Gingerbread houses…and barns and farms.
This is the time of year that I look forward to the most as baker. Our palates switch from juicy Summer and Autumn fruits to the decadent sugars and spices, the jammy preserves, the warm comforting smells of baked goods drenched in Rums and Whiskeys. Holiday iced cookies, end of year parties, client gifts and Thank You boxes of baked goods overwhelm us this time of year. The sugar plum fairies that dance in my head at night are all carrying holiday pies and clipboards stacked with event orders a mile long. It’s a very rewarding challenge to offer our sincere best for our clients as we help them celebrate their month.
And one weekend during this month, we set aside our “day jobs”, and set our sights on crafting spectacular Gingerbread houses. By November, we have our plans set and measured and the candy decorations are ordered. Early December, we build the villages. For the next few weeks, the office smells like the holidays and gingerbread dough as we roll it out and dust it with flour - and I have to be on vigilant watch to checking for any “missing” peanut butter cup chimney or “borrowed” candy cane fencing…
After consulting with our party planners to see what our clients have requested, we print off the “blueprints”. One Client wants a Midcentury modern ranch house as big as we can make it, another one would like a village of mini houses. We handle about five to ten custom Gingerbread events every season.
Among some of our favorites is the Katchkie Farm Gingerbread Barn. A real labor of love with marzipan farm animals and “billboards” mimicking Liz’s Bumper stickered truck. The “Cow-Pigs” become our unofficial mascot.
The only advice that I have in making gingerbread houses is patience. Plan it out in stages. Factor in baking times, cooling time, setting time. I prefer to decorate my walls and then glue them together “prefab” style. That gives you the best control on your decorating.
But the most important piece of advice? Buy lots of candy, snacking with decorating is very important part of the job. Trust me on this.
Gingerbread Blueprints! Print and use to shape your dough.
Gingerbread Farm Dough
• 6 cups flour
• 2 tsp. baking soda
• 2 tsp. cinnamon
• 2 tsp. allspice
• 4 tsp. ginger
• 2 tsp. cloves
• 8 ounces vegetable shortening
• 4T molasses
• 4 eggs
• ½ c light brown sugar
• ½ c dark brown sugar
Sift together the Dry ingredients and set aside.
In a Medium Bowl with a paddle, cream together the vegetable shortening, molasses, brown sugars until smooth.
Add the Eggs, one at a time until fully incorporated. Scrap down the mixture with a rubber spatula in between each addition.
Add the dry ingredients in two additions. Mix on low speed until fully combine.
Remove from mixer and knead by hand from one minute until dough is shiny and looking like modeling clay
Pat into two inch disk and chill for 3 hours or up to one week
On a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough to ¼ inch thickness. Using template, Cut out walls, doorways and windows. Arrange on Parchment paper lined flat baking trays. (Pro tip: use a lightly moist brush to brush off the excess flour.)
Save the cut scraps for doors and ornaments!
Keep the dough chilled until ready to bake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake until firm. Allow to cool completely.
Decorate with Royal Icing before assembling the sides. (Royal icing is the hard white icing that serves as the "glue" on your house edges and snow on the roof, made from softly beaten egg whites and sugar - sometimes lemon or lime juice will brighten up the heaviness. Pro tip: for precision when applying your royal icing, scoop it into a plastic sadwich bag or pastry bag and snip the corner for your applicator. Make it tiny for details like pig eyes and candy cane stripes, a little bigger for a curly pile of snow on the roof. The pastry bag is your best friend when building a gingerbread house as it handles all the details you want, from cracks in the "stucco" or "brick" to ornate window panes.)
Attach sides and roof together with royal icing, allowing each wall to set before adhering the next.