Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Easy Gingerbread Houses

We've done gingerbread houses for three years running now, and we've had some failures and some successes. So, I present to you all I've learned on how to do this holiday tradition right.

First, DO NOT buy one of those gingerbread house kits. The house itself will be petrified and inedible. The included icing will be like mortar and the 12 colored candies they include for "decoration" will (obviously) not be enough.

Now, you can also go the route of the homemade, from-scratch gingerbread house. And while the real deal smells absolutely divine, it requires a ton of time and energy (as well as the patience of a saint). I'd prefer to save my patience for the decorating part, rather than expend it all in the baking phase. It's all about making a memory, people. And a crabby, impatient mommy doesn't say holiday cheer. Just sayin'.

So, how do you decorate a gingerbread house so that fun is had by all? Well, to borrow a phrase from Sandra Lee, you do the "semi-homemade" version.

This year, we used graham crackers to build two small gingerbread houses. It was super easy. Check out this quick tutorial:

The best part about it is that each child gets a house. So, there's no arguing about the decorating scheme. That is holiday bliss, my friends. (Btw, I also like to use some icing to secure the house to some foil-covered cardboard. Nothing ruins the holiday mood faster than a smashed gingerbread house that when zinging off the table onto the floor.)

I'm including my recipe for royal icing, because the right icing makes all the difference. This recipe makes enough for two graham cracker houses and will stay soft if you seal it in a ziploc bag. When you're ready to pipe on the icing, just make a small cut to remove a corner of the bag.

Royal Icing

2 egg whites
1 pound sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. glycerin (you can get this at the drugstore)

Beat whites until frothy. Add sugar, 1 T. at a time. Add lemon juice and glycerin. If the icing begins to harden, add a small amount of hot water. Pour into a ziploc bag and seal. Cut corner of bag when ready to decorate.

There you have it. The Gingerbread House tradition, done with minimal fuss.

Now, for more tips that will make your life (and holidays) easier, go visit Works for Me Wednesday!


Jane Anne said...

I am looking forward to trying out the icing recipe. Thanks this on WFMW!

mer@lifeat7000feet said...

I tried making graham cracker houses one year, but didn't have the right kind of icing and they fell apart. I need to try your recipe. Thanks for the tip!

Graham crackers are cheap compared to those kits. With one box of graham crackers, we could probably make 5-6 houses, huh?

Vanessa said...

Where was this post last week when we were struggling to spread the lovely icing on our store bought gingerbread house? :)

Jane said...

My children break up tomorrow and I am planning activities for the holidays. This will be one!

threeundertwo said...

I've done these before, and they work great! I also like giving each kid their own house to decorate.

Hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas!