Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gingerbread Construction Tips

Last year, I tried to make a gingerbread house. Tried. It failed. It fell into itself in a spectacular mess of cookie crumbs and royal icing. I had measured all the pieces exactly, but they still came out wonky. I used buckets full of icing and still nothing would stick. It was not the holly-jolliest part of my holiday season.

This year, however, I have succeeded! I feel I can safely say that, since Ian and I made the house last night and this morning, it is still standing. So, unless the cat gets a sweet tooth or tries to sit on the roof, we have a gingerbread house! It doesn't have the traditional sloping roof (one of the biggest architectural problems I encountered last year)--it's more Flintstones style--but it has four walls, a gumdrop snowman, and a cinnamon disc path. So if you want to make a gingerbread house without using the store-bought, cookie-cutter kit, here are some tips:

1. Have a gingerbread cookie recipe that makes for nice, stiff cookies.

2. Roll out your dough directly on a piece of parchment paper that will go directly on your cookie sheet (peeling dough off the countertop will only deform your pieces). A dough cutter/kitchen scraper works nicely for making straight edges.

3. Don't roll your pieces too thick: the heavier the pieces are, the more likely they are to fall in on themselves.

4. Use a basic powdered sugar and milk icing, and make it as thick as it can be while still being spreadable.

5. Have two sets of hands available: one to hold the walls and another to apply the icing.

6. Don't stress if it doesn't work. Don't stress if it isn't perfect (mine most certainly is not!). It's a fun activity, more than anything. And it's just gingerbread. And you can always eat the ruins!

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