My mom and Rod came for Christmas this year for a wonderful visit. They bonded with Violet, we rode the Griffith Park Merry-go-round, went to the beach, cruised along Mullholland – not to mention enjoying two Christmas dinners in a row (one on Christmas eve for the Europeans, one on Christmas day for the Americans and Canadians.) It was sunny and warm all week – what more could you possibly ask for?
How about a homemade gingerbread house made from scratch?
Yes, my mom and I get the Martha Stewart award for the season! Here is our fabulous gingerbread house, with additional credit going to Violet for decorations and to Rod and Richard for heavy construction.
Mom brought along our family gingerbread house bible, this edition of Time Life “Foods of the World” cook books, published in 1969. As you can tell from this picture of how it’s ‘supposed’ to look – we kicked gingerbread house ass!!
Let it be said, it took us three days to get the house completed. The first night we made the gingerbread dough, baked it and cut it into the shapes set out by the template. The next day we decorated the walls and put it together, then the day after that we finished the decorations. Whew! It would likely take a little less time without the help of a 3-year old, but then again if it weren’t for her, we wouldn’t have revived the tradition!
Gingerbread House Recipe:
Please notice the hand-written numbers beside the official recipe numbers. This is because you HAVE to triple the recipe in order to make the whole house. It’s unclear why they don’t just triple the numbers, as presumably anyone following this recipe wants a whole house, not just a foundation or a choice of a couple of walls, but hey – it was the 60’s – maybe they didn’t assume everyone wanted a traditional looking house. Or maybe they were high. But whatever the reason – please use the handwritten numbers if you’re trying this at home. And triple the icing recipe as well.
To make the dough, follow the recipe above and the steps will look like this:
Note the incredibly LARGE size of the popcorn bowl we’re using to mix this dough. Remember there are 18 cups of flour in here alone! Make sure you have a big bowl. Once you have the wet and dry mixed well, the dough will get very stiff, so you’ll have to get in there with your hands. Then press it into high-sided cookie sheets like this:
Then once they are baked, you’ll need to cut out the walls, roof and base while it’s still warm because once it cools, it’s very hard.
Now comes the fun part! You get to decorate the walls before putting the house together, which is by far the most nerve-wracking part. Remember you also have to triple the icing recipe, or you will run out of ‘snow’ WAY too soon.
You don’t have to buy a fancy icing dispenser – you can just fill up a small zip-lock baggie and cut a small hole in the corner for the ‘snow’ / ‘glue’ application. And have fun shopping for a colorful assortment of candy! We were very excited about the ‘natural’ colors we found at the Whole Foods bulk bins.
The important thing when putting the gingerbread house together is to remain calm. The sugar ‘glue’ will dry like a rock eventually, but you do need a bit of patience to hold it together for the few minutes it takes to set. We played it conservative and waited a few hours before putting the roof on.
This last picture shows you the ingenius construction tools we had. Richard sawed off the ends of the roof edges to make it less heavy, and Rod figured out a support system with spice jars and wooden spoons to prop the roof while it dried.
Then we were ready for the final decorations on the roof! Violet’s favorite part:
If you have icing left over, you can keep covering the whole base to make a full blanket of snow which looks great. It’s also useful to wait until the first layer of snow is hardened before you attempt the ‘dripping icicles’ look on the eaves. A few layers with time in between is the best way to achieve this. Voila! You now have an impressive gingerbread house and maybe a new tradition!