This year my husband, Ken, and I participated in a gingerbread house decorating party as a group activity. It was a lot of fun to see what everyone did.
With adult help in baking and assembling this is a great project for kids to decorate with all the candies.
I have a recipe that worked for me when I made a gingerbread treasure chest for my grandson’s 4th birthday so I got creative and had Ken make me a pattern. I spent hours pouring over pictures of the buildings in the Dept. 56 Dicken’s Village Collection since I own part of the set. It was fun. Now, I just needed Ken and his magical skills to make me a pattern. This is what we came up with.
I found this recipe about 4 years ago on the Food Network site. It’s credited to Scott Liebfried. I’ve made a few changes in the instructions but none to the ingredients.
Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside.
Beat butter and brown sugar together in the bowl of a mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Add the eggs, molasses, and water and beat until well combined.
With the mixer on low speed, beat half of the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until blended and smooth. Add more flour if the dough is wet.
Place the dough in a sealable container or zip-top bag in a cool place for up to 2 hours. If you make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate it, bring to room temperature before working the dough.
When ready to roll out the dough, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Lay out a large sheet of parchment paper on your work surface and roll the dough directly onto the paper. I roll my dough about 1/8 inch thick and it holds up well when assembled.
Laying the pattern on top of the gingerbread use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut pieces. Leave space in-between because you will be leaving the cut pieces on the parchment paper to bake. Lift the dough you will not be baking off the parchment and slide the cut pieces onto the baking sheet.
Cut into desired shapes, working in small batches and keeping the remaining dough in an airtight container so that it does not dry out.
You can make stained glass windows by putting crushed up candies in cutouts before baking the gingerbread. Life Savers and Jolly Ranchers make good colored windows.
Bake for 11 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces. The gingerbread will be light brown when it is done. It may feel soft when right out of the oven but will harden as it cools. Let cool before icing.
Mix all of the ingredients together using an electric hand mixer, until the icing is smooth and thin enough to be pressed through a pastry bag with a writing tip. Add more lemon juice, if necessary.
Place royal icing into pastry bag with a writing tip and press out to decorate individual parts of house, piping on decorations, windows, door, etc., as desired. Let dry until hardened.
Glue sides of house to base and at corners using royal icing. Hold the piece in place for a few minutes until it holds.
Glue the roof pieces together on a separate surface to make the roof of the house, but do not attach roof to the house. Leave them set until dry before placing on the base of the house.
To make trees for my church I used fondant tinted green and a plastic cone. Place parchment paper over the cone shape if you want to take it out when the fondant dries and hardens. After wrapping the fondant thickly around the cone shape take scissors and start at the top. Using the scissors cut into the fondant and lift a small piece. Work your way around from the top to the bottom. When finished take a small paintbrush and wet the tree to sprinkle decorations on. Set aside to dry.