Sunday, December 10, 2006

Gingerbread traditions!

My friend Julie wrote requesting a recipe for a "made from scratch" gingerbread house. My boys wanted to do something different this year (have a taffy pull!) so we will not be making a gingerbread house but I thought I would share last year's adventure with you as well as the tried and true recipe.  I have used this recipe since I made the first house with my oldest son almost 20 years ago!   


This is Josiah, creating the template for our house.  My recipe came from an old cookbook of my Mom's...Good Cookies by Annette Laslett Ross and Jean Adams Disney.  In fact, many of our favorite Christmas cookies come from this book.  It was published in England and only cost $1.00 for the hardback copy so you can imagine how old this is!

You will need to cut 2 identical roof pieces (rectangles), 2 identical sides (squares with triangular tops), 2 identical rectangles for front and back and 4 chimney pieces....(4 identical rectangles with two of them being notched on the bottom so it will sit on the peak of the roof).  Your templates need to be cut to scale so that all pieces will fit together. Josiah cut them out of freezer paper so that we could lay them on our dough and cut precisely.  (Hint!  Use a pizza cutter to cut them out - not a knife.  Also, roll the dough out on the baking sheet.... - this way you will not distort the shapes either by cutting or moving!) Cut windows and doors where you wish.

Now for the recipe!

Gingerbread Cookie House

1 cup shortening, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup molasses, 1 tsp. vanilla,  5 cups sifted all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 2 tsps. ginger

Cream shortening and sugar.  Stir in molasses and vanilla.  Sift dry ingredients and add, mixing well.  Work dough with hands to blend thoroughly.  Divide dough in thirds.  Roll dough out 1/4 inch thick directly on the baking sheet.  Lay pattern of house on dough, cuting through doors and windows, but do not lift them from place.  Remove trimmings and save.  Use excess dough, rolled out 1/4 inch thick to cut Christmas trees or snowmen for decorating.  Bake at 375 degrees 12 to 15 minutes or just until lightly browned.  While hot, retrace outline of windows and doors and if necessary, trim house edges to straighten.  Cool on baking sheets, lifting out windows and doors.   Assemble, using Decorative Icing to hold sides together.  The icing becomes hard and will keep indefinitely.  Join these first (sides, front and back) and let set.  When firm, attach roof, one side at a time then the chimney and door.  When frosting is firm, decorate with your choice of candies, sprinkles etc.

Decorative Icing                                                                                                    

2 egg whites, 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar, 2 tsp. water, 2 1/2 to 3 cups sifted powdered sugar

Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and water until frothy; gradually add powdered sugar.  Beat until mixture holds soft peaks.  Tint as desired with food coloring, dividing for more than one color.  Use to frost house and also to decorate scene in which house is set.  Use inverted ice cream cones for fir trees.  Icing may be put through decorating tube to form trim-lines on house, roof, windows and doors.

Here, Jeremy and Josiah are putting the front, back and sides together...the secret?  Lots and lots and lots of decorative icing!  And also...hold it in place for a couple of minutes until the icing begins to set.  Another hint: keep a damp paper towel over the bowl holding the icing so it doesn't begin to harden in the bowl (speaking from experienceSurprised)


We saved our windows to decorate with (The boys made signs for the back that said JOY!) We also covered the cookie sheet with a thin layer of icing (think snow!) and decorated with candies.  They made a path from Jelly Belly beans in browns and grays - sort of like cobblestone.. they used ice cream cones turned upside down for trees, gumdrops and toothpicks made a swing set, a shrubbery hedge was also made out of gumdrops...turn the kids loose in the candy aisle and they will find all types of things to decorate with!

Here they are getting ready to put the roof on...please pardon my messy kitchen but now you will be completely prepared for what you are about to get into...making a gingerbread house in not a tidy project!


And here is the finished project!  We used shredded wheat for a thatched roof, ribbon candy and candy canes for a fence, gum drops topped with jelly beans for lamp posts, white ribbon candy for smoke in the is amazing what uses you can find for candy!  And my littlest one is a firm believer in the "more must mean better" philosophy of I am sure you can tell!

We did the template making, baking and assembly in one day then let it rest overnight to make sure everything had hardened completely.  The next day was devoted to decorating...and they used most of the day to do it.  I suggest having a crock-pot meal that day since your kitchen, if it is as small as mine, will be unusable!

We did eat some of this house...but most of it ended up feeding birds and other woodland creatures....oh, but the memories we made.....just priceless!  It was worth every penny! I highly recommend you making and decorating a house at least once in your children's lives.

My prayer is that you are taking the time to make Christmas memories with your children this season of Christ's birth!


  1. Oh, my goodness, Cheri... that looks decadent!

    Good thing we don't have smellavision, or tasteavision... I'm gettin' a sugar rush just looking at it! I'm still rushing from our sugar cube pyramid during our Egypt unit study. :)

    Your boys look like they enjoyed every bit of putting together that masterpiece... :)

    Joyfully His,
    Carla Lynne

  2. Hi Carla Lynne,
    It was SUCH fun, and it tasted delightful but it was a bit over the top for us sugarwise...thus the woodland creatures :)

  3. :-) This reminds me of the "log cabins" we've made a la Martha Stewart's magazine. We used small Goldfish cartons (think of our elementary schoold days milk cartons), nasty peanut butter that sits on the shelf from year to year never spoiling (the better kind did not work), various pretzel shapes from Snyders now known as logs, windows, and fences, shredded coconut for snow, and snips of the rosemary plant for evergreen trees. :-) Thanks for the reminder to go shopping and make these again. :-)

  4. You make it look so easy.

  5. Denise,
    Oohhh, you've given me some great ideas for next year! Thanks!!!

    Really it was very easy....except for the cleaning up part :)



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