It's Christmas. Time to decorate. This year, I decided to host a kid gingerbread house making party. Yikes! I admit, preparing five homes was an insane amount of work. But one is totally doable. And, hey, your kid will be so proud; so will you.
After experimenting with a few doughs, I landed on one that's sturdy enough for construction (note, there's no egg) yet satisfies my incorrigible sweet tooth.
What you'll need:
1. Food coloring paste (paste won't thin out your egg white mixture)
2. Cookie making ingredients (see below; though in a pinch you can make mini homes with graham crackers).
3. Piece of cardboard to set your house on. (Pizza boxes are perfect.)
4. Quart size sealable freezer bags. For piping the egg white paste.
5. Hard stock paper (cardboard or photo paper), for making stencils.
6. Lots of candy - Necco wafers (roof tiles), Twizzlers (chimney), Smooth & Melty mints, M&Ms, mini candy canes, Skittles, candy cane mint rounds (walkway), yogurt-covered pretzels (fence), gumdrops, tree gumdrops (shrubs), large marshmallows (snowmen), Hershey's bar (shutters)...
7. A few cookie cutters: gingerbread man, tree, snowman (for decorating around the house).
For the house:
3½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine salt
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
1 tablespoon vinegar (cider or white wine vinegar)
For the tacky paste:
5 egg whites
2 (1 pound) boxes confectioners’ sugar,
1. Over a large bowl or piece of wax paper, sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
2. In a mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter rapidly for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes more. Scrape the sides of the bowl again. Beat in the molasses and vinegar until fluffy, about 1 minute more. On low speed, add the flour mixture, a little at a time, stirring until just combined.
3. Divide dough in half. Flatten, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until hard, about 1 hour. Roll dough between two sheets of plastic wrap to between 1/8 to 3/16-inch-thick and chill for at least 30 minutes, preferably more.
4. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut gingerbread house or gingerbread men from dough (See stencil NOTES below). Work quickly as the dough softens fast. Rechill and reroll dough as needed. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until firm to touch, about 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Once cool, use a serrated knife to reshape the gingerbread to the size of your original stencils (place the stencils over the hard cookies and with a sawing motion, cut through the cookie).
5. Make the paste: using a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the whites until frothy. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar. You want the paste to hold the line of your finger when you place it through it. Distribute egg white paste among small bowls and add food coloring, as desired.
6. Transfer white or colored egg white pastes to pastry bags or quart size sealable freezer bags. Snip the tip with scissor. You’re ready to assemble. (See notes below.)
A. Using heavy stock paper, carve the following stencils:
One 5¾ by 4¾ inch rectangle [roof]
One 2½ by 4 inch rectangle [sides of house]
One 2½ by 4 inch rectangle plus a triangle above it (4 by 4½ by 4½ inch) [front or back of house]
One 1 1/8 by ½ by 1 inch triangle under 1 by ½ inch rectangle [chimney]
B. Use stencils to carve out raw cookie dough
Place the stencils over the raw rolled-out dough. Make sure to cut 2 of each (roof, sides, front- back of house, and chimney).
C. Use stencil again to reshape the cookies
Once the cookies are fully cooled and hard, use a serrated knife and saw through the hard cookie following the lines of the stencils to reshape.
D. Add food coloring to egg white paste
Add Wilton food coloring (not watery ones) to the egg white paste to create colors. Glue with plain white paste, decorate with colored ones.
E. Use a large piece of cardboard for the base of the gingy house
You can cover it with egg white paste to create snow. Spread the paste flat and evenly across the bottom.
F. Decorate the house pieces first
Let them harden and dry, and then attach the house. Use plenty of paste. And keep the edges of each house side clear of candies (they could be in the way when you glue the sides together).