Have you ever tried to make gingerbread houses? It can be difficult. If you want a little trick that makes them a lot easier, keep reading. You can even skip over my over-abundance of wordage if you’d like.
As kids, we used to decorate actual gingerbread houses in elementary school, and then the parents voted on them (I think?) after the annual Christmas concert. Maybe there was no voting, and they were all just out for display, but in my head it was a definite competition. I only remember a handful of years of this school tradition, but I LOVED it.
In the six years of having my own kids, we have done a few gingerbread houses. One year my mother-in-law made them out of rolled out dough and giant house-piece cookie cutters. Very impressive. I remember two things about these houses. One is that my daughter was thrilled with the activity. The other is that I was pregnant and feeling sick, and one day I pretty-much demolished them to get to the huge chunks of un-frosted gingerbread. My husband likes to retell this story and every time he does, I get the feeling that I am supposed to feel guilty. That’s as far as the feeling gets…that I am supposed to feel guilty, but I don’t actually feel any guilt. The next year my mother-in-law dropped off a little kit, instead. I’m guessing those suckers, while delicious, are a tad labor intensive.
Another year, on Thanksgiving, my sister-in-law had tiny little graham-cracker gingerbread houses that the kids frosted. This year, I offered to help make them ahead of time, and by help I mean invite myself and three children over to her house where she would do most of the work and feed us dinner. Well, technically it was a group effort with me another sister-inlaw. And by group effort I mean two of us made them, one watched and drank wine (coughLisacough). The kids had about zero interest in making these Very Special Holiday Memories, although to be honest putting them together is not exactly kid friendly. I have a feeling they will be alllll about decorating them with a table full of candy, though.
I made a few extra at home and took some photos along the way in case you are interested in making your own. The ones I made are pretty small, which is great for little hands (and little attention spans).
First, grab a pan and throw in some sugar. This is the secret glue–think crazy glue- that makes these much faster to put together. Thank my sister-in-law for this tip, it’s much better than piping icing along these tiny edges, and they harden and dry in no time! Turn the heat on and wait for it to melt.
While the sugar is melting, grab five graham crackers to make one house.
You are going to cut along these lines to make your house pattern, although if you’re the creative type, go wild. I’m keeping this simple for both myself and anyone else who wants to make these and suffers from poor spacial reasoning. You’re going to cut one graham cracker in half and the rest at 3/4ths of the length. Take two of those and cut from the middle top of the cut edge at an angle down to the edge of the middle line, like so…
To cut use a serrated knife, this honkin’ bread knife worked perfectly. And if I tried to cut more than one at a time I wound up with broken graham crackers. Every time.
Now you will have this…
Time to assemble! I started by putting the sides on one end, then gluing the other end, and finishing with the roof pieces.
To apply the glue, just dip the ends right in the sugar. Make sure you use a pan as wide as your house to make things easier and to keep from burning yourself. Caution: Melted sugar is HOT! And then it sticks to you and continues to burn (and burn, and burn). Keep your small children at a distance if they are interested in this part of the process.
And voila! You now have really cute little gingerbread houses, with optional crooked chimneys. You could also stick on little doors, windows, or shutters. So here they are all ready and waiting to be adorned with frosting and candy! How cute would these be as an alternative to dropping off cookies? A couple of these, the recipe for royal icing, and assorted candy decorations would make any child pretty happy! Don’t bother asking the parents their thoughts on this gift, of course, I’m sure they will love it too. Yeah…
Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!!! What are your Thanksgiving traditions?