Friday, December 2, 2011

Gingerbread Houses!!!

One of the first Christmas' we were married, my husband's Mema gave me a Pampered Chef gingerbread house baking mold.  You use the recipe that comes with it, fill the mold twice with that batch of dough, and then put the house together with icing.  I admit that the mold sat in the cabinet for several years.  When our daughter came along though, she seemed like a pretty good reason to get it out and dust it off!
Since kindergarten, we have hosted a gingerbread house decorating party for the girls in A's class.  I hope the girls have now started to look forward to it as an annual tradition - a part of the Christmas season.  We hold it on the first Saturday in December, so the families can admire the houses all season - which means my first few days of December are spent mixing and baking and molding and gluing little brown houses together...  After hours in the kitchen, the houses are now complete!

Now, a warning before you go purchase a mold and start this tradition for yourselves:  This project is not for the faint of heart.  I really did begin on Tuesday.  It is Friday.  It really did take that long.
Here's how it goes...

I searched my cabinets for spices, and purchased the rest of what we needed - cheapest ingredients I could find - we're not eating these houses!

The smell is amazing!

Be sure to cream the shortening, sugar, egg and molasses together well, so that when your dough is finished, it won't be crumbly.

I dump the dough out on a large piece of plastic wrap, and then fold the wrap around and press it into a square.  The dough is supposed to chill for at least 30 minutes before putting it in the mold.  When I was finished mixing dough, there were 7 of these stacked in the fridge.

Press your dough into the mold, and then use a large knife to slice the top excess away.  The dough bakes for 20 minutes, then it should rest for at least 5 in the mold.  I break it from the sides with a butter knife, and turn it over to finish cooling on a rack.  I only had one breakage this year!  Lost a chimney...

The next step should be after the forms have cooled for a long time.  Mine all sat out on the table in stacks at least overnight.  They need to be good and hard before you try to put them together.  The first year I did this, I used royal icing, and that works, but it is a huge mess, and it takes a long time since you have to hold it in place while the icing sets.  Now I use hot glue, which works way better.  You can see the glue in the seams, but we think of it as ice.  And the girls cover it with icing, anyway.  As you can see, I used the empty molasses jars to help hold up the walls as they cooled (the houses are on pieces of a cardboard box I cut up and covered with heavy duty foil).  I highly recommend making at least one more house than you actually need, in case of any accidents.  And yes, I have dropped one and watched it break into small chunks.  I thought I might cry.

Each girl has been asked to bring one container of white icing, and at least one package of candy to share, for decorating.  I also keep the leftover candy from year to year in a box in my basement.  It's not for eating, but it sure is fun to have all those different varieties to choose from!  This year I even saved some candy corn from halloween - you never know...
Party's tomorrow - wait and see!!!

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