My love of festive gingerbread houses is truly a lifelong affair. I built my first gingerbread house at the age of 10 when my mother purchased a pre-fab construction kit that included a plastic base, correspondingly shaped gingerbread, candy and frosting. Decorating it (while munching on some of the candy!) was so much fun, I knew even then that it would become a cherished annual Christmas tradition.
Since then, I have built a lot of gingerbread houses. There were the tiny “birdhouses” inspired by a Better Homes and Gardens article, a mansion that depicted my idealized dream home, whimsical cottages, and of course, the year I built more than a dozen “naked” houses ready for decorating for my daughter’s holiday-themed birthday party.
Although I have gone through the proper process, as prescribed by Martha Stewart, of baking actual gingerbread, my favorite method by far is the use of graham crackers. They are so easy! And, since the houses are practically completed covered by candy, gum, and frosting by the time I am finished, it seems like a smart shortcut.
Graham crackers (or other cookies) can also be broken up into rough shapes and mortared together to a stone structure. Using several types of cookies provides a realistic, rustic look.
If you’ve never made a gingerbread house before, a great way to get started is to create a cardboard base and framework. This serves a few purposes. First, you’ll get a better idea of how much “construction material” you’ll need (no running to the grocery store in the middle of things!).
And, a framework creates a much sturdier structure. There’s nothing worse than spending endless time crafting a beautiful piece, only to have it collapse from a too-heavy candy-laden roof, or frosting mortar that was ever so slightly too thin.
When choosing adornments for your gingerbread house, think beyond traditional red and green candy. Striped gum makes wonderful shutters. Shredded wheat creates a thatched roof. Crushed nuts can be used for pebble paths. Ice cream cones covered in green frosting become perfect trees. And, pretzels make convincing log cabins or fencing.
Plus, don’t underestimate the power of piping! If you don’t own a piping bag, simply take some waxed paper, roll into a cone, tape closed, and fill with royal frosting. You can adjust the “point” from delicate to thick, simply by trimming the tip. (Click for my favorite recipe for royal frosting.)
When designing your structure, let your imagination go wild. Cottages with peaked roofs dripping with snow may be traditional. But, this is your project. “House” can mean castle, log cabin, or barn. Or, create a charming train, plane, truck, or boat. I’ve found some of the best inspiration images to get your started.
I think it’s going to be a “sweet” Christmas…
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Susan Said… WHAT?! is your guide to a life filled with style and was named one of the Top 50 Beauty Blogs in the World by RebateZone.com. You’ll find everything from fashion, jewelry, beauty and accessories, to gorgeous gardens and stunning interiors and DIY projects, plus the latest ideas events of all kinds. Susan Conforte McNeill is an author, entrepreneur, and co-founder of the literacy organization Success Won’t Wait!
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