We have been making a Gingerbread House as a annual tradition in our house for about 16 years. We’ve used the same Gingerbread Cookies recipe, and it’s delicious and stays tender and soft for quite a few weeks. This tradition started out simple, as my husband remembered making gingerbread houses with his family growing up. Over the years, he has taken this to the extreme and we have so much fun with it. The process to make the house takes weeks. First, we have to come up with the idea of what we want for that year. This year, we decided on the Christmas Vacation Griswold House. This is a family favorite movie this time of year, usually one of the first movies we watch.
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Once we decide on our theme, he draws up the house on graph paper and then makes templates for the structure. This house included 55 pieces and is quite large, it takes up our entire platter. He also designed the RV that cousin Eddie and Katherine bring to visit with the Griswold family. The next step is to determine how many batches of gingerbread will be needed to make the house. He decided on four batches this year, but we used almost an entire batch on cookies. One night during the week is spent making batch after batch of dough. This goes into the refrigerator until the next night where he spends hours cutting and baking the pieces for the house. Another full night is spent assembling the house. At this point, it is ready for the family to come and decorate.
Our entire family brings candy to contribute to the decorating and we end up with a table full of variety. We’ve discovered candies that are really popular, those that aren’t so great for the house, and new things to try each year. We make many batches of Royal Icing of have them placed all around the table. We have a few basic rules and we have a lot of people involved at one time and a lot of different ages of participants. The number one rule is you cannot undo anything someone else has done. You can add, work around, and do whatever you want. This way no one gets their feelings hurt, but also, we have the most creative ideas come forward due to the “you can do whatever” rule. We are never going to win awards for the prettiest houses or the most organized, but they are original, beautiful, cherished and fun. We all love this tradition and it’s truly a gift my husband gives to our entire family.
Now, I’m not going to claim that making the Gingerbread House the way we do it is “simple”, but it is memorable and a true family tradition. However, making one batch of delicious Gingerbread Cookies or making a smaller scale house can be quite simple and I encourage you to make your own tradition and give this recipe a try. I would love to see what you come up with, so post a comment and let me see your creations!
Gingerbread Cookies Recipe
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 Tbs. ground ginger
- 4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp. allspice
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 16 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsulfured molasses
- 1 egg
- 3 egg whites, at room temperature
- 4 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
- Pinch of salt
Have all the ingredients at room temperature.
Over a sheet of parchment paper, sift together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on medium-high speed until fluffy and pale yellow, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the brown and granulated sugars and beat for 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low and add the molasses, beating until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the egg and beat until combined, about 30 seconds.
Add the flour mixture in 4 additions, beating in each addition before adding more. Beat just until combined, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Using floured hands, form the dough into a smooth mound and divide into 4 equal portions. Shape each into a disk and wrap separately with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.
Place racks in the top third and bottom third of an oven and preheat to 400°F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
Remove 1 dough disk at a time from the refrigerator and let stand for 10 minutes. On a floured surface, roll out dough to a thickness of 1/4 to 3/8 inch.
Dip a cookie cutter into flour and cut out cookies and transfer to the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough, re-rolling scraps to cut out additional cookies.
Bake the cookies until edges are set and lightly browned on the bottom, rotating pans 180 degrees and from top to bottom halfway during baking, 8 to 10 minutes total. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks and let the cookies cool completely on the baking sheets. Decorate the cookies as desired with colored sugars, decorating pens and royal icing.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, confectioners' sugar, cream of tartar and salt on medium-low speed until blended. Add the vanilla or lemon juice, increase the speed to medium-high, and continue beating until stiff peaks form and the mixture is nearly triple in volume, 7 to 8 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover tightly with plastic wrap and store at room temperature until ready to use, up to 6 hours.
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