Monday, December 20, 2010

Gingerbread Houses

For a little while now, I've been helping the kids make gingerbread houses each year. I always make and build the house from scratch, and then they decorate. They're nothing fancy, but maybe as the girls get older, they'll choose to do something more elaborate.

Hundreds of years ago, Nuremburg, Germany became the "gingerbread capital" of the world. Master bakers, called Lebkuchler, would create and sell Lebkuchen. It was in Germany that these gingerbread treats began to be used to build houses. When German immigrants settled in America, they brought the gingerbread house tradition with them and seeing as how all things German remind me of the areas of Texas I absolutely adore, my Christmas in Montana is NOT the year to skip the gingerbread houses, even if having a newborn around makes it a little more difficult.

So, Saturday night, I set out to make the houses.

Big fat failure. I couldn't find my regular building gingerbread recipe, so I tried one I found online. Based on reviews, I guess it was baker error that messed it up, but really, I'm no amateur baker, so at the very least, this is no recipe for beginners. I got a mess that I could tell from picking it up would just have me cussing within the hour if I tried rolling it out. Way too cookie-like for a building gingerbread recipe. I was frustrated and hunted more for my regular recipe.

And then I came to my senses. The kids don't care if it's a gingerbread house or not, they just want to stick candy all over something. So I built my very first set of graham cracker houses. My plan was to use 6 whole crackers for each house. I started out by using one cracker as a guide and cutting gables on another cracker I used a steak knife (any serrated blade will do) and a gentle sawing motion (don't press down) to do the cutting. Then I stacked that piece on another cracker to get two matching gable pieces I realized later I made a mistake here...I should have made that line go all the way down to the half way point on the cracker so it would match up with the side of the house. Since I didn't do that, I ended up piecing together a roof.

For my cement, I used a basic royal icing recipe: 2 egg whites, 3 cups powdered sugar, 1/4tsp cream of tarter. Normally I use meringue powder instead of egg whites, but I was out. Since I'm not doing anything fancy, I just put the icing in a sandwich bag and cut the corner off to pipe it on.

I assembled the houses and let them dry overnight.

Sunday afternoon, I laid out various candies and let the girls go to town decorating their houses. cracker success!

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