Making a Gingerbread House: The Process Is Everything
Making the dough and the pattern pieces, rolling out the dough and baking the pieces, assembling the parts, and decorating the houses required several gatherings.
The real fun is in working together to complete each step necessary to create a gingerbread house from scratch.
These are the directions we used when building a gingerbread house with a little friend. I hope these are helpful if you want to make your own gingerbread house!
NOTE: How you measure the flour matters when you have 6 cups of it. Fluff up the flour in the container slightly, measure it out using a cup, and then level it with a rough knife. Never squish or compact the flour in the cup.
Pets should not be allowed near the gingerbread home while it is being built or decorated, if you have any. Adults and kids who aren’t helping create gingerbread houses should be warned to stay away from the structure as well!
The dough for the gingerbread house
- More flour for rolling the dough, and 6 cups (828g) of all-purpose flour (see recipe note)
- A half-teaspoon of baking powder
- 4 tablespoons ginger root, ground
- 4 teaspoons of cinnamon powder
- Ground cloves or allspice, 1/2 teaspoon
- 1/2 teaspoons of salt
- 170g (about 3/4 cup) of softened butter
- Light brown sugar, packed, in 1 1/2 cups (284g)
- 2 huge eggs
- 1 cup molasses, dark
- 1 teaspoon of water
For the royal icing
- 2 substantial egg whites
- Split into 2 2/3 cups of powdered sugar
- In-line mixer
- Bag for piping or freezer bag
Make the gingerbread dough
- Blend the spices and flour
Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and allspice in a big bowl. Place aside.
- Create the mixture of molasses, butter, sugar, and eggs
Beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until frothy and well combined. To thoroughly blend, beat in the eggs, molasses, and water.
- Mix the dry and wet components together, then knead the dough
Until fully combined and smooth, beat half of the flour mixture into the molasses mixture. When the remaining flour has been thoroughly incorporated and a soft, cohesive dough has formed, add it. Continue mixing.
To make the dough smooth and well-combined, turn the dough out onto a work surface that has been lightly dusted with flour and knead it by hand 5 or 6 times. More flour should be added if the dough is too soft.
- The dough is divided, wrapped, and chilled
The dough should be divided in half, formed into disks, and wrapped in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for at least two hours and ideally all night.
You have up to three days to prepare it. Before rolling out, let sit for at least 10 minutes at room temperature.
Create the pieces for the gingerbread house
- Make the pattern pieces, then cut them out
Cutting out pieces of cardboard or stiff paper will allow you to make a gingerbread house pattern. I use cardboard since you can easily build a home model out of the pieces and it is practically as thick as the gingerbread house sections will be.
- Prepare the cookie sheets and oven
Oven rack should be in the center when it is preheated to 350 degrees. Prepare a number of flat cookie sheets, preferably ones you are confident won’t distort when heated in the oven.
- Spread the dough out
On a sizable flat surface, spread parchment paper to be used for rolling. Flour the paper just a little bit.
Roll out the dough to an even 1/4 inch thickness while working with one portion of the dough at a time and a rolling pin. When rolling out the dough, sprinkle it with a little flour and watch for sticking.
Dust with more flour if it begins to adhere to your rolling pin or the surface you are using to roll it. You might want to freeze the rolled-out dough for an hour before cutting out the patterns if it is particularly soft.
- Shape-cut the dough using the pattern pieces
Sprinkle some flour on the dough’s surface and rub it in. As many pattern pieces as will fit on the dough should be placed there. Cut out the pattern pieces from the dough using a small, sharp knife while frequently cleaning the blade’s surface clean.
To cut the parchment paper, you might need to use scissors, depending on how soft the dough is. Put the dough pieces with the paper immediately on the cookie sheets after cutting out the patterns from the dough and parchment.
The dough pieces may need to be moved to a greased baking sheet using a broad metal spatula if parchment paper is not being used.
On the baking sheet, space the pieces one inch away from one another. Push the dough pieces back into shape if they begin to stretch while being transferred.
You have the option of cutting out a door and/or window(s) now or after baking, as soon as the pieces have been taken out of the oven and the cookies are still warm.
Bake in a 350°F oven for 11–15 minutes for large pieces and 6–8 minutes for tiny pieces, or until the edges are just starting to color.
For more equal browning, rotate the cookie sheets halfway through baking. After around 15 minutes, remove the sheets to racks to cool.
- When the pieces are heated, trim them
Lay the pattern pieces over the warm pieces while they are still slightly warm, then use a broad, straight chef’s knife to trim off any portions that have cooked beyond the pattern. Remove the pieces and let them cool completely on racks.
Make the royal icing
- How to make royal icing
1 1/3 cups of powdered sugar and the egg whites should be smoothed together in a bowl.
- Add additional granulated sugar, and whip to stiff peaks
To the sugar egg mixture, add the remaining 1 1/3 cups of powdered sugar. Beat the icing at a high speed with an electric mixer until it forms stiff peaks. Add more powdered sugar if firm peaks don’t form.
- Put a clean, wet towel over the royal icing bowl
As you work with the icing, keep this cloth over it to keep it from drying out.
- Using a pastry bag or a cut freezer bag, pipe the icing
Fill a pastry bag with the icing when you’re ready to mortar or decorate. If you don’t have a pastry bag, you may make one by cutting off the tip (a small cut) of one of the corners of a resealable plastic freezer bag. In supermarkets, you may get plastic or metal piping tips that you can also use with a freezer bag for more precise piping.
Utilizing royal icing as mortar, construct the house
This is why having more than two people working on a house is so helpful and why creating a gingerbread house with others is so much more enjoyable than doing it by yourself. Grab some canned goods from the cupboard and use them to support the pieces while the icing mortar dries if you’re working on this project alone.
- Choose and prepare a base
Choose a robust foundation for your gingerbread house, such as a flat baking sheet or a piece of thick, durable cardboard. You can line the base with wax paper or aluminum foil if you’d like.
- Royal icing is used as a mortar for the house’s sides
Along the short end of one of the side pieces, pipe a thick line of icing. The edge of the front or back pieces should be pressed against the iced side piece.
Hold in place until the icing has partially set, perhaps a few minutes. Continue by using the opposite side piece. If needed, use cans as a support.
Repeat with the remaining front/back piece and the other short edges of the side pieces.
To fill in any gaps and to add more stability, pipe icing along the house’s seams on the inside and the outside. Where the house meets the foundation, pipe icing along the edges.
Before attempting to add the roof pieces, let the mixture sit for at least an hour.
When dealing with what are essentially cookies, it’s easy for portions of the gingerbread house pattern to shatter, but you can probably fix them.
We neglected to remove the door and window from my house until the front piece had almost finished cooling. The component broke when I was attempting to make the cuts. Fortunately, using royal icing, it was simple to put everything back together.
We even made a cardboard “splint” and attached it on the object with royal icing. Before utilizing the piece to build a house, allow it to fully harden. No one will notice the broken seam if you pipe icing directly over it when it’s time to decorate.
- Royal frosting on the roof with mortar
You can start working on the roof as soon as the royal icing has sufficiently dried to make the basic construction sturdy. The front, back, and two sides of the structure’s upper edges are pipe-iced.
The rectangular components that make up the roof. The long sides of the rectangle should run along the top of the house as you assemble the roof parts.
In order to install the roof pieces on the house simultaneously and ensure that they meet easily at the top center and stretch slightly outward to produce an overhang at either end, it helps if two people are working together.
As soon as the roof parts are sufficiently secured to prevent sliding off when your hands are removed, hold them there gently for a few minutes.
Extra frosting should be piped along the house’s top seam. Before decorating, let the house sit for at least an hour and ideally 8 hours.
- Royal icing is used to mortar the chimney
Because of the angle of the roof, determining the chimney’s measurements can be a little challenging.
The small pieces may need to be cut with a chef’s knife, and you may need to change the angles of the pieces to make them better fit the roof, even though you may have cut your chimney according to a blueprint.
The chimney should be put together first, upside down, and independent of the home. With royal icing, pipe the pieces together, then allow the glue to dry completely.
After that, flip the chimney over and use piped royal icing to secure it to the roof. This can be done either right away (1 hour after assembly), or later, when decoration is taking place.