Anything with peppermint and chocolate is almost sure to put me in the Christmas spirit. Add a Holiday playlist by Mariah Carey and fresh balsam candle and it is the perfect trifecta. Kind of like Joey, Matt and Andy.
These cookies are easy to eat and even easier to make. I started with the following ingredients, and after three batches of cookies, one batch of frosting, two broken ornaments, four “the world is about going to end” tantrums, one poopy diaper, and three perfectly matched Mariah high notes, the cookies were finished. They were crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. The frosting was thick and creamy with a little bit of a crunch from the candy cane pieces. So, yeah… it was a crispy, chewy, creamy, crunchy, candy cane christmas cookie. I love to alliterate, don’t judge.
I am by no means a professional when it comes to gingerbread houses. However, I have been making them as a tradition every year for about ten years. I have learned first hand what works and what doesn’t. Lucky for you, I have put this knowledge into one easy-to-follow package. No really, this is my gift to you. Everything you need to know. right. here. This would take you hours of research online Pinterest. So congratulations! JUST by finding this post you saved yourself a little extra time so you can do something constructive, like make your neighbor gifts or complete your christmas shopping, orrrrrrr prooooobably just finish season 3 of Scandal with a jar of nutella. You’re welcome.
Follow this step-by-step guide and it will hold your hand and walk you ‘ginger’ly (see what I did there) through the whole process from measuring the template to placing your finished house on the mantle.
Get your inspiration from this video and then get to work!
*Before you start, plan at least two or more different days to work on your house. Trying to do it all in one day is hard!
TEMPLATE 1 (Jack and Jill House)
The following template is for the first picture of the “Jack and Jill” house, this is the house featured in the video above. It is very large.
You will need:
2 Poster boards
I have included a picture of each piece of the template for you to use as a reference to make your own. Note: these are not to scale, do not print them and trace. Use the measurements and draw your own. This way will be easier, considering that these pieces are larger than most printers. It looks confusing and scary, but it’s easier than it looks. If you are having trouble seeing the measurements, click on the image and it will enlarge.
The long top rectangle will be the roof that juts out over the porch, and the three bottom pieces will make up the four sides of the chimney. (cut 2 dough pieces out of the middle piece)
Once you have the size of your house, go to Lowes/Home Depot and have them cut you a piece of cheap wood that is bigger than your house. Mine was 24×17. Paint it white. Or you can use a sturdy large platter. You can use cardboard if your house is smaller. Check the measurements of your house with the wood to make sure it fits with extra room to add fun details to the front yard. Also make sure it fits in/on the place you want to display it.
Template 2 (Snowy Cottage House)
This template will fit on one page, but print it twice so you can fully cut all the pieces out. Trace onto card stock or a manila folder. If you want cut out windows (to fill with “stained glass”) make sure to add them to the template. This house is small and would look beautiful on a cake stand
1 1/4 cups packed dark-brown sugar
3/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/4 cups milk
1 tablespoon baking powder
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
You will need:
Sharp paring knife
*If you are building the “Jack and Jill” house, you will need to double this recipe*
Cream together butter and sugar. Add spices, salt, baking powder and molasses.
Add a portion of flour mix slowly, then add a portion of milk, mix slowly. Repeat this until flour and milk are incorporated.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Dump on floured surface and knead until dough is smooth, no longer than 30 seconds.
Cut into 4 equal parts, wrap 3 of the portions in saran wrap and put in the fridge.
Roll out dough. Fold two sides of the dough inward (like pie crust) and place on a piece of parchment paper. Unfold and touch up a bit with the rolling pin.
Place template on rolled dough and cut with a paring knife. Make sure to do the windows too!
Lift parchment paper by the edges to place the cut-out onto a baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes (you may need to rotate halfway through if your oven cooks unevenly). Hot out of the oven, place template back on top of cooked dough and re-cut any areas the puffed up and have lost their shape.
Slide parchment paper off of cookie sheet and onto a cooling rack with the gingerbread. Once cool, they should be hard.
You will need:
1 cup of sugar
1/3 cup hot water
1/3 cup light corn syrup
Combine ingredients on a saucepan over high heat. Stir until all sugar crystals are dissolved. Without stirring, boil for about 15 minutes, or until it reaches 290 degrees. Its important that it cooks long enough or over time, the windows will melt again. You can add food coloring at the end if you would like. I think blue or yellow would be pretty!
Window Shortcut: If you don’t want to worry about temperatures and such, just buy hard candy in the color of window you want. (Jolly Ranchers or Life savers work well.) You can even use multiple colors and create a stained glass effect. Just take your gingerbread out of the oven a couple minutes early and place the crushed candy in the window holes, put back in the oven to finish baking and it will melt the candy.
This stuff is the strongest “glue” I have EVER worked with. It is 100% worth your time to whip it up. Your other option to assemble the house is the royal icing (you will cry and/or scream if you JUST use icing), or hot glue. I like the idea of everything being edible so I go with sugar glue, plus it works even better than hot glue. Do you think its cool if I fix a couple of my broken dining room chairs with it?? Seriously, it’s that amazing!
Just put about 1 cup of sugar into a shallow saucepan, turn on high and leave it alone. It will start to smoke slightly (that is the idea, it’s burning) but if its too smokey turn down the heat. Once all the sugar has turned to a dark molasses type liquid, stir and use a brush to brush on the edges of pieces that you are going to assemble. Make sure you are assembling on your board or platter/tray of choice. It will cool off quickly, put it back on the burner if it starts to get too tacky to work with.
3 egg whites
1 tsp. cream of tarter
2 lb. bag of powdered sugar
1/4 cup of water
*You will need roughly 3 batches of frosting if building the “Jack and Jill template.
Add room temperature egg whites to bowl with cream of tarter. Beat until foamy. Add powdered sugar and incorporate as you slowly add water. when adding the water it will start turning cement-like. keep pushing frosting down with a spatula IMPORTANT: Beat for 7 minutes or longer, until stiff peaks form. ( when you pull your beater out the peak should be straight up, not bent over). Put into a pastry bag with a large round or star tip.
This is the most exciting part! Before you put any candy on, you want to pipe the icing around all the corners and push and smooth it into the gaps, this will further support your house.
Candy tips: Pick a theme for your candy before you buy. For my “Jack and Jill” house I used blues and yellows with some whites and browns/black. I bought my candy in the bulk section at WinCo. This is a great place as I swear they cater to gingerbread houses! They have so many fun novelties, at a rock bottom price. The christmas “lights” are chocolate covered sunflower seeds, the silver balls are sixlets!
I wanted a more whimsical feel to my “Jack and Jill” house, so I used a lot of candy, as opposed to the “Snow Cottage” house I used more piping details and only one color of candy to give it more of a romantic feel.
Phew!! If you have made it this far congratulations. That was a lot of reading. Just imagine how accomplished you will feel when you actually make the house! So be brave and go for it. I believe in you!