I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

12 Days of Cookies: Gingerbread Houses

Some 30+ years ago, my mother attended a holiday workshop hosted by the Sullivan County Extension Homemakers (which is the grown-up version of 4-H) to learn how to make gingerbread houses. She came home that evening sporting her decorated house, the recipe for gingerbread dough and a cut-out pattern for future constructions of the house. As a kid, I was mesmerized by her cute little bungalow-style house smothered entirely in candy and sugary sweet icing and to this day I'll admit to still being verklempt anytime I see gingerbread construction.

It wasn't something we did together every year, but I can remember my mom and I making the houses together a few times and giving them as gifts to my school teachers, grandmothers, and some very close friends. If you got one of our houses, you were somebody special because this project was very detailed, time-consuming, expensive and alot of hard work.  I see these all-inclusive gingerbread house kits in the stores with everything already baked and candy and icing included, but I cannot and will not succumb to buying them because for me, it's a labor of love and a tradition to make them with my own two hands.

This year I am so excited to share my and my mom's tradition of decorating gingerbread houses with Boy Toy's daughter and some of her friends (I was probably more excited than they were!)  I volunteered to host a building and deocorating party for them this past Saturday afternoon and everyone had a great time - even the grown men who originally thought candy and icing was only for girls! 

I prepared the dough and baked the houses a week ahead of time because I've found that if you construct the houses right after baking, the pieces are soft and are easier to break or crumble.  I leave the pieces out on the counter for a few days to let them harden. 

The windows are made with crushed Jolly Rancher candies and I make some of them solid colors but I love the stained glass window effect of mixing two colors together in the same window.  When making the windows, make sure you use plenty of candy - it's okay if it's heaped up just a bit because it will melt and fill the space nicely (just make sure you don't get any bits of candy on the walls.)  I purchased 12" x 36" pieces of white styrofoam and cut them into thirds to act as the base for the house and I used Wilton Meringue powder to make the royal icing but you can make your own per the recipe below. 

Waiting for the decorators to arrive
The party guests ranged in age from 9 to 11 so I went ahead and constructed the houses about an hour before they arrived so the icing would have time to dry a bit before adding the candies.  I feared the kids' attention span wouldn't allow for the construction AND decorating and I was right - they were all about the candy and icing.  A great time was had by all and I'm hoping it is something that will become a holiday tradition in the Boy Toy household.

The gingerbread 'hood
Visit this post for my tried and true gingerbread dough recipe and to see some of my past housing creations.  I've included below another copy of the pattern that I've used every year as I noticed the link on my original post is no longer valid (and I'm too lazy to try and fix it). 

If you'd like even more ideas, check out my Flickr slideshow from last year's gingerbread house competition at the Ballentyne Resort here in Charlotte. 

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