Of 14th century European origin (you may be familiar with the edible home in the Brothers Grimm’s tale Hansel and Gretel), the beloved tradition of gingerbread house-making has spread across the globe and is now associated with the festive baking that accompanies Christmas.
Time slows down as the family gathers to collaborate and create; sweet memories are made as they experience the spicy scent of the gingerbread, sneak tastes of the candy décor, and share laughter and sticky fingerprints – after all, it’s all about the process, not just the product!
Whether gingerbread house-making is an annual tradition in your home, or an all-new experience, consider incorporating it into your holiday season!
And, if you’re a current enrolled Sonnet family, you’ll want to be sure to submit a photo of your masterpiece to your school director by December 26th for a chance to win a week’s free tuition! (Contest details below!) All the inspirational photos of gingerbread houses in this blog are from prior years’ entries!
Here are some tips to help make your and your child’s gingerbread house-making experience a success!
1. Buy a kit at your local grocery store. Skip the muscle power, skill and time involved in making homemade gingerbread for your project. Buy a kit!
2. “Glue” your gingerbread house together: plan ahead! It’s best to finish this step before inviting your child to come decorate. Children may not understand that depending on the edible “glue” of choice, it can take up to an hour for it to dry. Having a sturdy house for your children to decorate is essential; you do not want to worry about the roof caving in while your child is decorating!
Popular edible “glues” include royal icing, melted white chocolate or sugar syrup.
Hint: Consider using sugar syrup rather than the provided icing. Sugar syrup quickly hardens as it cools and can better secure the pieces of your gingerbread house together. To make sugar syrup, melt sugar on low heat on a stove, stirring constantly. When the sugar dissolves and has turned into liquid, turn off the heat and dip the edges of your gingerbread house in the syrup, then stick them together into desired shape. The syrup will be hot, so this is an “adults only” part of the assembly! The syrup will harden, so it’s best to have everything you need at hand and work quickly!
Assemble the sides first, then the roof, and last, any additional pieces. An extra pair of (adult) hands comes in handy here in order to get all the pieces positioned correctly. If you’re worried about stability, consider using the simple syrup to first “glue” the gingerbread house walls to a sturdy foam board platform or a cookie sheet. (Traditional weight cardboard may not be strong enough to hold the weight of the gingerbread house.)
3. Decorate! It’s time for your children to unleash their creativity! They can pipe designs onto the gingerbread house with the provided icing. Use the provided icing to “glue” the edible décor onto the gingerbread house.
Hint: if you need additional basic, white icing, consider purchasing “royal icing” mix from your local craft supply store – these mixes are easy to use, and usually require nothing but a couple of minutes, a hand mixer and a bit of water.
4. Don’t forget to set the scene! Consider adding a snowy winter effect around your gingerbread house by sprinkling shredded coconut on top of icing. Nilla wafers or similar flat, round edibles make ideal “paving stones”, or you can crush the wafers for a “grave” affect. Mini candy canes with a gum drop base give the visual effect of a “fence” around the house. Blue icing can create the effect of a stream or a pond.
5. Allow the assembled gingerbread house to dry. Overnight is best.
6. Feast your eyes on the finished product. Enjoy your family’s masterpiece!
7. To eat it or not to eat it? The majority of people polled say gingerbread houses are decorative only, but to some, tasting their artwork is a must! If you’re planning on sampling your masterpiece, be sure to read the ingredients on your kit to ensure it is safe for ingestion; it’s best to eat a gingerbread house within a week of assembling. Consider draping a piece of plastic wrap over the house when it’s not on display to keep it dust free.