How to build a gingerbread house
Words: NAIT staff
| Images: NAIT staff
| Videos: NAIT staff
2 Dec, 2013
Learn the secrets of baking and building this classic Christmas cookie
Trevor Stayer (Culinary Arts ’98, Baker Apprenticeship ’03) says he hasn’t built many gingerbread houses, but over the years he’s picked up enough skills to make him a highly qualified pastry engineer. He has a few tricks the novice builder shouldn’t go without.
For instance, to get your edges straight, he recommends removing pieces from the oven half way through baking and trimming against the original template. To keep them flat, roll lightly under parchment paper before they go back in. To square your corners, build against the edge of a cookie sheet.
The point, he knows, isn’t perfection (even if he has seen what can come of it, recalling miniatures of Notre Dame and Aladdin’s castle). In the true spirit of the holidays, “It brings people together,” says Stayer of an old-fashioned gingerbread-house raising.
It does not, however, feed them. If properly constructed, a house can be tough on the teeth. “I wouldn’t recommend it,” he says. “It dries rock hard.”
To ensure the structural integrity of your own house – and fun for the whole family – check out Stayer’s step-by-step video above and his recipes for gingerbread and icing below.
Yields 1 kg (2.2 lbs)
- 175 ml (3/4 cup or 119 g) shortening
- 225 ml (1 1/3 cups or 242 g) sugar
- 5 ml (1 tsp or 6 g) baking soda
- 15 ml (1 tbsp or 23 g) molasses
- 2.5 ml (1/2 tsp or 3 g) salt
- 3 (1/2 cup or 119 g) eggs
- 925 ml (3 3/4 cups or 365 g) all-purpose flour
- 5 ml (1 tsp or 2 g) ginger
- 4 ml (3/4 tsp or 2 g) cinnamon
Combine all ingredients except the flour and mix until smooth.
Sift the flour and add it to the smooth mixture, mixing until all the flour has been added.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 day prior to using.
Roll out to desired thickness and bake at 190 C (375 F) for 10-12 minutes or until done. To ensure straight edges and flat pieces for building houses, remove from oven half way through baking, recut against original template and roll lightly under parchment paper. Return pieces to oven to finish.
Royal icing recipe
Yields 233 g (1/2 lb)
30 ml (2 tbsp of 30 g) pasteurised egg whites (or 1 egg white)
325 ml (1 3/4 cups or 200 g) icing sugar
2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) lemon juice
Combine the egg whites with the lemon juice.
Add the icing sugar and mix on the slowest speed of your machine for about 10 minutes. (To start, mix by hand if the machine speed is too fast.)
Use right away or save in a sealable container with a damp paper towel on top. If it is used later it will have to be remixed to a smooth consistency.