Last weekend we made some really awesome gingerbread cookies. We had about half of the cookie dough left over, so I decided to attempt to make our first gingerbread house from scratch. In the past we have tried the gingerbread house kits that are available in stores. While those kits can make some beautiful creations, after using fresh gingerbread I will never turn to store bought kits again!
We are a household of engineers, so I decided we needed to start with a template for the gingerbread house. I grabbed some paper and sketched out the pieces we would need using a ruler to measure. You can use any dimensions you want with a house, just make sure to have two rectangles for the sides, two pentagon pieces for the front and back and two rectangles for the roof. You can use the template I have included below and adjust the size as necessary. We also cut out a little door on one front piece of the house.
Once you have the template drawn on paper, cut out the pieces. Roll the cookie dough on a floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness and place the template pieces on top. Use a butter knife to trim the pieces of the house out of the dough. Place the cut out dough pieces on a cookie sheet and bake for 8 minutes at 350F (see the recipe for details).
Make sure to let them cool. You can prepare the Royal Icing while the cookies are cooling. I like to make a few different colours of icing using food colouring. I also had some jelly bellies (miniature jelly beans) on hand for decorating the house. You can use anything from chocolate chips, raisins, gum balls, Smarties, M&Ms, etc. for decorating. I put each item into little bowls so the kids can pick and choose as they like when it's time to decorate.
Find a flat tray to use for the house. A large plate may also work, but you need to ensure the surface is flat not curved. Make a piping bag for the icing. I use a sandwich bag with one corner cut at an angle. You can then spoon the icing into the bag and close it. Now comes the fun part - assembling the house. I start with the "foundation" and make a big ractangle of icing on the flat surface. Then place two pieces that fit together on the icing and "glue" them together down the side with more icing. This is where little hands can be helpful and you can ask your kids to hold the pieces in place. In the same manner put on the other two sides of the house as well. Have your children hold them in place for at least one minute. If you used the Royal Icing recipe, one minute should be long enough for the icing to start to solidify. You can then set the house aside for a few minutes to let everything settle into place. After about 10 minutes you can put the roof pieces on using icing to glue everything in place. Again, hold for one minute. Now it's time to get decorating! Have fun with it. You can even get creative and make little gingerbread men or Christmas trees to create a whole Christmas scene.
This is a picture of my boys' creation...which lasted about 1 hour and was then devoured! Happy baking!
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