Thursday, February 4, 2010
Valentine's Day Gingerbread House
This year the girls and I decided to make gingerbread houses. Well, the holidays can sort of sneak up on a person, so we didn't make them until after Christmas. That got me thinking, why is gingerbread mostly for Christmas? I left off the green, went crazy with red and white, and viola, a cute little house we can leave up until February.
To get the shape, I free-handed the curvy end piece (the narrow wall of the house) on paper, then used that as a stencil (flipping it over for the second piece). I measured the length of the curve for each side (they're different) and used that to determine the height of the wider side pieces. (The roof was the same process, but simple, because there are no curves.)
I baked the gingerbread, then while those side pieces were still warm, propped them up with crumpled aluminum foil (and all manner of things, really... spice jars and whatever was handy). There's no way to get it perfect, but I just held up the paper stencil so that I could match the curve, and adjusted as needed. During assembly, all is forgiven, because I put the narrow walls to the *outside* of the curved side pieces, and any discrepancies were masked by icing and later, candy decorations.
Candy ideas: white smarties, red spree, red hots (these bleed a lot into the royal icing though), candy canes, peppermint candies (whole or halved), pep-o-mint life savers (whole or crushed), licorice ropes, sliced red/white gumdrops.
The best find of all was this weird stuff called licorice "rips" in strawberry. It comes in sheets of 1 mm wide ropes stuck together, so you can tear it to the size you need. Individual ropes worked well for my little curlicues above the windows and doors, and even for the heart outline within the crushed life saver mosaic.
I almost forgot! The windows -- hard to see (because I forgot to place the lights inside before assembling the walls, oops) but there are candy windows in place. Cut the windows before baking the panels, then before removing from the foil, fill the openings with crushed butterscotch hard candies and return to the oven until melted. Allow to cool, the peel away from foil.
I've always found great tips, tricks, recipes, patterns, etc at ultimategingerbread.com, so give that a try if you're looking for help or inspiration.
St. Patrick's Day green gingerbread house? Pastel spring/Easter house? Why not...