Making a gingerbread house

Photo by Flickr user Baslow
photo by Flickr user baslow

I'm going to be making my first solo gingerbread house this holiday season, and I'm really looking forward to it. The last one I "made" with my mom back in the early 1980s. The highlight was the trip to the candy store to get all the decorations. As I recall, it turned out lovely (alas I don't have pictures) and we all ooohed and ahhed around it for days. Then my mother packed it up for storage in the attic until the next Christmas. The following year, when we when upstairs to get it, we found the box open. Inside, we spied the house with huge chunks missing, pieces of candy broken off, walls destroyed. It was a ruin! Did a mouse get in there? Maybe a raccoon? What animal culprit was to blame? No animal, it turned out, only my little brother. My six-year-old brother with a sweet tooth so insatiable he spent the summer hiding in the attic, eating a rotten old gingerbread house.

So this year I'm doing my own, and will store it far away from my brother's greedy hands. He's coming to my house for Christmas, but I'll be keeping a close eye on him! I've got a design in mind, and a decorating scheme, but I'm looking for a great gingerbread recipe. Something that won't shrink too much and create firm walls. Any suggestions? And of course, I'd love any tips you may have to share.

13 thoughts on “Making a gingerbread house

  1. My mom throws a gingerbread party every year in which she makes houses for every family who attends, and they spend the party decorating the house. I will try and get her gingerbread recipe. In the meantime, a few tips:
    1) You can use the canned egg whites for the frosting. It makes the process of making the frosting go MUCH faster. Don’t forget to cover any frosting with a wet paper towel when you are not using it
    2) When constructing the gingerbread house a large can is very helpful when putting those first two walls together. Put the walls together with the can between them and go from there. However, do not forget to remove the can before you put on the roof.
    3) Make sure that whatever you put the gingerbread house together on is not flimsy. You will end up with cracks in your “foundation” if you don’t go with something fairly sturdy.
    4) Do not make the roof too large. I don’t know if you have a pattern, but if the roof is too large it will slide off.
    As you can see we have learned a fair amount through the years. Have fun with it. I would also recommend buying some candies that you don’t have any idea what to do with. Those are always fun while you are decorating.
    Good luck!

  2. Egads, I have a bunch of gingerbread photos from my kiddos last year. Wouldn’t it be fun to have a party with adults and/or kids and make gingerbread houses? Serve some nog and hot chocolate, make extravagant messes? I think it is GREAT you are making a gingerbread house: take pics this time!
    I am such a cheater, just bought the costco houses for the kids. But at least the gingerbread won’t break, right? No tears, and plenty of leftover candy…
    …better to make your own and hand-selecting the candy is pure genius! Good luck!

  3. You gotta eat those thing. That is part of the fun of construction. My wife had kids making those things at lots of birthday parties. And I must say I made a few my self.
    So let your brother eat away.

  4. I made a gingerbread house every year from about 12 to 25. And again last year. I always use the Original Times cookbook gingerbread recipe, but with some extra flour and extra spices. Roll it and cut it – make yourself a template out of shirt cardboard first. Cut the doors and window out before you put it in the oven. Make sure and bake through – longer at a lower temp probably. You can used crushed sourballs for stained glass windows (and little strips of rolled dough for muntins). You can also do some decorating with dough before baking…little dots and lines, and shutters. My favorite roof: Necco wafers. Makes like a mediterranean tile roof. And yes, eat it, don’t store it. Or bring it to work and have the office vultures devour it. I remember taking hunks to school in my lunch bag.

  5. And about the roof…I always “sew” it together with a couple of loops of dental floss to “hinge” it at the top. A sturdy needle will slide right through.

  6. Maggie, I had planned on using Necco wafers for my roof already. I was so pleased when I came up with that idea because I thought they’d make such colorful tiles! 🙂
    Thanks for all the suggestions folks, and keep them coming. I guess I will consider eating it too, it just seems like it will be stale and gross by the time Christmas rolls around. I was planning to get started on it next week.

  7. The Toronto Star just had a contest where they asked the six or eight top architectural firms in the city to make gingerbread houses, then they published the results. The photos are on their website. Not the Hansel and Gretel cottages I’m used to seeing in gingerbread!

  8. Martha Stewart’s Christmas book has a pretty detailed piece on building a gingerbread house. It’s completely over the top, with gold leaf on the roof, etc., but it’s Martha Stewart, so it’s pretty comprehensive. She even makes sugared windows. Definitely worth a look.

  9. i think your idea of gingerbread houses are kinda weird I don’t understand what to do but thaks for trying to help. :>

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