I love the taste of ginger; ginger beer with Grandpa Craig, ginger tea, ginger ale ... I'm sure you all get the idea. Leo said this recipe reminded him of the Ginger Snaps Grandma, my Great Grandma, Woods made. I like this recipe as plain cookies but everyone else loves the houses. I've had a hard time convincing some people I really make the houses, so here are the pictures to prove it.
The finished product
My house turns into Santa's workshop
For all the deer hunters in the family
All in a row
Santa's little "not helping " helper
Santa's real helper, ROFL
For a couple of weeks, every year, my house is like the North Pole. The smell of the gingerbread baking, the sugar and all that that candy, turn my kitchen into a kid's dream. The big kids seem to like it too. Decorating the houses has become something of a tradition in my house as well,with a little input from everyone.
This is a straight forward recipe that needs no special equipment or advanced cooking skills to make. It is a large recipe if you are using it to make cookies, but the houses use a lot. I typically make about a dozen houses and need three batches of this to make them. This recipe freezes well if you make more than you can bake and it also keeps for about a week in the refrigerator.
If you are decorating, you'll need the royal icing recipe for the "glue". I'll post it directly after.
1 cup shortening- vegetable or lard, I have used both
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 3/4 cups brown sugar- I have used everything from light golden to almost black Demerara
1 tbsp molasses- I use really dark molasses but you can use whatever kind you like
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt - I usually omit or half the salt, I usually don't cook with salt at all
1 tbsp ginger
1 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp allspice
6 cups flour - I have used white, spelt and whole wheat and all work but change the texture. White is the lightest, then spelt then whole wheat.
1/2 cup milk- I cook with homogenized, but 2 percent or skim is probably fine
Cream shortening, sugars and molasses in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix together all the dry ingredients, and in yet another bowl mix together the eggs and milk.
Alternate mixing the dry and wet mixes into the creamed shortening mix. That's it. You should have a dough much like pie crust in consistency.
Roll it into a ball, I knead it by hand a little to make sure it is well mixed and then chill it for about an hour. It rolls out better cool and I have a marble pastry board I chill and roll the dough on.
It just makes it easier to work with. If the dough is a bit sticky, don't worry, you roll it out on a floured board so the flour will solve that.
Roll it out to a thickness of 1/4 inch and then cut out whatever shapes you want.
Bake in a pre heated 350 degree oven for 10- 15 minutes, until touching the dough doesn't leave an imprint and it is a golden brown.
It needs to cool for about 2 hours; it will harden up as it cools so you won't break it as you are working with it.
This never really works like the recipe, at least it never has for me. You have to play with it to get the consistency you want.
3 tbsp meringue powder
2 cups icing sugar
6 tbsp water
Combine all ingredients and beat for 10 minutes until it forms soft peaks.
I start with half the water and add more as I need it, if you start with all 6 tbsp , mine is always way too runny. Good if you are doing a glaze I guess but...
If you want to stiffen it up a little, or a lot, just add more icing sugar, not the meringue powder.
If you are going to make houses, here are a few tips that I have come up with over the years.
Decorate on the flat. The most common complaint I have heard is that the candy slides off the house. I have seen shows where they decorate a finished house and have no idea how they get everything to stick.
I use long hat maker's pins as nails to hold the walls, and roofs together as they dry. I've tried propping them up with things but they always shift. Remember to remove the pins.
It takes a couple of hours for the icing to dry so be patient and do it in stages. You can see from the photos above how I do mine.
A generous dusting of icing sugar hides a million design flaws, enough said.
That's it. I have a lot of fun making these. Shopping for the candies to make the roof shingles, windows etc, decorating them and watching people devour them. My houses are completely edible, it's no fun if it isn't.
The only limiting factor is your imagination.
If you want to do this with kid's, and I always recommend cooking with children, make the gingerbread ahead of time so you don't have to wait for it to cool. You have to wait for the icing to set between decorating and assembling so don't test their patience any more than you have to. LOL
Another, it just wouldn't be Christmas at my house with out it, recipe. Enjoy.