22 Dec Gingerbread houses a happy tradition
Madison George works on her gingerbread house
I’ll admit it, I’m big on tradition. I love hearing about special treats families make at Christmastime year after year, using recipes handed down from generation to generation.
Those once-a-year wonders making a brief appearance in December include Norwegian lefse, Swedish tea log, homemade Bailey’s irish cream, Eastern European Povitica, lemon curd and spiced pecans, to name a few of my favorites.
We have our fair share of time-honored practices, and my husband jokes that if something happens two years in a row in my world, it’s a tradition for me, and I feel obligated to carry it on. So be it. I’m a sucker for nostalgia.
Which brings us to the gingerbread house. We’ve been making our version of gingerbread houses, using graham crackers and melted sugar for years now, and it has become a family tradition.
Just when the chaos of Christmas prep had reached its pinnacle this year, our youngest daughter Madison approached me and asked when we were having the traditional gingerbread house decorating party. Good question, I thought to myself. When were we going to squeeze that one in?
Obviously a biggie to her, we found an afternoon and got rolling. What fun it was to see the girls and their friends get lost in decorating their little houses, dripping with icing and candy.
With the kids out of school for a whole week before Christmas, you might just be looking for something fun and festive for them to do.
Block out a morning and assemble the houses and set them loose to decorate while you get the last of the Christmas details handled. It might just become a tradition in your house, too.
You will need:
A variety of small colorful candy pieces for decorating: Necco wafers, licorice, lifesavers, M&Ms, cereal, Dots, gum drops, etc. Cover cardboard pieces with foil, tucking edges under on back side.
Gingerbread: Follow these step-by-step instructions
Cut graham crackers on large cutting board with sharp knife.
For eight houses, you need:
Heat heavy saucepan over medium high heat and cover bottom of saucepan with a thin layer of sugar and let melt.
Dip two opposite ends of one quarter piece (square) in melted sugar, removing the pan from heat if sugar starts to brown.
Set on one end of foilwrapped cardboard and adhere the walls (large rectangles) on either side, using melted sugar to glue.
Attach the doors (two small rectangles) in the same fashion, dipping the ends in melted sugar and adhering to the walls. Continue to add sugar to the pan and melt as needed.
Dip long edge of one large rectangle in melted sugar and adhere to another large rectangle, making a pitched roof.
Carefully set roof on top of house and bend to fit, so edges meet top of walls. Let cool.
When set, dip bottom edges in melted sugar and adhere to the tops of the walls. (Be careful not to drip melted sugar on your hands. If you’re worried about burning your hands, you can carefully spoon melted sugar on top of the walls and then the hold roof in place to adhere. Keep holding for a few seconds so it will stick.) Let houses set briefly before decorating. Reinforce any weak links with melted sugar.
Makes enough for eight houses.
*Contains raw egg white. Not to be consumed.
6 egg whites
7 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Directions: With electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff.
Beat in powdered sugar and lemon juice until incorporated. Transfer Royal Mortar to eight individual baggies for decorating.
Snip corner of each baggie when ready to use and squeeze frosting out of the open hole, being careful to squeeze excess air out of the baggie and roll baggie down (like a toothpaste tube) to achieve equal pressure.
Placing baggies in small glasses and rolling edges over the rims of the glasses makes it easier to fill baggies with the sticky frosting.
Royal Mortar is great glue for decorating houses and dries quickly.
Just make sure your party guests don’t eat it because it contains raw egg whites.
1 PREPARE GRAHAM CRACKERS:
For eight houses, you will need 32 half pieces (large rectangles), eight quarter pieces (squares), 16 eighth pieces (small rectangles).
Dip two opposite ends of one quarter piece (square) in melted sugar and carefully adhere walls (large rectangles) on either side.
Dip long edge of one large rectangle in melted sugar and attach another large rectangle, making a pitched roof.
Carefully set roof on top of house and bend to fit so that the roof edges meet the top of the walls. Let cool.
When set, dip bottom edges in melted sugar, being careful not to burn yourself. Carefully attach the roof to the walls.
After the house has cooled a bit and set, reinforce any weak joints by spooning on additional melted sugar.