I have been making gingerbread houses for well over thirty years...so I have learned a trick or two! And, believe me, there are lots of tips to help make your adventure successful!
So.....let's get started!
First of all.....I have lots and lots of ideas on my Pinterest page. Yes....they are rather advanced....but ideas are really important. And it is the best place to start. I have found....after years and years of teaching classes and workshops....that most people think they can't do this. But, once they get started, they realize that not only CAN they do it....but that they are pretty good at it! Usually the first hurdle is not knowing where to start. And, usually, that first hurdle can be eliminated with a few good ideas!!
The next big element for success is good recipes. I have perfected this dough recipe, over the years, and can guarantee it will work for you!
1/2 cup margarine. 1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup sugar. 1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon baking powder. 1 egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda. 1 Tablespoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. 3 cups flour
Beat the margarine and sugar together. Add spices, then molasses. Add baking powder and soda. Beat in the egg. Add vinegar. Add flour. Wrap the dough in platinum wrap and refrigerate overnight.
*Refrigerating the dough is very important. It will be much easier to work with if it's cold.
*I strongly recommend making the house as a decoration. I cannot imagine doing all of this work and then eating it!! It should be put front and center and then admired!! Now, having said that, there are a couple of little tips. Add spices....like double or triple the amount in the recipe. It will make your whole house smell a-m-a-z-i-n-g!!!! The combination of sugar (icing and candy) and spice....just heaven!!
*use parchment paper to, actually, roll and cut the pieces out. You don't want to move them once they have been cut because they will become misshapen and then the pieces will not line up when you put them together!
*when designing the basic house shape remember...you need two sides, two ends (with a peak for the roof to rest on) and two roof pieces. There are all kinds of patterns for the basic house (Google it) or you can design your own if you are feeling ambitious!
*Bake the pieces "hard". Being a professional baker it isn't easy for me to recommend practically "burning" any kind of dough (don't, actually, burn it...please!!) but....the more moisture you remove from the pieces....the sturdier the house will be! Another really good reasons NOT to eat it!!
*Use meringue powder (and the recipe included on the top of the can...) for the icing. It is foolproof and you don't have to worry about ingesting it when you absentmindedly lick your fingers....which you WILL do!! Don't rush the assembly. Let the icing dry thoroughly before you do any decorating!! The candy adds a lot of weight...and you don't want any disasters!!
*It is not necessary to buy fancy pastry bags...disposable bags are great!
*It is much easier to draw the doors and windows....and any other details....on the walls BEFORE you assemble the house...but make sure they are dry before you handle the pieces!
*Give a lot of thought to the kind of candy or cookies or cereal (Golden Grahams look like tiles....frosted mini wheats look like they are snow covered!!) you want to use for the roof....it is the majority of the decorated space, on the house, and will set the tone for the whole thing!
Once you complete the basics....it's time to let your imagination run wild! Landscaping, decorations, porches, chimneys, steps, fences, gates.....the sky is the limit! And....just to let you know...I ordered all kinds of great candy just for gingerbread house decoration!! So....stop in and see us....and get everything you need!!
I hope you start this awesome tradition!! If you have any questions along the way....feel free to ask me!!! Good Luck....and have FUN!!!!!