Run, run, run, running down the side of the gingerbread house! Icing that runs, candy that smears, cookies that break, squeeze the fun out of gingerbread house decorating.
Cracked gingerbread cookies still taste yummy but lose the effect. Confronting sticky gingerbread dough to non-hardening frosting frustrates even a seasoned baker.
5 Tips to Produce a Perfect Gingerbread Houses
1) Choose Cost Effective Ingredients for Decorative Gingerbread Houses
Gingerbread decorating varies in expense, mainly due to the amount of candy added to each house. The molasses and butter increase the price as well. Enjoy a look at our gingerbread baking gift guide. Make a bakers life easy and they will bake more for you!
If you are not going to eat the gingerbread house, try this.
- Use shorting instead of butter
- Reduce the amount of molasses by 1/2 and replace with light corn syrup
- Reduce spices–cinnamon is the main coloring agent and the strongest smell; plus, it is the cheapest. Reduce other spices and increase cinnamon. Buy cheap spices for decorating gingerbread houses saving the higher quality spices for the cookies.
- Choose “old time” candy in the small sizes. Traditional gingerbread houses proudly display peppermint candy, gumdrops, Necco wafers, licorice, red hots, etc. Choose store or off brands as the chance of someone nibbling on this house is rare.
2) Keep your Gingerbread House Dough Cold
Defeat the hard to roll out chilled dough ball by placing the soft dough between two sheets of parchment or wax paper. Roll the dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Place flattened gingerbread dough into fridge for 2 hours.
First, make a large batch of gingerbread. Divide dough into two portions to rotate in and out of fridge during the cutting process.
Rolling the dough to an even thickness is crucial for the walls and roof to fit snugly. Start rolling the dough under the parchment paper after it is chilled.
The dark brown nature of this dough means that added white flour leaves the dough discolored. Get our recipe for gingerbread cookie dough you really want to eat.
3) Cutting Out Shapes and Patterns
White printer paper works well for designing a house pattern–draw and cut out all pieces in advance and label! Make slight cuts in your gingerbread house dough before baking. Or, if you are baking on parchment paper, write the number/letter of each piece on parchment paper prior to baking. It is truly frustrating not to remember which piece goes where during assembly.
If the dough starts sticking to the patterns or knife during the cutting process shift the whole thing back into the fridge. Sticky dough leaves a good chance for misformed pieces when removing them to the cookie sheet.
Cold dough always cuts best.
Let the dough cool slightly, then place the pattern back on the warm house panel. If the house panel expanded during the baking process trim off the edges to fit the pattern.
A serrated knife helps cut cleanly. Do not do this, if house panel is fully cooled. It will break.
4) Frosting and Icing Choices for Assemble and Gingerbread House Decorating
For a decorative gingerbread house, no other icing compares to royal icing. Strong, easy to pipe and hard as nails when it drys. For a deeper discussion on Gingerbread Cookie Frosting read this.
5) Assemble Slowly
Gingerbread house decorating requires patience. The walls must adhere and stand on their own before attempting to attach the roof.
Many of my families bigger projects required hours and/or days of waiting for sections to dry before the next decorating phase began.
For quick to decorate gingerbread houses (which really is the fun part) read about these sturdy easy to make structures for toddlers and preschoolers.
- Assemble sections one at a time.
- Complicated piping designs work best if done before the house is assembled.
- Separate candy and check uniformity before you start piping–remember royal icing hardens quickly.
- Let load-bearing sections dry overnight.
- Don’t be afraid to use support if necessary (pretzels are nice for this).
- Store in a safe place.
Store in a Gingerbread House safe place. TWICE my dogs ate my projects before I finished!
The carousel ended up in @thejoyousboxer’s tummy before completion. So frustrating! Not good for thejoyousboxer either- Remeber to keep your furry family members safe this holiday season with these tips.
Gingerbread Cookie Tip
Similar to shortbread cookies and biscuits overworking (kneading or mixing too much) the dough creates a tough cookie. Mix the wet ingredients together, then add the dry stirring just enough to make a dough.