Why people think that gingerbread houses need to be made before Christmas is beyond me. If you celebrate Christmas, you probably had a three hundred item list of things to accomplish before December 25th, and first have a chance to catch your breath right about now… unless you have school age children… who are HOME this week and are BOUNCING off the walls. Am I right?
If you can relate to this scenario, now is the time to turn off the TV and make a gingerbread house with the kids. As your children get more flour on the floor than in the mixing bowl, and gleefully lick frosting right off of the kitchen table, you can savor the innocence of childhood while wondering why elementary school teachers are not sainted millionaires. I digress.
Before we get to the recipe itself, here are a few tips for making your gingerbread house-building experience fun:
1) Small houses are easier to build than large houses. Don’t get carried away… if you’re feeling ambitious, I recommend a village of tiny houses rather than one big castle!
2) You don’t need Royal Icing, really. Stiff buttercream frosting will do the job. Heck, you could even buy a little tub of ready-made frosting from the baking aisle of the supermarket (I won’t tell), and just stir in about 1/2 cup of powdered sugar to make the frosting extra thick.
3) Frosting fixes everything. If a wall or roof piece breaks, just “glue” it back together with frosting and hide the repair with candy decorations. Nobody will ever know.
Ready… Set… Go!
Ingredients (Makes 1 small gingerbread house)
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg white
2 heaping tablespoons speculaas or pumpkin pie spice
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Decorations (small candies, raisins, nuts, dried fruit bits… use your imagination!)
Orange Buttercream Frosting:
1/4 cup softened butter
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons orange juice
Step 1) Cream together butter, brown sugar, molasses, and egg white in a large bowl.
Step 2) Add dry ingredients and mix to form a stiff dough… mixing with your hands works best.
Step 3) Refrigerate dough, covered, for 1 hour.
Step 4) Roll dough into a rectangle approximately 1/3 inch thick on a floured surface. Cut 2 4×6 inch rectangles (sides), 2 4×6.5 inch rectangles (roof), and 2 front/back pieces that look like a 4 inch square topped with a 2 inch tall rectangle.
Here is a link to a template, if you prefer.
Step 5) Bake gingerbread pieces on a parchment lined baking sheet in a preheated 375 degree oven for 12 – 15 minutes. The pieces should feel and look like slightly overbaked cookies… you need the pieces firm and a bit crisp for assembly! Allow to cool completely.
Step 6) While your gingerbread cools, mix together your butter, powdered sugar, and orange juice to make frosting. Remember, the frosting should be stiff!
Step 7) This is the fun part! Pick up marble size pieces of frosting with your fingers, and use it to “glue” the corners and sides of your gingerbread house together. There’s no trick to this – just work slowly and use as much frosting as you need to make the four sides stand upright. Attach the roof pieces last.
Step 8) Use more frosting to attach your decorations… the more, the merrier! Set your gingerbread house on shaved coconut for “snow,” or perhaps a piece of leaf lettuce for “grass.” Have fun, and take pictures!