I have something of an obsession with decorated cookies. I don’t particularly like eating cookies especially the sweet kind and usually bake them for my daughter or family and friends. I do however enjoy decorating cookies as it appeals tremendously to the creative side of me (whatever little there is). So I make good use of every opportunity I get to make decorative cookies which is probably about twice a year, one of which is definitely at Christmas.
If you go through my blog, you can see some of the decorated cookies I’ve made so far and the list includes Decorated Gingerbread Cookies, Egg-free Sugar Cookies (I went to town with these), Gingerbread Men, Egg-free Snowflake Cookies, Blood Splattered Cookies for Halloween, Maltese FigolliCookies, and a Gingerbread House!
I have always loved the idea of Gingerbread Houses. Maybe it goes back t the days as a child when I read about Hansel and Gretel discovering a gingerbread house decorated with cakes, chocolate and candy in the forest. Never mind the wicked witch and all the rather sad parts of that story; it was the illustration of this most beautiful house in my book that stayed with me.
So come Christmas, and I try to work in a project to construct some form of a gingerbread house but I’ve not been very successful with that. Last year we made a Gingerbread Log Cabin last year but I never got around to posting it. This year I did want to make something along the lines of a gingerbread house but it’s an activity that’s fun only if it’s done with someone else and the daughter of the house is away at college and it will be too late to make one with her when she does come down for the holidays.
I used a tried and tested gingerbread recipe of Beatrice Ojakangas . I like this particular recipe because it is egg-free and more importantly does not use molasses which is an ingredient that’s a bit difficult for me to find in stores here.
You can up the quantity of the spices a bit if you want really well spiced cookies. I also divided the dough into half and added unsweetened cocoa powder to one half to make a set of lighter and slightly darker cookies. This is for purely aesthetic purposes and you can omit this step.
I used an egg white based Royal Icing but if you’re looking for an egg-free recipe, please refer to this post. Remember that the egg-free icing does dry and harden but is not as hard as the one with egg white. Please note that this makes about 2 cups of Royal Icing and you will probably need about half to decorate the Row Houses.
For the Gingerbread Dough:
For the Royal Icing:
- Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl, using a hand held mixer till well blended. Mix in the spices. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add it to the dough along with the flour. Mix well into a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time to get to the required consistency of dough. If using the cocoa powder, divide the dough into two portions. Chill the dough for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Draw the patterns for the row houses on cardboard using these templates, and then cut them out.
- Take the dough out and leave it on the counter top for some time so that it softens up a little and becomes easier to work with. Divide the dough into two or three portions and work on one portion at a time. Roll out the dough on a floured work surface to about 1/8” thickness. Place the cardboard templates on the dough and cut around them with a sharp knife.
- Transfer the cut out shapes to lightly greased or parchment lined baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough. Gather together the scraps, roll out and cut as many shapes as possible out of them.
- Bake the cut outs at 190C (375F) for 15 to 20 minutes until the dough feels firm to touch. Leave them to cool on the baking sheet and they will become harder. When they’re completely cool, decorate them with Royal icing.
- To make the Royal Icing, beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. If not using the Icing immediately, keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. Otherwise transfer to an airtight plastic container, place clingfilm over the surface to prevent crusting and cover. Refrigerate.
- If it does crust slightly, beat it slightly to get it an even consistency. This Icing should keep in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.