Come in for a bite...
Now that the air has turned a little bit crisper, it's time for gingerbread! I am also up to the letter G in my A to Z cookie quest, so it all worked out nicely.
Building a gingerbread house is a unique process. It's fun to put the concept together, work out the design, purchase all the accents, do the baking, assemble and then surprise yourself that it's actually staying together. Then after it's all completed, the question is: now what? How long to leave it on display? Do we eat it or give it away?
As is typical of all my projects, I had a few shaky moments. The right side roof started to bow inward when I was decorating. After baking, I had put all the pieces back in the oven for a while at 200 degrees to make them really dry and hard...but that last piece of roof only really got 1 hr in the oven and it remained a tiny bit soft. To make this bowing less obvious, I put the ghost peeps on the roof, cutting them so that they appear to be popping through the roof. That's the beauty of the gingerbread house: creativity in decorating can cover most problems.
There are a ton of gingerbread recipes out there, some more complicated than others. I saw some with eggs, some with whipping cream...I used a recipe from Cooks.com which worked out pretty well for me. I made 1.5 batches for the house you see above. I ended up having to do the front wall 2xs (the first one collapsed me when trying to get it off the baking sheet), so it's helpful to have a little extra.
Gingerbread recipe for Gingerbread House (http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,173,156176-249195,00.html)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar (I always buy dark)
1/2 cup molasses (I like Grandma's Dark Molasses)
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup water
Cream butter and sugar. Beat in molasses. Blend all dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Alternately blend dry ingredients and water into the butter/sugar mixture. The dough will become too stiff for the electric mixer, so the final addition of dry ingredients will need to be blended in by hand. Work dough until smooth in consistency.
When dough is easy to work with, you can roll it out. If you refrigerate the dough (as I did), give it 3 hrs to come to room temp so it can be easily rolled out.
You can either create your own house template using cardboard, or you can download one from the internet. I got my template from www.kingarthurflour.com.
Key step to make sure your gingerbread is sturdy enough to assemble:
After baking, leave pieces in the oven for about 4 hours (or over night) at 200 degrees. This will make the pieces solid and dry (like bricks).