This is the first time in my entire life that I have made a Gingerbread House. Ever. I know - even Jill didn't believe me when I told her. Apparently she's made several over the years. Humph.
In honor of our adventure here in Massachusetts I wanted to make the house just like our house here in Concord - a cozy little Cape Cod. I love how it turned out - dormer windows, evergreen garland and all!
I have to say, I have a lot of respect for anyone that has made a gingerbread house before... it was tougher than I'd anticipated! Mike helped me assemble it - and let's just say, it is not like the pieces fit together like a snug puzzle. I had to keep reminding myself that it was a cookie, not a carpentry project. Small gaps and holes in the seams (and one cracked wall...) were not that big of a deal. It is a cookie!
Here is my photo documentation of the entire process. I used Martha Stewart's recipe for the gingerbread dough. It is different than a typical cookie dough- tougher with very little rise in the baking, which is important because you don't want the pieces of dough to change shape or size.
I created templates of all of the pieces I'd need. Measuring and cutting straight lines are very important.
Here are all of my pieces ready to go.
I highly recommend rolling the dough out onto your silpat baking liners or parchment paper, then placing that liner or paper directly onto the baking sheet. If you roll out the dough onto the counter, then try to move it, your cut outs will distort and change size and shape. Even the smallest difference can mean a big hole in your house!
I rolled the dough out onto the silpat, then cut around my template. I put the silpat directly onto a baking sheet, then into the oven.
After the cookies had baked and cooled, I decorated them with royal icing. I learned something new, again. I would have thought the decorating should be done after assembled, but it was so much easier to make straight lines on the pieces before they were put together as a house.
These are the front and the back pieces. I did a trial run on the back so it would be perfect for the front. I knew that where I planned to display the house - no one would see the back! I modeled the door off of some of the colonial homes we saw in Deerfield, Ma. a few weeks ago.
The sides. I think the 'snow' in the windows adds some personality to the home.
I shingled the roof pieces with a 'brick' pattern. The two dormer windows got a snow swept look, too.
These were the other pieces that I needed for the dormers... they were a little complicated to create!
I used little pieces of cedar greenery to create a garland around the front door. I attached it with my Royal Icing 'glue'.
What a cozy little cottage! Now for the snow...
I made a small batch of Swiss Meringue to create pillowy snow drifts around the house. I put the meringue in a pastry bag, then cut a very large hole to pipe it out of.
4 egg whites
1 cup of sugar
1 pinch of cream of tarter
In the top bowl of a double boiler (glass bowl sitting on a sauce pan with simmering water), whisk together egg whites, sugar and cream of tarter. Cook mixture in the double boiler over medium low heat for 3-5 minutes, or until sugar has dissolved. If you rub the mixture between your fingers, you should be able to tell if the sugar has dissolved.
Transfer the mixture to your kitchen aid fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on high for 7-10 minutes. The mixture will cool and froth into a thick meringue as it whips.
I tried to make it look wind blown and natural.
I LOVE meringue.
Finally, I sprinkled powdered sugar on the meringue and the house for that 'fresh' dusted snow look!
Do you dare try to make a gingerbread house this year? What are your secrets and tips!?