Make a Gingerbread House
The little house was built of bread, with a roof made of cake, and windows of transparent sugar. "We will have some of this," said Hansel. "I will eat a bit of the roof, and you Gretel, can eat some of the window. That will be sweet." Hansel reached up and broke off a little of the roof to try how it tasted, while Gretel gnawed at the windowpane. Then a soft voice called out from inside: “Nibble, nibble, little mouse, who is nibbling at my house?” (excerpt from “Hansel and Gretel” by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm)
The tradition of making flat, shaped gingerbreads comes from 15th-century Germany and its surrounding lands. The city of Nuremberg was known as "gingerbread capital" of the world. Large pieces of gingerbread (“lebkuchen”) were used to build “Lebkuchenhaeusel” (gingerbread houses), also called “Knusperhaeuschen” (houses for nibbling at).
A homemade gingerbread house makes an impressive centerpiece during the holidays. Building one can also be a fun holiday activity for children. Gingerbread houses are not as difficult to make as they appear, and they don’t even have to be made out of gingerbread. Beginners, children, and anyone who doesn’t have time to bake can use store-bought gingerbread squares, graham crackers, or even cardboard pieces.
It’s a good idea to have your layout in mind before beginning construction. Look at pictures of different house styles in architecture books. You can make a Victorian Mansion, Log Cabin, Church, Cathedral, School House, Castle, Cottage, Teepee, Pagoda, Hacienda, Ranch House, or a model of your own house.
Don't be afraid to break the traditional mold. Examples of unusual gingerbread designs that my kids have made include: a pueblo village, futuristic sci-fi structure, Empire State Building, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Someone who is more experienced and has lots of time on their hands might want to create the town of Bethlehem or a city skyline.
If this is your first time making a gingerbread house, or if young children are going to be working on the project, here are a few recommendations: 1.) Make gingerbread houses out of graham crackers or pre-made gingerbread squares. 2.) Keep it simple so the kids don't get frustrated or bored. 3.) Put icing in a bowl for dipping candies into before attaching them. 4.) Consider putting the house together beforehand, then letting the kids decorate it. Once the basic frame structure is put together, children will have fun decorating it with their favorite candies.
As long as you have the candy and other supplies on hand, you should be able to get it all done in one day. Here is a list of items that you will need:
You can find plenty of sugary confections at any supermarket or specialty candy store. A person who is really creative can show off their artistic skills with the details. Here are some imaginative ideas:
Royal Icing (for gingerbread houses)
1 box (16 ounces) confectioners' sugar
Beat confectioners' sugar, powdered egg whites and water in large mixing bowl on low speed 2 minutes to combine. Increase to high; beat 4 minutes till thickened and creamy. Thin the icing, when necessary, with additional water, or add more confectioners' sugar for thicker icing. Cover icing with plastic wrap, pressing directly on surface to prevent drying out between decorating steps. You can also divide the icing to add different food colorings.
Gingersnaps (makes 48 cookies)
Prefer gingerbread on a smaller scale? Make this recipe!
1 cup sugar
In large bowl, combine first 4 ingredients; blend well. Stir in remaining ingredients; blend well. Chill dough for easier handling. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll balls in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until edges are set. Let cool for 1-2 minutes before removing from cookie sheet.
Picture Books for Children
The Gingerbread Man, retold by Jim Aylesworth and illustrated by Barbara McClintock.
Fun with Gingerbread, by Laurie Latour. This 12-page booklet (8 ½" x 11") has over three dozen color photos for a variety of gingerbread projects including: No-Bake Gingerbread House, Gingerbread Boys & Girls, a Christmas Gingerbread House, and Gingerbread Ornaments. The recipe for the Christmas Gingerbread House has been in Laurie’s family for over 30 years. Because it uses honey as the only liquid other than eggs, the baked house keeps for a long time! With this special recipe, you can bake the pieces for the house months in advance, and then construct and decorate the house with your family at your leisure. There is no other recipe that makes such long-lasting construction gingerbread; and yes, you can eat it, too, if you want to! All of the recipes, full-size patterns, and step-by-step color photos are contained in this easy-to-use booklet. Buy extras for gifts: add some candy for decorating and create your own "Gingerbread Kit" gift package for a fraction of what you pay in stores. This booklet can be ordered from Laurie Latour's website: www.FutureChristianHomemakers.com
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