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PASTRY SAMPLER QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
I want to build a gingerbread house. What are some good resources?
By Renee Shelton
Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

I love gingerbread houses, too, and since having children I can now fully dive into the fun every year without being critical of what it looks like. Some pastry chefs and enthusiasts really get into detail and I'm so amazed at the workmanship of these would-be architects and designers; some of the buildings look move-in ready for very fortunate gingerbread people.

The first place to look for resources is the library because, if you are lucky, you may find lots of books about gingerbread building without forking over an arm and a leg. Or maybe just one book in particular that is out of print: The Gingerbread Book by Steven Stellingwerf. Recipes, history, templates and examples, a great way to introduce yourself to gingerbread house construction (or maybe a carousel or gazebo). Do a search on Amazon.com and Ebay and you are inundated with kits, molds, books and more.

Below are some templates, recipes and such that I have found on the internet over time. The first section has files in .pdf, .ppt and .doc formats so that you can print them off and use the templates and have hard copies of the recipes and instructions. The rest are recipes, templates and info all about gingerbread houses. Take a look at them and experiment with the recipes to find the one that you like the best.

My tips:

  • Find a good base. Cover it with wax paper or foil over the edge to the bottom and tape securely in place. This protects the surface (I use a large, heavy cutting board for my base) and it makes clean up a cinch after the holidays. Trying to pry off icing is not much fun.
  • When experimenting with the doughs, roll out some of the dough to the same thickness you will be making the house. Cut out using any shape cookie cutter, then bake. When done, compare with the cutter: if it spreads some you know you will have to trim up edges when it is removed from the oven, if it holds its shape you have nothing to change, if it spreads a great deal and the resulting cut-out is much thinner than what you rolled it out as, you may have to adjust the recipe ingredients or find another recipe.
  • Think about what you wish to "glue" the gingerbread house with. Some recipes call for the standard royal icing and some use a shortening or confectioner's sugar base icing. Other ideas: melted dark or white chocolate, melted sugar (for advanced decorators, not for children) and other melted candies.
  • After you choose the template, decide what you want the decorations to be or how the house will look like. Just because the template calls for 4 square walls doesn't mean you can't cut out your windows, doorways and such. Save those cut-outs for the open door for the front of the house, the cut-out windows for shutters, etc. If you don't want to cut out any openings, design your entryways and windows with candy, cookies or icing.
  • It may be really hard to do so, with the anticipation of creating something so wonderful and all, but wait until the icing or whatever glue you are using is completely dry or has set up. Completely. I've learned from experience the value of patience...
  • Any scraps can be used for tiles for the roof (cut into rough square or rectangle pieces or cut out in uniform circles). You can also cut out chimneys or make gingerbread people for the scene outside the house. You can also cut out a snaking figure the same width as the front entryway/door to be used as a sidewalk leading up to the house. And whether or not your windows are cut out, you can create shutters: simple square or rectangle ones or elaborate arched ended ones or using a sharp knife create jagged or scalloped edges for the outside of the shutters.
  • While gingerbread is the common dough to use for the house (and it makes the house smell so Christmas-y), you can also experiment with you favorite vanilla or chocolate cookie dough. Just be sure the resulting pieces will have the stability for assembly: use a firm cookie dough for cut out cookies that keeps its shape.
  • Finally, remember that the houses in most cases will eventually be eaten, nibbled or snacked on. So while making it beautiful for decoration for the holiday season is one great reason to build one, they don't have to be perfect to be enjoyed or appreciated.

These links accurate as of 2008.

For download: Complete gingerbread projects with recipes, templates and more.

.pdf format, Powerpoint .ppt and Word .doc formats:

  1. Complete how to from King Arthur Flour: the basics, templates, recipes, pictures, and diagrams.
  2. Another complete how to from fashion-era.com: pictures, recipes, and the assembly of the house.
  3. From Bakersfield College, here is a recipe for gingerbread, suggestion for chocolate glue instead of meringue, template, plus other candy recipes.
  4. From Kendall College, how to make a cardboard gingerbread house, for kids to decorate.
  5. About.com guide for building gingerbread houses.
  6. Mr. Food and Recipelink.com: gingerbread house template, recipe and instructions.
  7. Martha Stewart Sugar Cube house (I know it's not gingerbread, but it's cute.)
  8. Powerpoint presentation on building a gingerbread house from the computer science student's page of BYU.

HTML:

  1. Tips and such from HGTV: links, recipes, pictures and tips.
  2. List of ingredients, pattern, recipes and assembly from Dinner Co-op.
  3. The annual gingerbread house from Good Housekeeping.
  4. From Texascooking.com, gingerbread house recipe and instructions.
  5. Gingerbread recipes, pictures, templates and examples.
  6. Betty Crocker's Haunted Gingerbread House.
  7. Craftown's recipe, instruction and link for template.
  8. Templates and recipe from foodnetwork.com.
  9. Family Fun's kid's first gingerbread house: info, recipes and assembly.
  10. Bon Appétit's gingerbread class on epicurious.com.
  11. Building a gingerbread house with pictures and recipes: kitchengifts.com.
  12. Necco wafer's gingerbread house recipe and instructions.
  13. Recipes, blueprints and templates to print, instructions and more: Gingerbread 101 from Celebrating-Christmas.com.
  14. Gingerbread house for kids made out of graham crackers, from Zoom tv
  15. From iparty.com, links for .pdf files for the recipe and instructions and the templates for a gingerbread house.
  16. Template, recipe and instructions for a house from Jamboree, a UK educational site.
  17. An ambitious haunted gingerbread house, using sugar dough.

Templates only:

pdf. format:

  1. C&H Sugar: A large gingerbread house: simple roof, sides and front/back, ready for cutout.
  2. Gingerbread house pattern from a professor at BYU.
  3. Bob Vila's Colonial Style Gingerbread House template.
  4. From FamilyFun, a gingerbread train template including engine, caboose, and coal and lumber cars.
  5. Taste of the South magazine's link to a gingerbread house template.

HTML:

  1. From StarChefs.com, .gif format templates to print out for templates.
  2. Many templates and patterns for unique houses from Frankysattic.com.
  3. Gingerbread house template from GingerbreadLane.com.
  4. Martha Stewart's gingerbread house template.
  5. Grainfields.com's template for a gingerbread house, in .jpg form.

Recipes only:

  1. All In One Bake Shop in Austin, Tx: recipe for gingerbread plus other sweets.
  2. Gingerbread men recipe.
  3. From GingerbreadLane.com, recipes for gingerbread, icing and instructions.

Other instructions, pictures, etc:

and html files:

  1. From C&H Sugar, construction tips for gingerbread houses.
  2. Putting the house together, from Mary Ellen and HGTV.
  3. If you are wanting to preserve it, tips for preserving yours from GingerbreadLane.com.
  4. Preserving and saving gingerbread houses from ehow.com.
  5. From Hotels.About.com, some gingerbread ideas pre and post construction.

Looking for inspiration? Go to Frankys Attic and look at the many examples.

Good luck and have fun....

Copyright © 2004-2010 Renee Shelton.
All Rights Reserved.


 

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