I first made this Spiced Gingerbread House in December of 2009. My baking skills were pretty basic and I had never tried building anything like house out of gingerbread. This was a couple of years after I started blogging and I was part of a then very well known group called the Daring Bakers. I was over thousands of members strong from all pars of the world. Some of us very expert bakers, some novices like me and the rest somewhere in between. The Daring Bakers were a knowledgeable and extremely supportive group of bakers. Unfortunately, like many good things, it came to an end.
One of the Daring Baker challenges, set by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi, was to bake and assemble a Spiced Gingerbread House. There were two different recipes to choose from and adapt to our heart’s content. I adapted the Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga) recipe from The Scandinavian Baking Book. This recipe doesn’t require molasses and is egg free. Gingerbread recipes used for making houses tend to be more about sturdiness and texture than taste. I personally found this recipe good taste-wise too. It’s not too sweet which works with the amount of sugar that comes from the icing and candies used for decoration. The aroma of the spices is just delightful.
We don’t celebrate Christmas and I almost didn’t do this challenge. My daughter was excited at the idea of making a gingerbread house from scratch. My sister was down for a short stay, so we both decided to indulge the girl and make the gingerbread house. As it turned out, my sister and I were stuck with making and decorating most of it. The girl’s term exams were over, and she went off to celebrate the beginning of the holidays with a movie and a sleepover at her friend’s place!
Gingerbread was not a part of my growing up years except in my childhood story books. Though a sad story, Hansel and Gretel’s discovery of a a decorated edible house seemed exciting. Imagine being able to snack on a house decorated with sweets, cookies and chocolate whenever one wanted! A diet of no vegetables and just a lot of chocolate seemed perfect to my then 8 year old mind. Later, gingerbread brought back memories of reading the “Gingerbread Man” to my then toddler. She loved the story of how the gingerbread man would outwit everyone and not let them eat him. I never would finish the story because she didn’t want hear the sad part where the wily fox ate the gingerbread man.
I picked an easy template for the front and back walls (one with a door and round window cut out), two side walls and the roof. I drew them on a piece of cardboard and cut them out to size.
The Side Walls : Cut two rectangular pieces, each 5″ wide and 3″ high.
The Front and Back Walls : Cut two pieces 5.5″ wide and 6.5″ at the highest point and 3″ high from the bottom to the beginning of the slope upwards. On the front wall, the door measures 2.5″ high and 1.5″ wide. The round window is 1.25″ in diameter.
The Roof : Cut two pieces each, 6″ wide and 6″ high.
Cut out other shapes like stars, candy canes, trees, gingerbread man and women, etc. as desired for decorating the house.
You can do this whole project over 3 days which makes things easier. Bake the spiced gingerbread on the first day. Store in airtight containers. Pipe and decorate the walls, roof, cookies on the second day. Allow them about half a day to dry. Stick together the roof panels and then the four walls as well with thick royal icing placing supports to help them stay in position. Let these dry overnight. Put the roof into place on the third day and do last minute decorating. Your Spiced Gingerbread House is ready.
Spiced Gingerbread House
For the Gingerbread:
- 200 gm unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups golden brown sugar
- 2 tbsp Cinnamon
- 4 tsp ground dried ginger
- 3 tsp ground cloves
- 2 tsp ground allspice
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- ½ cup boiling water
For the Royal Icing:
- 1 large egg white
- 3 cups powdered/ icing sugar
- 1 tsp white vinegar or lime juice
- 1 tsp vanilla or almond extract optional
To make the Gingerbread Pieces and Cookies :
- Cream together the butter and sugar until blended. Mix the cinnamon, ginger and cloves with the flour and add to the bowl.
- Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Knead to make a stiff dough. If necessary add a little more water, a tablespoon at a time. Roll the rough out into two rounds and flatten each into a disc. Wrap with clingfilm and chill the dough for about 2 hours or overnight.
- If chilling overnight, bring the dough to room temperature before working with it. In the meantime cut out the templates for the gingerbread house on cardboard.
- Roll the dough out to about 1/8-inch thickness on a large, ungreased baking sheet. Place the patterns on the dough. Mark off and neatly cut the various pieces with a knife. Mark pieces like doors and windows but leave these pieces in place. They can be removed after baking if necessary. Carefully re-roll scraps and cut out shapes with cookie cutters to decorate the gingerbread house.
- I rolled the dough thicker for the walls so they are structurally stronger, and thinner for the roof, trees and gingerbread people and other shapes.
- Bake the cut outs at 190C (375F) for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm and edges just start turning golden. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.
- Then decorate the roof, walls, cookies, etc before assembling the house.
For the Royal Icing :
- Beat the egg white in a medium to large bowl till frothy but not stiff. Beat in remaining ingredients till smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency.
- You will need reasonably thick icing the consistency of thick glue to stick the pieces together. Add a little more powdered sugar if necessary to get this consistency. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.
- Thin some of the icing with a little water for piping consistency. Pipe and decorate all the pieces as required and allow to dry before assembling.
- If you aren't using the icing all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit.
Assembling the Gingerbread House :
- As mentioned earlier, pipe the icing and decorate all the pieces using whatever candy you want. Then assemble the pieces together. Start by joining the roof pieces together using thick royal icing and laying them on their side at the correct angle. Use glass bottles to support them so they do not fall. Let it dry well. Similarly put the walls together. Once this is done, place the walls on your base plate or board. Gently place the roof and glue with icing. Let it dry completely. Stick candies on the rib edge of the roof to hide the icing.
This post was originally part of the Daring Bakers group challenge for December 2009. It has been updated with text and images.