Getting Festive with Gingerbread Houses

Every year at Christmas time, I find myself looking online at all of the amazing gingerbread houses that people create. From elaborate gingerbread mansions to entire gingerbread towns, I just can’t seem to get enough.

Once my eldest daughter was old enough, I decided that it might be fun for us to start our own gingerbread house tradition. Even though I am a pretty good baker, my skills don’t even come close to some of the more exciting creations that I have come across, however I knew that it would be fun to at least try. I was proved right and a new family tradition was born. This year was even more special as my youngest daughter was old enough to participate too (last year she just ate everything).

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Always on the hunt for the perfect gingerbread recipe, I decided to try the Le Creuset gingerbread house recipe and template that I picked up for free in one of their stores. You can also find it on their website.

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That is not a small amount of sugar!

The recipe requires the heating of sugar and so, not wanting to risk severe burns to my little ones, I completed the baking part of the process.

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I am pretty proud of my gingerbread house construction.

I did have two very excited little girls watching my every move though and the cookies had barely had a chance to cool when they were demanding they be allowed to start decorating.

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Our selection of sprinkles, icing and sweets.

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Ready to go.

I managed to hold them back long enough to let me stick the pieces together and then they were ready to go. I gave them a selection of sprinkles and sweets and watched them work. Occasionally I was instructed to pipe some icing when they were battling (like round the windows) however it was so much fun watching their creativity flow.

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I was so proud of the girls when they were done. They have insisted in keeping them until Christmas day so they can show them off to our family and we can, apparently, eat them for pudding. We shall see if they last that long!

 

Gingerbread House recipe
(courtesy of Le Creuset. The PDF template can also be downloaded from their website)

Ingredients:
• 60g butter
• 270g golden syrup
• 420g dark brown sugar
• 1 egg yolk
• 1 whole egg
• 650g cake flour (plus extra, if needed)
• 10ml baking powder
• 15ml ground cinnamon
• 5ml ground cloves
• 5ml ground ginger

For the royal icing:
• 250g sieved icing sugar
• 1 large egg white
• 2,5ml lemon juice

For decoration:
• Roll-out fondant icing (I didn’t use any of this)
• Icing sugar
• Assorted sweets, nuts and chocolates

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 150–160°C. Line the inside of two Le Creuset Rectangular Baking Sheets with cooking spray and greaseproof paper. In a large pot, melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup together and stir continuously until it comes to the boil. Allow to cool (not in the fridge, as it will harden).

2. Place the egg white in a glass container covered with cling film in the fridge for later use in the icing. Beat the eggs together. Sieve the dry ingredients. Add the eggs and ¾ of the flour to the cooled sugar mixture and mix well. On the work surface, knead the dough with the remaining flour until all is incorporated. The dough should be soft but not sticky.

3. Divide into two parts. On greaseproof paper, roll out each portion of dough with about 3–5mm thickness to form two separate gingerbread slabs. The dough should be rolled out fairly quickly as it becomes more difficult to do the longer you take. Lay the house pattern on top.

4. Cut the gingerbread slabs using a sharp bread knife. On the first slab cut out the walls of the house and add the window shapes using free-hand. On the other slab cut out the roof and strips for the chimney. Any excess dough can be used for decorations.

5. Place the pieces into the trays and bake each tray’s contents for 30 minutes, until cooked through. Check the colour of the smaller chimney pieces at 15 minutes. Remove from the oven when ready and allow to cool. If you would prefer a shorter chimney, simply cut to size.

6. Make the royal icing by beating the egg whites until frothy. Add icing sugar a little at a time, then the lemon juice, and beat for at least 8 minutes with an electric beater until stiff. Keep the icing covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. Pipe a strip of icing along each house wall edge and shape together.

7. To make the chimney, cut out two of the 8x4cm blocks using the template. With the first block, cut along the horizontal line and the vertical line for two rectangular pieces. With the second block, cut along the horizontal line and the diagonal lines to create two slanted pieces. Assemble with the long rectangle in front, shorter one at the back, and the diagonal slanted pieces at the sides.

8. Prop up the chimney, roof and sides while they are drying (speed up the drying process by placing the pieces into the oven at a very low temperature for 1 hour). Decorate with roll out fondant icing, candy or anything else you prefer.

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