Gingerbread is an awesome holiday tradition for young and old. Honestly, what brings out your inner child more than playing with your food!? You can get in the spirit of the holidays with the recipes below and I highly recommend Christa Currie's "Gingerbread Houses: A Complete Guide to Baking, Building & Decorating." While there are lots of resources out there, Currie's book is simple, small, and doesn't take itself too seriously.
- 1 cup molasses
- 1 cup shortening
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp soda
- 1 TBL cinnamon
- 4-5 cups all-purpose flour
Warm molasses, shortening, and sugar in a large pot on the stove over medium heat until all the shortening is melted and mixture is well-combined. Remove from heat and add salt, soda, and cinnamon. Stir briskly. Place pot on a heat-safe surface or pot holder and slowly stir in a cup of flour at a time until the dough is workable with your hands. The dough should be firm and uniform in color but still soft enough to roll out without crumbling. Wrap half of the dough in plastic wrap to avoid drying. Roll the other half of the dough out on the back of a cookie sheet or sheet pan and cut around your template pieces. Remove the scraps from around your pieces and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. The cooking time will depend on how thick your dough is rolled and how large or small your pieces are. Look for an even reddish color. Once out of the oven, cut around your template pieces again to trim any areas where the dough has spread. If your raw dough gets dry or tough to work with, 10-20 seconds in the microwave will soften it back up.
Gingerbread Frosting "Glue"
- Egg whites
- Lemon juice
- Powdered sugar
This is a flexible recipe for as much or as little glue as you need. Separate as many egg whites as you choose into a mixing bowl. Add 1 tsp lemon juice per egg white and stir to combine. Slowly add sifted powdered sugar half-cup at a time and stir until smooth. I won't lie, it's a LOT of stirring. For gluing the house itself you will want a frosting that is very thick and no longer shiny. I recommend using a 1/4" circle piping tip on a piping bag. You can use a thinner frosting (less powdered sugar) and a smaller tip for decorating once the house is firm.
- When choosing candy to decorate with - stick with candy that all looks good together rather than a little of everything.
- Don't make things too complicated - most of us are not architects or engineers so don't feel like you have to be. You're making a cookie house, it should be fun!
- Embrace the magic of the "happy accident." Things will fall down and go wrong. Laugh, fix it, and eat more candy.