Category Archives: Gingerbread Houses

Making a Gingerbread House 3: Home Improvement

It’s human nature to never be quite satisfied with your home. Most of us would like more space, perhaps more light in the key living areas and of course, more curb appeal. The good news is that upgrading and/or renovating doesn’t have to be expensive, and can significantly add to the value of your house. Better still, armed with the right tools and techniques, you can do all the work yourself. For example, using these simple templates…

…you can make a dormer.

With these…

…a chimney.

These shapes can make…

…a wing.

And this awning, well, I just threw it together with some scraps.

What makes all these improvements possible? Why, your original paper templates of course! With them you can figure out what shape to cut your chimney pieces…

…determine the size and dimensions of side walls and roof parts…

…even save time and headaches when it comes to figuring out the angles of dormer and wing roofs. All you do is determine how wide you want your new element to be, then draw a line right up the middle.

Lay your original side wall template over it…(make sure the lines match up)…

…and trace you original roof angle right onto it.

It’s simple AND aesthetically pleasing!

And when you’re finished improving, all you need to do is label your pieces, drop them in a Ziploc bag and store them away until next year! It’s like having a ready-made gingerbread house in a bag!

What could be simpler? And it’s all thanks to the magic of templates. So don’t be afraid to geek out a little bit when it comes to making your gingerbread house this year, friends. Your kids will thank you for it. Oh, and watch those small parts in the oven — they bake up fast, some of them in as little as five minutes.

Elements like chimneys should be assembled and allowed to dry before you glue them in place. Just use handy kitchen objects like salt shakers and small cans to keep the parts in place while they dry. When it comes to mounting them on the roof, I brace them with books until the icing sets (about an hour). And of course, when you’re finished, you want to let the whole structure dry overnight before you start to decorate.

Have fun — and happy Thanksgiving! See you Monday!

Filed under:  Gingerbread Houses, Pastry | Leave a comment

Making a Gingerbread House 2: The Basic Box

You can do an awful lot with a simple four-walls-and-a-roof gingerbread house. A couple of chairs and a few throw pillows and you’ve got yourself a cozy domicile: every gingerbread man’s dream starter home. You’ll need a solid base to get going. Here I have a piece of foam board that I found in the school supply section of the local supermarket.

Make sure you’ve got a pastry bag fully loaded with royal icing. Use a broad tip.

Apply a thick stripe of icing along the bottom and front edges. Do the same with an end piece.

Stick the pieces down to the foam board and prop them up with some canned goods. Check your angles, make any necessary adjustments, and let the icing set up for about an hour. When the joints have hardened somewhat, do the other two sides.

Apply the canned goods where necessary and wait another hour or so. It’s a lot of waiting, I know, but Gingerbread Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know?

While the structure is hardening, go around and fill in any gaps with caulk, er, icing.

When you’re sure your walls are solid, it’s time to do the roof. Ice the edges of the structure liberally…

…and stick the first side of the roof down.

Prop it up with cans or other handy objects like books. I let this dry another hour, though you can move on to the other roof piece if you’re confident in your engineering.

Of course it never hurts to reach inside and caulk up those cracks. You’ll be happy you did when those winter utility bills start coming in.

Repeat the process on the other side…

…and your basic gingerbread home is complete.

Allow it to dry at least a few hours — preferably overnight — before you decorate it or apply, oh, other touches…

Filed under:  Gingerbread Houses, Pastry | Leave a comment

Making a Gingerbread House 1: Baking

Baking off pieces of a gingerbread house is no different than making cookies, the only difference is size. The main difficulty, when it comes to shapes that are 8″ x 10″ or larger, is transferring them from point A to point B. Just use plenty of flour and check as you roll to see if the bigger pieces are sticking or not. When it comes time to move them, remember that most tears can be gently pushed back together. Failing that you can just ball the dough back up and re-roll it. This dough is almost impossible to overwork. Should it start to dry out as you roll, just wet your hands under the sink and knead the moisture in until you have a good rolling consistency.

Start by preheating your oven to 375. Lay a piece of dough out on a well-floured work surface (this piece wasn’t nearly big enough, but it was the only one I remembered to shoot while I was rolling).

Roll the dough out until it’s 1/4″ thick or less, lay the template down and trim around it with a pizza cutter. Reserve and re-roll the scraps.

Gently transfer the pieces to a parchment-lined baking sheet. (UPDATE: Reader Ken suggests that another way to perform this maneuver might be to roll the dough out onto a pre-cut piece of parchment, do the trimming on the paper, then just pick up the paper and move it over onto a sheet pan. I think that would work just fine if you find that the transfer step is giving you trouble.)

This is the point when you can do any detail work you want to do, like windows and doors. Just use a sharp knife…

…then gently lift the excess out. Reserve it, of course.

Window are a little trickier, just take your time and gently poke out whatever shapes you want.

Pry the excess out with a knife tip, then use the point to clean up the corners if necessary. Once that’s done you’re ready to bake! Pieces this size take about 12 minutes in my oven.

Hey! Where’d the door go? I got the pans mixed up, gimme a break, OK? . I baked a lot of gingerbread last weekend.

While the dough is still warm, it’s a good idea to trim up any edges that might have become distorted while the gingerbread was baking. This is especially important with any smaller pieces you might be baking off. You’ll be glad you did when it comes time to assemble.

Allow the pieces to cool completely before you try to work with them.

Filed under:  Gingerbread Houses, Pastry | Leave a comment

Paper Templates: The Gingerbread House Maker’s Friend

Making a paper template for your gingerbread house may sound like an obsessive, fussy sort of thing to do. But trust me, there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to assemble a house out of planks of gingerbread that aren’t made to fit together. No amount of icing can make up for bad design, friends. Plus there are a number of other benefits to the step that will come clear as this series of tutorials progresses. Start by determining how big you want your house to be. I think a good-sized house is about six inches wide. So, using a reasonably large-sized piece of poster board, I’ll mark the bottom six inches over from the left edge.

The body of the house should be about the same height as the width, so here I’m marking the poster board again, a little under six inches from the bottom edge.

Using a straight edge, I connect those points with lines. Hm, these pencil lines didn’t come out all that well in the photos, did they? I may need to redo these pictures.

Now for the roof line. An easy way to draw a roof with a consistent slope on both sides is to mark the middle of the house at the base. Since my house is 6 inches wide, I’m marking the base at the three inch point.

I do the same on the top horizontal…

…then I draw a long vertical along those points from the base of the house upward. Now then, you can choose any point along this line as your roof peak. Speaking for myself, I like a high-peaked roof. It gives you more head space in the attic, better snow and rain run-off, you follow me.

So I’m going to mark it quite high, up near the top edge of this piece of poster board, another five inches above my top horizontal. Now all I do is draw a line from the left corner of the house to the peak point…

…then the right, and I have the shape of my house as seen from the end.

The next step is to draw the side of the house, which is just a rectangle coming off the right side. I want my house to be about eight inches long, so I continue my top horizontal line out about eight inches, then square the box off.

I cut out the template and I have the base dimensions for my gingerbread house.

Now I trace the whole thing on another piece of poster board and cut that out.

I tape the edges together, and I have a paper model of what the finished house will look like.

What’s the point of all this? Because it helps me judge how large I want the roof to be. This piece looks good. It’s about 8 inches by 10 inches. I didn’t do the other side because, well….I’m not THAT uptight.

Now I cut my original template into two pieces…

…and I have everything I need for my basic house, a template for the front and back, one for the sides and another for the roof. I’ll use them to cut my dough pieces.

Oh sure, make fun of me if you want to. There’s method in all this madness, you’ll see.

Filed under:  Gingerbread Houses, Pastry | Leave a comment