs. There were 3 pieces altogether.
Then I made the gingerbread dough following the recipe below.
After rolling out the dough, I used the templates to cut out the shapes. I made two of each shape, so I ended up with 6 pieces. For the front of the house (pentagonal shape), I used a round cutter to cut a hole near the top. I thought it looked cute, like a birdhouse, and the kids could also peep into it.
Then I baked the pieces and let them cool completely. Then, I basically glued them together using royal icing. Royal icing can be made using egg whites or meringue powder. I had some meringue powder, so I used that, because with raw egg whites, there is always the risk of salmonella.
Anyway, I wanted the royal icing to be stiffer, so it would dry faster. I reduced the water, and it was so stiff that my hand-held mixer broke!! I had to continue whisking by hand!
After gluing the structure together, we get to the fun part; sticking on the candies! This is where you can let your imagination run wild and design the candy house of your dreams! :) Just pipe royal icing onto where you want your candies to go and stick on the sweets before the icing dries.
This is definitely a great pre-Christmas activity for the kids. Next year I hope to put in more effort and make some gumpaste decor like candy canes, which will make the houses even more gorgeous!
Anyway, here is the recipe for the gingerbread and also royal icing:
350g plain flour
1-2 tsp ground ginger
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g butter, softened
175g soft light brown sugar
4 tbsp golden syrup or honey (use molasses if you want a darker, chewier gingerbread)
Sift and mix flour, ground ginger and cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl.
Rub in butter.
Add sugar and mix well.
Stir in syrup and egg.
Mix well to form a firm dough.
Roll to 5mm thickness and cut.
Bake on a greased and floured tray at 180 degrees Celsius for 10-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Royal Icing Using Egg Whites:
2 large egg whites
2tsp lemon juice
3 cups (330g) icing sugar, sifted
Royal Icing Using Meringue Powder:
4 cups (440g) icing sugar
3 tbsp (30g) meringue powder
1/2tsp vanilla/ lemon/ almond extract
1/2-3/4 cup (120-180ml) warm water
Beat everything in a mixing bowl until stiff and spreadable.
Use more water if you want a runny icing and less for stiffer icing.