Making a gingerbread house is not only a fun craft project, but it also makes a great edible holiday centerpiece! A gingerbread house can be simple or complex, quick or time-consuming, an activity involving your children or something done as a creative solo project. Making and decorating a gingerbread house with frosting and candies and letting your imagination run wild is a fun, creative holiday baking project for all ages.
A traditional gingerbread house uses baked gingerbread and a simple rectangular house form with four walls and a slanted roof. Thick frosting holds the gingerbread pieces together and is also used for a "glue" to hold a variety of candies onto the house. A sturdy base such as a board covered with foil is the "yard" of the house and more gingerbread pieces covered with white frosting make a snowy yard. Gumdrop shrubs and candy stepping stone paths can be added.
It is often best to bake the gingerbread on one day and then assemble and decorate the house on the next day. Young children may have too short of an attention span to be involved in baking, assembling, and decorating all in one day. Encourage young ones by exercising patience if they put the candy on crooked or make a bit of a mess. Think ahead by using an old tablecloth or a vinyl tablecloth that can be easily wiped to cover the area under the gingerbread house to be decorated. Properly plan the project by buying all of the necessary ingredients ahead of time.
Many great recipes for gingerbread and gingerbread house frostings can be found on recipe sites on the Internet. Thin cardboard can be used for the house pattern, with the cut out pieces then placed on the rolled out gingerbread. Some people use a pizza cutter to cut around the pattern pieces. Scraps of dough can be formed into gingerbread house details and baked separately as they will take less time than the larger house walls.
Baked and cooled gingerbread house wall pieces can be attached together by placing a line of frosting on one slab and then holding another slab against the frosting covered edge for a few seconds. The newly attached pieces should be left to set for 20 to 30 minutes to make them sturdy enough for decorating. Other non-perishable foods besides candies can be used to decorate a gingerbread house such as coconut for snow, pretzel sticks for fences, and cereal squares for a thatched roof. Cookies and popcorn also work well as gingerbread house decorations. A quick no-bake way of making a gingerbread-type of house without the gingerbread, is to use graham crackers and canned frosting.
Many people enjoy using variations on the classic method of making a gingerbread house. They add another floor, create a Victorian home, a church, or even a beach house, post office or other type of gingerbread structure. Some people add ingredients such as chocolate to the dough. For example, the United States White House featured a magnificent chocolate gingerbread Colonial-style structure on its dining room buffet table in 2004. One hundred and fifty pounds of chocolate and one hundred pounds of gingerbread were used to make the enormous Presidential gingerbread house.