Friday, November 20, 2009

Ginger Bread Houses

Today, in an effort to ward off the grumpies caused by a cancelled trip mini-golfing, we decided to make Ginger Bread Houses. This is a family tradition that we all love. In fact, the idea and recipe comes from the mother of a wonderful girlfriend of mine - we began making these every year starting when my friend and I were in Grade 7 or 8 (many many moons ago!!) If you haven't adopted this tradition yet, I hope that you do. Although the sugar high that comes to little people from too much tasting and not enough decorating is inevitable, it is one of the things that we all look forward to the most each holiday season. It is even more fun, by the way, with friends. William and Charlie invited their good friends Ben and Maddie over to share in the festivities.

Mrs. Teplicky's Ginger Bread Recipe
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp all spice
1 egg
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup molasses
1/2 cup shortening, melted

Icing Recipe (make just before assembling the houses)
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Melt shortening over low heat in a large sauce pan. Stir in molasses and sugar. Beat in egg. Beat in dry ingredients. Wrap dough in wax paper and chill for 1-2 hour, or until easy to handle.

Roll out the chilled dough on a lightly floured surface until about 1 cm thick. I generally like my gingerbread thicker and a bit chewy, but for making houses crisp is better. Cut out the needed pieces, and bake for 8 - 10 minutes at 375 degrees.

This recipe is enough dough and icing for a good sized ginger bread house, and a few men to decorate and eat while you are 'working'.

Here are the templates that I use to make the houses - it makes a nice size house, definitely enough for a family to share. Recipe cards are handy for cutting out your templates, because they are about the right size to begin with, and sturdy. You will need 2 of each piece, and whatever 'extras' that you like - the pieces for a chimney are the ones in the top right of the photo. If you would like to have doors or windows in your house, I would suggest cutting them before you bake the dough, and then re-cutting and actually taking out the parts that you don't need (the inside of the windows) as soon as the ginger bread comes out of the oven.

As a little hint, muffin tins are a great way of keeping the different candies separate and close at hand. This, by the way, is a great way to use up any leftover Halloween candy that is still lingering in your kitchen....

Next, beat together the ingredients for the icing and spoon into a strong plastic bag. Milk bags work great, or large Ziploc bags. Twist the top of the bag closed, and squeeze the icing into one corner. Snip off a small corner of the bag to pipe the icing through. This icing is tasty and works really well for the houses. It dries fairly quickly, although if you have little ones I would still suggest assembling the houses a few hours (or even the day before) you plan to decorate so that they are good and strong before the candies go on. Soup cans are a great way of propping up the walls of the house while the icing dries, and make sure that the walls are fairly dry before you attach the roof. If your house seems a little wobbly, run a thick bead of icing around all of the seams and the base of the house for extra strength.

Then, fill them up with fruits and veggies as best you can, and let them have at it!!!
The final result....

Makes you teeth hurt just to look at it, doesn't it?

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