"Nibble, nibble, little mouse. Who is nibbling at my house?"
Who can blame Hansel and Gretel for nibbling? What could possibly be more irresistable than a gingerbread house? Or more
magical for that matter? I've been making gingerbread houses since my children were young and now they have children of
their own but the enchantment never ends. We started out very simply in the beginning, and we weren't a bit fussy about
getting things just so. The whole idea was to have fun! Everyone pitched in. I designed, baked and assembled the houses,
while the kids specialized in applying the icing and candies and managed, of course, to apply a good bit of both to the inside of
their mouths. :)
As the years passed and my children grew, they got busy with other things, and the gingerbread task fell mainly to me. The
houses grew bigger and fancier every year. I made farmhouses, barns, churches, Victorian mansions, train stations, a Cape
Cod lighthouse, cottages, inns, Mole and Shrew's house, and the Palace of Light from my Keepers Series. You can see some
of them here. So, are you ready to start your own Gingerbread Dreams tradition? I know the recipe below looks a little
daunting, but if you read it carefully, you'll see that I have just shared a lot of tips with you, and its not that hard. So here you
go... Have Fun!!!
|GINGERBREAD HOUSE-MAKING STUFF
|It makes good sense, no matter what kind of project you're doing, to be sure you have everything you're going to need on hand
first. So here's of list of the things you're going to need to make your gingerbread house.
|Foamboard or heavy cardboard for the base - 10" x 15"
|Measuring cups and spoons
|2 cookie sheets (the bigger, the better)
|2 cooling racks (the bigger, the better)
|A pizza cutter (not necessary, but very helpful)
|Forcing bags with round tip and star tip. (Disposable forcing bags are a great help. You can usually find them in your
supermarket in the baking section. If not, try a kitchen store.
|Drinking glasses. (No, not for drinking. What for then? You'll see.)
|Gel food coloring (optional)
|Decorating stuff. (See next section)
|A small string of Christmas lights (optional)
|Decorating is the most fun part of making a gingerbread house, and a great place for you to use your own imagination. Go to
your local grocery store and just walk up and down the aisles and soon you'll have all kinds of ideas! Here is a list of some of
the things we've used. How many more can you come up with?
|Gum (striped, cinnamon, or licorice)
|Candy-making melting patties
|Cinnamon hearts or Red Hots
|Yogurt-covered nuts and raisins
|Yogurt covered raisins and nuts
|Now that you've got all your stuff, what else do you need? Gingerbread, of course - the most important thing! So here's your
recipe. It makes one batch.
|6 & 3/4 cups all purpose flour
|1 & 1/2 cups light corn syrup
|1 & 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
|1 cup butter or margarine
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Set aside. In a 2-quart saucepan (Don't forget to use a larger
pan if you're making more than one batch.), stir corn syrup, brown sugar, and butter or margarine together. Cook over medium
heat, stirring constantly until the butter is melted. Stir into the flour mixture until well blended. (The dough will be stiff, so use
those muscles!). Chill until easy to handle. (If you wish to make your dough ahead of time, it can be tightly wrapped and
refrigerated at this point. Allow it to warm up and soften a little before using.) When working with the dough, keep the bowl
covered with a damp towel.
The second most important thing you will need to make a gingerbread house is icing (Yum!). The icing is used as "glue" to hold
the house together and to put the decorations on, and it's also used as "snow" to decorate the house and the base, so you may
need many batches. Again, check the directions for the house you want to make, and don't make the icing until the directions say
to do so.
|1 teaspoon cream of tartar
|1 two-pound package confectioners' sugar
In a medium sized mixing bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric beater until they are foamy. Slowly beat
in the confectioners' sugar until the icing forms stiff peaks when you lift the beaters out, or until you can take a knife and make a
sharp line by drawing it through the icing. This may take five minutes or more. Don't rush it. Your house will not stay together if
your icing is too soft. Immediately cover your bowl with a damp towel, and keep it covered the whole time you are workng.
|GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS - HANSEL AND GRETEL COTTAGE
|Part 1 - Before you begin:
|1. Print out your pattern
|2. Cut out your pattern pieces including doors and windows.
|Part 2 - Mixing, rolling, & baking
1. Mix up one batch of gingerbread dough and let it chill.
2. Move an oven rack to the middle of your oven. Preheat to 350 degrees.
3. Cut out a piece of aluminum foil just slightly smaller than your cookie sheet.
4. Sprinkle your counter top with a little bit of water in an area roughly the size of the foil.
5. Lay the foil down over the water, press it flat and wipe up any excess water that squeezes out around the edges. (The water
will keep the foil in place while you roll your dough.)
6. Take out about 1/8 of the dough. Shape it into a squarish lump and set it down in the middle of the foil. Roll it out, rolling top to
bottom, then side to side, until the dough is about 1/8 inch thick all over. (If the dough seems very sticky, lift it up again and
sprinkle a little flour on the foil. Rub a little flour on the rolling pin too. Sprinkle more flour on the dough as you roll if the rolling pin
7. Once the dough is rolled out, carefully lift the corners of the foil and place the dough and foil on your cookie sheet.
8. Sprinkle the dough lightly all over with flour and rub the flour across evenly. Lay your first pattern piece on shown. (When
cutting out more than one pattern piece, always be sure to leave at least 1/2 inch between pieces.)
9. Using your knife and pizza wheel, cut all around your pattern piece. Use just enough pressure to cut through the dough, but
not through the foil.
10. Cut around your doors and windows. Using a spatula, carefully lift them out and set them aside on another piece of foil. If
they get out of shape when you are moving them just use your spatula to push them back into shape again.
11. Carefully lift off your pattern pieces and gently pull away all the excess dough. Put these scraps back in your bowl for
rerolling. (If the pattern pieces stick and leave rough spots as you pull them off, just smooth the spots over with your finger tip.)
12. Put the cookie sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned and firm to the
touch. If any bubbles form, prick them with a toothpick.
13. While the first sheet is baking, repeat steps 3 through 12 with your next pattern piece(s) Always bake the larger pieces first,
working your way down to the smallest. You may need to reduce the baking time as the pieces get smaller. Never mix small and
large pieces or the small ones will burn. When you get to the last sheet, carefully transfer over the door and windows you have
set aside. Cut each window in half lengthwise and carefully separate the sections. You can use these pieces for shutters on
your house if you like. Cut little windows in your door now if you wish.
14. When your first sheet is done baking, carefully remove it from the oven (using oven mitts!) and put the second sheet in.
15. Immediately lift the corners of the foil from the hot sheet and carefully transfer the foil and dough to a cooling rack as shown.
Quickly place your other cooling rack upside down on top of it, then turn both racks over with the dough sandwiched in between.
Remove the top rack and carefully peel off the foil. (It's okay it the foil rips.) If the dough curls, gently press it flat again. Let cool.
16. When your next sheet comes out of the oven, transfer the already cooled pieces to another piece of foil. Repeat step 15 with
the next sheet. Continue repeating steps 14, 15, and 16 until all your pieces are baked.
1. Mix one batch of icing. Fill one star-tipped forcing bag. (If you are using disposable forcing bags double them up to help
prevent bursting.) It is easier to fill forcing bags if you stretch them over a drinking glass as shown. (Ah - there's one use for
those drinking glasses!)
2. Using your star-tipped forcing bag, pipe a thick line of icing on the bottom of your house front and press it onto your base as
shown. (Make sure you position it so the rest of the house will fit on the base!)
3. Take two drinking glasses (aha!) and position them as shown to support the house front.
4. Pipe a thick line of icing on the rear right edge of your house front. Pipe another line on the base coming out at right angles
from the house front. Make it as long as your house sides.
5. Take one of your house sides and position it smooth side out in the icing. Support with glasses.
6. Repeat on the left side.
7. If you want your house to light up, put your small string of lights into the center of the house now. Extend the plug end out
through the center of the opening in the back. (Yes, they look like a tangled up mess in there, but that doesn't matter.
Remember, though, if you want your house to light it will have to be near an electrical outlet so you won't be able to use it for a
8. Pipe a line of icing across the back of the base from side to side. Pipe two more lines down the inside back edges of your
house back. Position it on the base, making sure your wire is in its proper slot.
9. If your house is out of square, make adjustments now. Where corners aren't perfect just fill in with more icing. Support walls
where necessary with glasses and let dry for about a half hour. (If you are going to make any accessories, this is a good time to
10. Remove the supporting glasses and pipe a line of icing from the peak of your house front, down to the right, along the side
and up to the peak of your house rear. Press one roof half (shiny side out) in place.
11. Pipe a similar line of icing on the other side of the house, but continue it across the roof back to meet the front peak again.
Press the other roof side in place. Fill in any gaps with icing and support with glasses until secure.
12. Glue your chimney together as shown. Pipe a line of icing around the base and set it in place on your roof.
13. Glue your door in place, open or closed. It's your choice!
|Part 4 - Decorating - the fun part!
Decorating is the most imaginative part of making your gingerbread house, so you can follow these directions or make up your
1. Fill your round-tipped forcing bag. (In fact, fill two or three and pass them out to anyone who wants to help.)
2. Pipe a line of icing around the window and door openings.
3. If you're using gingerbread shutters, glue candy decorations on them with your icing glue, then put a few big globs of icing on
the back of each on and press it into place.
4. Glue a little candy cane on each side of the door.
5. Glue other decorations on the house anywhere you wish, or make designs with your icing.
6. Cover your chimney with icing. Press red M&M's all over it.
7. Cover your roof with icing "snow". Push Necco Wafers or other candies of your choice into the icing.
8. Wherever you want icicles, push the tip of your forcing bag into the roof edge, give a little squeeze and then slowly pull it down
9. With your spatula spread icing snow all over your base. Press a candy walk in front of your door. Press candy shrubs all
around your house. If you made an accessories, put them in place now.
You did it! It's done! Isn't it wonderful? Now choose a safe place to display it, a place where it can be seen but isn't likely to get
bumped or broken, then everyone pitch in and help clean up the kitchen. (This should be fun for everyone, remember, and that
Ah... Your kitchen is clean, your house is done. Now all that's left to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the magic!