Wednesday, November 26, 2008

All About Gingerbreads: Part 3

Today I'll be focusing on some key tips regarding:

Windows, Frosting, and Construction.

As a bonus, my mom, the gingerbread queen, has graciously agreed to guest post on the delicate art of construction.

But first, the Windows.

If you want to continue down the road of hardcore gingerbread house making, you can actually add window panes to your house. The process is actually super easy, and you can find the directions right here.

If you do windows, you can light up the house from the inside and the whole thing glows. All you have to do is dump a string of white lights into the center of the structure as you're putting it together, leaving the plug outside. A very nice effect, but not at all essential to the process.

Next, the Frosting.

The right frosting is key to the entire process, because it is literally the glue that holds the entire project together. The tubs of frosting that you can buy in the bakery aisle are okay, but they aren't usually sticky or sturdy enough to work well. We go with this option:

Royal Frosting

3 T Wilton Meringue Powder (found at Michaels, look for 40% off coupon)
4 C powdered sugar
6 T warm water

Beat all ingredients until icing forms peaks (5-7 minutes at low speed with a heavy duty mixer, 10-12 minutes at high speed with a hand-held mixer). It will need to flow fairly easily out of a decorating bag, so if it seems too stiff, add 1 TBS more of warm water.

While you can purchase special piping bags from craft stores, we've found that spooning a bunch of frosting into cheap sandwich baggies works quite well. Just cut a tiny bit off of one corner and always hold onto it from the back.

And, direct from my mom (in green), some basics on Gingerbread House Construction:

This does require quite a bit of patience and lots of water bottles to hold up your pieces, due to the fact that we do only have 2 hands!

Take a piece of wood and cover with a piece of tin foil.

Start by placing the front piece and attach a side piece with a fair amount of royal frosting (see above for recipe) to the seam. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE STORE BOUGHT FROSTING TUBS. Royal frosting is like cement and you want to use the frosting with the most heft. Make sure you position these first two pieces towards the back of your wooden base, so you can add trees, landscaping and perhaps an ice skating rink to your front yard. Place full water bottles on each side of the pieces to hold it together. Run a pipe of frosting on the inside seam as well as the base of the pieces.

Now add your back piece and then the other side piece, using water bottles to hold these pieces in place, and add additional frosting to the inside and outside seams.

This is the time to QUIT for the night!!!!! DO NOT TRY TO ADJUST PIECES!!!!
You will be covering most of it in frosting and decorations so if your sides aren’t exactly plum, it doesn’t matter.

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ADD ADDITIONAL PIECES OR TO PUT THE ROOF ON!!!!! It would be a disaster and will spoil your gingerbread house fun from now and forever more!

The next day (no, not 4 hours later, I mean at least 10 -12 hours later), you can add your roof pieces, very carefully and tenderly. You could enlist someone to hold a roof piece in place while you attach the second roof side. A patient husband who is not clumsy would work, but probably not your 4 year old child.

Once your roof is on, you will need to wait another day for the real fun to begin….you know what that is…DECORATING NIGHT!!!! I promise you, it is all worth it!


Here is my house, all put together, complete with butterscotch windows! I can't take credit for the construction.


Finally, a disclaimer about this fancy gingerbread process:

Do not feel like you need to go through all this trouble for pure gingerbread fun.

The real fun is in the decorating, so you can buy a kit containing the pieces already baked (which you would still need to assemble…see above for tips on construction) or use graham crackers attached to a milk cartons or 6 pack holders.

4 comments:

DLB said...

These are some great ideas. I had been thinking of skipping the event this year, because it causes quite a bit of stress to always try to come up with a better idea than the last year. But seeing all this great fun, I think I'll quick go buy a kit and at least participate somewhat. It looks like it might be a little late to come up with a really original idea. Elizabeth is doing a California scene which should be fun, so maybe I'll just help her.

travelingtroll said...

Well, Jess...it's 11:45 on Thanksgiving Eve and I JUST finished baking all my pieces :) You inspired me to go the actual gingerbread route over sugar cubes, pretzels, graham crackers, etc. I am cheating a little and using hot glue to speed up the frosting joint process. Seeya tomorrow!

Chrispy Critter said...

My favorite Gingerbread tip is HOT GLUE!

Dave and Jenni said...

You got Mama Witte to post - that's awesome. :) Yes, this seems like a lot of work (we're going to do a boxed kit this year), but what an awesome family tradition!