What could be more Christmassy than gingerbread houses? My sons recently enjoyed decorating their very first houses with a couple of friends and everyone had a blast. It’s really quite easy to whip up your own batch of gingerbread, whether you use it for houses or regular cookies. This recipe uses honey rather than molasses, but you can substitute the dark syrup if you want for a stronger taste.
Makes enough for 4 small gingerbread houses or about 18 cookies
1 c. honey
1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. sugar
4 c. flour
1 Tblsp. allspice
1 Tblsp. ginger
1/2 Tblsp. baking powder
Pre-heat the oven to 250°.
Beat eggs and honey until smooth. Add sugar. Incorporate oil and remaining ingredients and let chill for 6-8 hours. (If you’re in a hurry like I was, just pop the dough into the freezer for an hour or two, until it’s firm).
Roll the dough out to 1/4″ thickness and cut into desired shapes. If you are making gingerbread houses, make your pattern out of cardboard ahead of time. My houses used two pieces that were 3″ square as walls. For the front and back, I used the wall pattern, drawing a peak above it. The roof was a little wider than the peak and about 1/2″ longer than the walls to allow overlap.
When arranging the pieces on a non-stick baking sheet, it helps to even the edges with a rule or they will be wonky as they bake.
Bake at 250° for 15 min. then turn the heat up to 350° for another 30-40 min or until golden brown. The lower baking temp will help set the cookies in the right shape, without warping them. If you need to do two batches, lower the temperature after you take the first batch out. Leave the oven door open for 10 min. to help the heat dissipate and then start with the second batch.
To assemble the gingerbread houses and decorate them, you’ll need royal icing. Now, this traditionally calls for raw egg whites, but you can heat them to be sure that no salmonella is alive in the eggs. If you buy pasturized eggs, don’t worry about the heating step and just mix the sugar and egg whites. Since I live in Guatemala, the eggs here are not very safe and I prefer to heat.
Makes approx. 2 cups
2 egg whites
2 Tblsp. water (if cooking)
2-3 c. icing sugar, sifted
In the top of a double boiler, mix water, egg whites and 6 Tblsp. of sugar. Beat on the low setting of your hand mixer as you heat it. The egg whites need to hit 160° to be safe, so you will need a candy thermometer. The beating will foam everything up, that’s totally normal.
Once the mixture reaches 160°, you can remove the icing from the stove and beat in the remaining sugar until the icing is thick enough to spread.
Now, spread a little on the lower edge of your house front and stick it to a tinfoil covered board. You can prop it there with a can but if you hold it for a minute, it will set as is. Then just use icing to stick the remaining pieces together, holding them in place for a moment. The royal icing sets up very fast when exposed to the air.
Now it’s your turn!
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