How to make a gingerbread house
Gingerbread has been enjoyed in Britain since the Middle Ages, although the recipe has evolved quite a lot since then! And Queen Elizabeth I would give beautifully crafted figures made from expensive ginger dough to her guests.
Alternative Christmas baking ideas
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Chocolate & chestnut yule log
A festive crowd pleaser
This is a great alternative to Christmas pudding on the big day, or even as a little treat for any guests the night before.
As the spice became more available, gingerbread developed into a popular festive treat across the country and evolved into more of a biscuit texture. The quirky tradition of gingerbread houses became popular in the early 19th Century, after Grimm’s ‘Hansel and Gretel’ tale was published.
Today, making a gingerbread house is something lots of us look forward in the Christmas holidays. It’s a brilliant way to spend time together in the kitchen, and make something pretty awesome at the same time. Here’s how to make the ultimate gingerbread house.
SPICES & AROMATICS
The perfect gingerbread needs to be bursting with spices, filling your home with festive aromas and Christmas joy. The gentle hum of cinnamon, subtle warmth of nutmeg and allspice, and a fiery kick of ginger all join together to make the ultimate gingerbread.
Nutmeg: The hard nutmeg seed is ground or grated and used in both sweet and savoury recipes. It is fragrant, warming and very slightly sweet.
Ginger: Sharper than some other spices, ginger has a powerful heat to it, as well as powerful citrus flavours which go brilliantly with more earthy spices.
Cinnamon: Distinctively warming, cinnamon spice comes from the dried bark of the cinnamon tree. It’s gentle and really aromatic.
Allspice: Small, dried berries that look a bit like peppercorns – allspice got its name because it was thought to taste like a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves together.
- 4 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons treacle
- 160g muscovado
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 200g unsalted butter
- 1 orange
- 460g plain flour, plus extra
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 free-range egg whites
- 500g icing sugar
- Sweets and edible glitter, to decorate
- Put a small saucepan on a low heat, add the maple syrup, treacle, sugar, ginger and cinnamon with 4 tablespoons of water and combine with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the mixture boils.
- Carefully take the pan off the heat, then cube up and add the butter, saving 1 piece. Let it all melt in, stirring to combine, then grate in the orange zest.
- Stir in the flour and baking powder until everything comes together as a dough – if it’s very sticky, dust it with flour, then wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
ROLLING THE DOUGH
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Grease a baking tray with the reserved butter. Dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour, then roll the dough out to about 5mm thick. Using a sharp knife, cut out pieces for your house.
MEASURING YOUR GINGERBREAD
You’ll need six pieces in three different shapes, downloadable here.
Sides: 20cm x 14cm
Roof: 21cm x 7cm
Gable ends: 10cm (base) x 14cm (outer sides) x 18cm (apex).
- Any scraps can be pressed together and rolled out for the next pieces. Place your house pieces onto the tray, leaving a 1cm gap between them. Bake in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden and slightly darker around the edges. Let the gingerbread cool completely before icing.
- Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks then, while whisking, gradually mix in the icing sugar till you have a dense stiff meringue. Use this to glue your gingerbread pieces together.
HOW TO DECORATE A GINGERBREAD HOUSE
Attach sweets and chocolate buttons, using icing as glue, then very lightly dust with glitter for sparkly snow. Alternatively, try using dried fruits, Christmas nuts, candied peel, piped melted chocolate and orange zest for something different.
HOW TO STORE YOUR GINGERBREAD HOUSE
If you want to get ahead on your gingerbread house, make your dough, roll it out in the dimensions you need, then freeze it. Once frozen, wrap the pieces individually in clingfilm and bundle them together, then you can unwrap and bake straight from frozen when you need to.
Once baked, your gingerbread house will be good to eat for about 5 days.
If you’re not ready to go straight into a gingerbread house, why not practice by making Jools’ gingerbread men:
Discover Jamie’s ultimate recipes for all the festive classics in Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Book , on sale now. And take a look at the Christmas Hub for ideas for everything from cocktails, and edible gifts to special diet recipes and tasty leftovers.
How to Make a Christmas Gingerbread House
Assembling and decorating a gingerbread house is one of the sweetest traditions of the season. With our tested recipes, easy-to-follow template, and decorating suggestions, it&aposs not so difficult — just gather your supplies, get creative, and have some fun!
You&aposll want to give yourself several days to make a typical gingerbread house from scratch so you&aposll have time to make, cut, and bake the dough to assemble the house and let it dry and finally to decorate.
Follow recipe directions to make, cut, and bake your gingerbread house pieces. To ensure they&aposre truly firm enough to build with, you can leave them in your oven as it cools to give them extra time to dry out.
Visualize the "yard." Will you have a walkway? Trees? A fence? Or you might like to set the house at an angle instead of squared up.
- Start by laying the panels down on the base with the four corners touching, as though the house was flattened from the inside out. That forms a rectangle where the house will stand when the panels are put together. Trace the rectangle with a line of royal icing. This helps the panels meet at right angles when you "glue" them together, and provides extra stability.
- To assemble, you&aposll use royal icing to "glue" a side panel to the back panel. Stand up a side panel in the line of royal icing you traced along its base. Apply a generous amount of icing to the vertical edge that will touch the back panel.
- Stand up the back panel in the line of royal icing you traced along its base, so the back panel and and the side panel meet and are held together by icing . Hold in place until the icing firms up. (You can use a hair dryer on the "cool" setting to help speed things along.) Use cans and cartons to support the panels while they dry.
- Attach the second side panel to the back panel as in step 3, and support it until it firms up. Attach the front panel. Use cans and cartons to support the panels until they dry completely overnight is ideal, but depending on temperature and humidity, your royal icing might dry faster.
- When the royal icing has dried rock-hard, you can attach the roof, one piece at a time. (Remove any cans/cartons from inside the house before attaching the roof.) Let the house dry completely before decorating — a minimum of 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
This video for Children&aposs Gingerbread House will take you through the steps — note that you&aposll use the template above to cut out the pieces.
Have a plan for decorating. Think about how you want your house to look and what candy should go where.
- Save time and make accessory items ahead of time: snowmen, trees, carts, candles, and fences can be made while you&aposre waiting for the house to dry.
- Apply candy decorations by putting a small dab of icing to the underside of the candy and holding it in place until set.
- Use extra dough scraps for decorative cut-outs.
- Keep the tip of your pastry bag covered with a damp cloth in between decorating to prevent hardening.
- Use tweezers to adhere small items to the house. You may need super glue to adhere top-heavy items, like lamp posts.
- Allow a weekend to complete the house.
- Read all instructions before you begin: you will need to double the gingerbread recipe to have enough dough.
- Allow the baked gingerbread to cool thoroughly before assembling.
- Make royal icing ahead of time and keep covered with plastic wrap touching the surface of the icing at all times to prevent it from drying out.
- Adjust the consistency of the icing by adding more egg whites if the icing is too dry or more powdered sugar if it is too wet. It should be thick and stiff.
Icing is too stiff. Add a bit of water, one teaspoon at a time, mixing thoroughly until the icing loosens up a bit. You don&apost want it too loose, otherwise it takes a very long time to dry.
Icing is too loose. Add a bit more powdered sugar.
House doesn&apost look picture-perfect. Don&apost worry you&aposll be able to fill gaps and cover errors later with more icing and decorations. A fool-proof assembly method, if you&aposre not going to eat the gingerbread, is to use a glue gun. And remember, perfection is overrated.
I Made a Gingerbread House For Squirrels and They Absolutely Loved It
Holiday decorating is easily the most joyous pastime of the season (besides, of course, eating all the food), but every year I discover that the adorable gingerbread house I’ve spent lots of money and candy on ends up thrown in the trash, untouched. So, because it’s 2020 and every part of the holiday season is looking a bit different, I decided to try making a gingerbread house with a totally new approach. That’s right—I made a “gingerbread” house for squirrels.
Not only did I see this as a fun challenge to my food styling creativity (using only their favorite woodland treats to build it), but I also thought it would make a cute outdoor decoration. Turns out, I had just as much fun watching the squirrels nibbling on it as they had devouring it. If you ever want to make a wildlife-friendly gingerbread house for your own furry neighbors — which I𠆝 highly recommend — I’ll share exactly how I did it.
As much as I wanted to make this structure out of real gingerbread, I knew flour and sugar were not part of a well-rounded squirrel diet, so I opted for a wooden house as my starting point instead. I found this adorable wooden bird cottage at Hobby Lobby and attached it to a sturdy wooden base using wood glue. I also drilled a few holes in the corners of the base, allowing me to stake the house into the ground once it was finished.
Next up, the main event: decor! I gathered all the seeds, nuts, and dried fruits I could find in the grocery store, trying to have as much variety in shape and color as possible. That left me with raisins, dried cranberries, dried cherries, dried blueberries, coconut, pistachios, pecans, almonds, walnuts, dried corn, sunflower seeds, and a few different kinds of bird seed.
I should also mention, this project required a WHOLE LOT of peanut butter, which is what I used as my glue.
After that, let your creativity take it from there! I used a spatula to spread the peanut butter over whatever section of the house I was working on, then covered it with my edible supplies. There’s really no wrong way to go about it—squirrels don’t judge. But, insider tip: shredded coconut makes a great faux snow effect.
Then, put your house outside and watch as the squirrels enjoy your holiday gift. Or, just watch above to see what they did to mine. Happy Holidays!
Karsten Moran for The New York Times
Orange and lemon zests make this recipe, from Bill Yosses, the former White House pastry chef, especially delicious, if you plan on eating your gingerbread house (and you can, even weeks after baking). But feel free to leave them out. We strongly recommend using a scale here. It will make it much easier to accurately measure the ingredients and to evenly divide the dough. This recipe, for the house's building blocks, is large, and it makes enough for the project featured in our How to Make a Gingerbread House guide. But as the instructions state, you'll want to make it in two batches, since it's too big for the average stand mixer. Note that you'll want to bake your gingerbread at least a few days before assembling the house, to give the slabs time to harden, and set aside a few hours for decoration and assembly. &mdashJulia Moskin
- 1 pound/454 grams unsalted butter (4 sticks), at cool room temperature
- 2 ½ cups plus 3 tablespoons/595 grams dark brown sugar
- 12 ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons/1,648 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 heaping tablespoons/15 grams ground ginger
- 2 heaping tablespoons/15 grams ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs, at room temperature
- 2 cups molasses
- Zest of 2 lemons (optional)
- Zest of 2 oranges (optional)
- Make half of the batch: In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together half the butter and half the sugar for 5 minutes, until fluffy. Scrape down sides.
- Meanwhile, sift together the dry ingredients — the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt — and set aside half.
- With mixer running at low speed, add two eggs, one at a time. Mix in 1 cup molasses. Scrape down bowl.
- In 3 batches, add half the dry ingredients, mixing just to combine. To prevent any flour from flying out, make sure the mixer is off when adding each batch, and drape a towel over it when mixing. Mix in zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange.
- Pull dough out of mixer, and wrap in plastic wrap, or transfer to a resealable plastic bag. Repeat Steps 1 to 5 to make the remaining dough. Refrigerate overnight.
- When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Roll out dough: For each square, weigh out about 20 ounces of dough. The goal is to end up with five 9-inch squares, so you’ll roll them out a bit larger, bake them and trim off the edges.
- Lightly dust a large piece of parchment paper with flour. Place the chilled dough on top. Roll side to side and up and down to make a rough square shape. While you roll, make frequent quarter-turns so that the dough remains even.
- Roll until dough is about 10 by 10 inches and a generous 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. (Any dough left after the squares have been prepared can be rolled out 1/4-inch thick and used for cookies.) In the oven, the slab will rise to about 3/8- or 1/2-inch thickness, which will make the house extra sturdy.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until even and firmly set. Place pans on racks to cool. To prevent bending and cracking, carefully transfer to racks by lifting parchment paper. When completely cool, stack the slabs, still on parchment, and set aside to dry out at room temperature for 3 to 7 days. (When ready to assemble, see How to Make a Gingerbread House guide for full instructions.)
How to Make a Gingerbread House
Gingerbread houses are fun to make and a chance to use your creative abilities. The different types of houses that can be made are only limited to your imagination. It is especially popular at holiday times and can be a fun activity for the kids. It is fun for them to be able to use their imaginations when it comes to decorating. Making a gingerbread house is a project that generally takes a couple of days to accomplish. It is best to construct the house first and decorate it another day. The house can be constructed and then stored and decorated several days later, depending on your schedule. Be sure to allow plenty of time when constructing and decorating so that you are able to enjoy the experience.
Making a Gingerbread House with Kids
Making a gingerbread house is especially popular at holiday times and can be a lot of fun for the kids. It is fun for them to be able to use their imaginations when it comes to decorating. Listed below are some suggestions on how to make the experience of making a gingerbread house a fun activity when working with kids.
- Using a gingerbread house kit will reduce the amount of time before the kids can get started decorating. Sometimes waiting for the house to be baked and constructed can make the kids overly anxious and cause stress for everyone.
- If you are working with fairly young kids and are constructing a house from scratch you may want to limit how much they help with the baking and constructing. They will have a tendency to get bored with these activities and by the time the house is ready for decorating they may be tired of the whole project.
- When working with older children, try to give them jobs you know they can handle so they don't get frustrated if something goes wrong. Also, prepare yourself for the fact that everything may not turn out perfect.
- Take your time! Bake the pieces one day, construct the house another day, and decorate on a third day. Make sure when you do work on it that you have plenty of time and are not going to be rushed. If you don't have time to construct the house on the day immediately following the baking of it, then wait for a day that you will have time. The baked pieces can wait to be constructed. The same holds true for when it comes to decorating.
- PAINT SHIRTS! Save yourself from the laundry blues by using paint shirts for each of the kids, especially when using food coloring, chocolate, and other candies that leave stains.
- When it is time to decorate, be sure everyone is well rested and that you have plenty of time. You may want to try to work out a simple plan with the kids on how they want to decorate and maybe give different jobs to each child. But, just remember that the best made plans don't always work the way we intend them to. Don't be surprised when the kids get bored with the whole project and you are left to finish.
- Give the kids the freedom to use their imaginations and HAVE FUN!
Making the Gingerbread House
A gingerbread house can be constructed using many different styles, from very simple to very elaborate. It is best to keep it simple for your first try to allow yourself a chance to become familiar with some of the techniques and to find out what works best for you. There are many different recipes for the gingerbread itself, which are very similar to the recipes used for gingerbread men but the recipes for the gingerbread houses generally contain more flour for stability. Royal icing is generally used as the glue to hold the house together and is also used for decorating. The icing can be tinted to different colors and candies, sprinkles, and colored sugar can be used for additional decorations. The content below contains basic information on how to make a simple gingerbread house.
Baking the Gingerbread Dough
- 6 c. flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tsp. ginger
- 4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 c. light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 c. butter, softened
- 2 eggs
- 1 c. molasses
- 1 tbsp. water
- Add in the eggs, molasses, and water to the brown sugar and butter mixture. Beat until well incorporated.
- Add half of the dry ingredients and beat into the mixture until evenly mixed.
- Add the remaining dry ingredients and stir into the dough by hand. Stir only until ingredients are evenly mixed. If the dough is not stiff add a little more flour.
- While the dough is chilling it is a good time to cut out the pattern for your gingerbread house if you don't already have it cut. Cut the pattern out of thick paper or cardboard. Cardboard works best because of its stability.
- Mark the different pieces with the number that you need to cut of each and any other notes in regard to cutting the pieces, such as whether or not to cut out windows and doors on all pieces.
- After the dough is chilled, remove one package from the refrigerator and place it on a work surface lined with parchment paper or wax paper.
- Lightly sprinkle the dough with flour and then roll out into a rectangle with a lightly floured rolling pin until the dough is 1/4 inch thick.
- Use the cardboard templates to cut out the pattern pieces in the dough. Leave at least one inch in between the different sections. Place as many pieces as you can fit on the dough.
- Carefully cut the dough along all the edges of the pattern pieces and cut the outlines for the windows and door. Be sure to apply enough pressure to cut through the dough but you do not want to be cutting through the parchment paper.
- Cut out the pieces that will fit on this piece of dough and then peel away the unwanted areas.
- Gather the scrap pieces to roll out again to cut more pieces. After peeling off all the unwanted sections, touch up any rough edges by using the blade of the knife to smooth or pat into shape.
- When the pieces are ready, lift the parchment paper up and transfer it to a cookie sheet.
- If the baked pieces have spread during baking, lay the pattern pieces over them and trim them to the size of the pattern. It is best to do this while the gingerbread is still warm to help prevent the pieces from cracking. When the pieces are warm, they are softer and easier to cut. Be sure to place them on a flat solid surface when trimming.
- After doing any necessary trimming, place them on a cooling rack. Allow them to cool completely before you begin constructing the gingerbread house.
- If the pieces have cooled before you trim them, use a serrated edge knife and cut using a sawing motion to help prevent breakage.
- Cut the remaining pattern pieces from the other section of dough and bake in the same manner.
Alternative Methods for Making a Gingerbread House
|Decorating Icing (& glue for constructing)|