It is our family tradition to bake a gingerbread house every year. Since my own daughter is still a little small for sweets, I made one for my nephews this year. Additionally, we made another one for our colleagues.
The recipe that I use comes from some magazine of the 50’s or 60’s. I copied it from my grandmother and share it with you – together with tips from granny and me. 😉
- 1 jar of honey
- 250 grams sugar
- 250 grams biskin (basically vegetable fat)
- 1 kilogram flour
- 50 grams cocoa powder
- 1 sachet gingerbread spice (or abount 10 grams cinnamon, 10 grams cardamom, 5 grams clove)
- 2 eggs
- 1 sachet baking powder
- 5 egg whites
- 1 kilogram powdered sugar
- sweets for decorating
- baking sheets
- 12 – 15 long needles
Required time: about 3 – 4 hours over two days.
Preparing the gingerbread
Heat the honey with sugar and fat until shortly before boiling and let it cool. Sift the flour together with cocoa powder and spices and mix it with the honey mass, spoon by spoon. Add the eggs and the baking powder, knead to a smooth dough and allow to rest for about half an hour.
I am always amazed that you actually use a block of fat, a full jar of honey, and a complete kilogram of flour. And that 50 grams of cocoa powder are actually enough to color the whole thing brown. Kneading the flour in this dough has been too much for my hand mixers several times, so I had to do it manually. It helps to add an egg whenever the dough gets too hard.
Baking the house parts
Roll the dough until it is about 1,5 cm high and cut the house parts (2 walls of 23 x 9,5 cm, 2 roof parts of 17 x 28 cm, 2 gables of 10 x 15 cm). Bake in the pre-heated oven at 200° for 15 – 20 minutes and let the parts cool on a grid. If the house parts get deformed during baking, you can trim them as long as they are hot.
For the house parts it is reasonable to cut templates from baking sheets. This way, you always have the right sizes and there is no need to measure the dough. Of course the gables are not rectangular but pentagonal, and you should cut a door in one of them before baking. Deformed parts can also be trimmed using the patterns, but this really has to be done directly after baking. If the gingerbread is already cold, it will break. If the templates reel because of the heat, you can fixate them using needles.
Decorating the house parts
Whisk the egg whites until they are really stiff and mix in the sifted powdered sugar. Apply this sugar icing onto the cold house parts and decorate them with the sweets.
You will need about half of the icing later to glue the house together. You can keep it in the fridge overnight and stir it the next day, or you just make half of the icing now and the other half tomorrow. In case you ask – no, one kilogram of powdered sugar is not too much, because the icing really needs to work as a glue. Feel free to take large amounts of icing, otherwise you might risk that the sweets fall off when you put the house together. When you are done decorating, you can rest for the first day, because the house parts have to dry overnight. If you try to arrange them too early, everything will fall apart.
Assembling the house
Before assembling the house, the sweets have to be touch dry. Slather the icing on the corners of the house from the inside and the outside, put the walls together and let them dry for one hour. Now coat the gables and the upper part of the walls with icing and put the roof parts on top. Dust the house with a thick layer of powdered sugar to let it appear covered in show.
Put icing on the parts, glue them together, and let dry – sounds easy. But I remember countless times how the walls fell together, the roof slid down, or the whole thing just did not stand at all. So here comes granny’s professional hint: use some long needles to pin the parts together. It is essential to remember how many needles you used and where they are to avoid surprises! And you should pin the needles on the lower ends of the walls, because you will not be able to remove them from the upper end once the roof is up. Additionally, you can support the roof ends with glasses or anything of the right height. Again, don’t save on the icing! During assembly, I always think the house will never be stable, but if you take enough icing, you can remove the glasses and needles after about 24 hours and it will stick dead certain.
When you are done, don’t eat the house directly, but let it rest for a while. The gingerbread is quite soft after baking and hardens slowly afterwards. But if you keep it in a cookie tin after „slaughtering“ the house, it softens again and stays fresh forever. In our family, it is a tradition to bake the house in November and slaughter it on three king’s day on January 6.