Thursday, November 10, 2011

10 Tips For Making Gingerbread Houses

I am by no means a master of gingerbread house construction, but I thought I would still share a few of the tips and tricks I have learned along the way.

Gingerbread houses are rare in Australia. In the last couple of years, they have started to gain momentum through the sale of pre-made kits through local supermarket chains. Most people I speak to think that they are a ridiculous amount of work and very hard to make. They can be hard work, but it is completely up to you how hard you make it.

So far, I have made two gingerbread houses and one gingerbread sleigh using cutter sets that I purchased from my local department store. You can find gingerbread house cutters in a number of cake decorating and kitchen stores. To be perfectly honest, there is nothing wrong with creating your own templates out of cardboard and cutting the pieces by hand.

I have compiled a list of tips for those who are considering building their own gingerbread house. I hope that they may alleviate the number tears and screams coming from the kitchen. If you have some tips and tricks of your own to share, please leave a comment.

Darkbyte's Tips For Making Gingerbread Houses

1. Start small. I remember browsing the Internet seeing amazing houses built by gingerbread veterans. I am thankful that I decided to keep things simple. Whilst they are easy to build the second time around, the first time can be hair rising and many a scream for help may be heard coming from the kitchen.

2. Make sure help is at hand. The first time I built a gingerbread house, the sides split and the roof started to slide off. A second pair of hands is always well worth having.

3. Pick your day and plan ahead. Make sure it is not too hot, that the icing melts/takes forever to dry. Gingerbread house building takes a long time. I like to cook my pieces the two days before Christmas, and decorate the house on Christmas Eve. Remember, this is a fun exercise, so make sure you give yourself enough time to enjoy what you are doing.

4. Make sure you give your creation plenty of time to dry. If you have misjudged the time needed to finish your gingerbread house, you may find yourself sitting in the car with the air-conditioning set to arctic and holding your creation together whilst dreading the thought of speed bumps and potholes. This is why I make a point to have it completed the night before, you only want to do one such car ride in your lifetime.

5. Invest in some stainless steel poultry lacers. I prefer using these to regular skewers because they are shorter and smaller in diameter. This means that there are less chances of cracking your gingerbread and they are less likely to get in your way. These are necessary, especially if you do not have a second pair of hands to help you. Any holes created by the lacers can be covered with icing sugar or candy.

6. Make sure you have a good base on which to sit your gingerbread. I have a melamine platter that I use solely for gingerbread construction. Choose your base wisely, make sure that there is enough room for additional decorations around the house e.g. trees and footpaths. I strongly recommend ‘cementing’ your gingerbread house to the board during construction so changing your mind about your base is not an option.

7. Where possible pre-decorate your roof and walls. This is especially good if you plan to make intricate candy or icing designs. The first time I made a house, I put it together undecorated and tried to stick chocolate buttons to the roof. It was a stupidly hot day (38+ degrees C) and they kept sliding off!

8. Purchase some square candies. Liquorish All-Sorts, Jersey Caramels and other square confectioneries are a great internal reinforcement for internal walls together. They also help to keep your corners square. If you pipe bows on top of the remaining square candies, they make great ‘presents’ to put in piles around the house.

9. Do not put too much candy on your roof! A heavy roof can lead to walls bursting at the seams! I must admit, I roll my roof pieces a fraction thinner than my walls to reduce the weight. Remember to take the roof pieces out of the oven earlier than your walls so that they do not overcook.

10. Remember to take photos of your gingerbread creation. With the crazy rush that is Christmas day, I often forget to take proper photos of my finished creations. It is worth paying attention to what is in the background of your photo as it can be a bit embarrassing when you are showing them to people.

Where possible pre-decorate
as many parts as possible.
Poultry lacers are great for
holding the various pieces
together as they dry.
Square candies are a great
tool for ensuring 90 degree
These candies also make
good 'gifts' when decorated
with royal icing ribbons
and bows
When taking photos pay
attention to what can be
seen in the background.

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