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We’re in the thick of the holiday season now and if you’re looking for a fun and festive project you’ve come to the right place. I’m so excited to share the recipe and guide to making these mini gingerbread houses.
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I used a traditional gingerbread cookie recipe with aromatic spices like ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice for flavor but also for fragrance as these houses will most likely be on display through the holidays.
The *glue* and decorative icing is done with traditional royal icing because it is easy to pipe and hardens and holds the houses together like a dream. Traditional royal icing calls for egg whites, which I do not recommend eating raw, especially for children. To remedy this I swapped them for meringue powder which can be found in the baking aisle of most supermarkets these days.
These gingerbread houses are completely edible and are a fun project to do with kids. If you plan on eating them I suggest using quality ingredients and eating them within 1 week. If they will be used for decor purposes only, then use cheaper ingredients and omit more expensive spices like fresh ginger and vanilla extract.
Since this is a big project to do all in one day I suggest planning it out over several days. On day one make the dough and cut and bake the shapes. On day 2 make the icing and decorate them. On day 3 assemble the houses and add finishing touches. Both the dough and icing can be made ahead of time and frozen to use at a later date. Thaw the dough and icing in the fridge for 24 hours, then bring the icing to room temp before piping it.
I recommend using pastry bags and piping tips for this project, but ziplock bags can be used in a pinch. I purchased a box of these pastry bags, which have lasted for a while and come in handy when you need them, and this piping tip kit which comes with a variety of tips for you to create designs with. I used tip #1 for piping the designs on each piece and adding finishing touches and tip #12 for assembling the pieces together with icing.
If the icing is too thick for piping the detail work then simply thin a potion of it out by adding water a little bit at a time and mixing it in until the desired consistency is reached. This icing is perfect for decorating gingerbread and sugar cookies. To flood or fill-in designs simply thin the icing a little bit more by adding even more water.
I love the look of the snow-covered look of white icing against the gingerbread. Feel free to get creative with your designs and add coloring to the icing if you want. I found a lot of inspiration for gingerbread house decorations on Pinterest and had so much fun creating unique designs on each piece as I went.
Don’t want to or don’t have time to make gingerbread houses? No problem. This recipe is perfect for gingerbread cut-out cookies as well.
These mini gingerbread houses would add a festive touch as holiday cake toppers. Or make just the front of the houses to stick onto the sides of a cake like a collar.
I have some new holiday cookie recipes coming up in the next 2 weeks and we get closer and closer to Christmas Day. Stay tuned to the blog and signup for my newsletter so you never a miss a new recipe.
I used the townhouse template from this hobbycraft.co.uk post but shortened the height to 5.5″.
Yield 8 mini houses (approx.)
- 1 stick (1/2 cup or 90g) shortening
- 1/2 cup (115g) dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (194g) molasses
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (optional)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups (300g) all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon powdered ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon grated whole nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 recipe of Royal Icing (see following)
- Cream together shortening, dark brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with a beater attachment or in a mixing bowl with a hand mixer until fluffy, about 1 minute.
- Beat in molasses, egg, fresh ginger if using, and vanilla extract until combined, about 30 seconds.
- In a separate mixing bowl whisk together dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt and dry spices, until combined, about 30 seconds.
- With mixer running on low speed, add dry mixture slowly and mix until evenly incorporated, stopping to scrape sides when needed, about 1-2 minutes.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into 2 rectangles about 1 inch thick. Wrap each tightly with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour or overnight. You can also freeze dough at this stage to use at a later date. Defrost in the fridge for 24 hours before continuing.
- Preheat oven to 350˚F and line 4 half sheet pans with parchment paper
- Take 1 rectangle of dough out of fridge, unwrap and roll to 1/4" thickness on a floured work surface. turning and re-flouring as needed to keep dough from sticking to surface or rolling pin.
- Place house templates over dough and cut out shapes using a small sharp knife or an x-acto knife/razor blade.
- Transfer cut outs to baking sheets spacing them about 1" apart. When first sheet is full, place it in the freezer for 10 minutes while you continue rolling and cutting out more shapes.
- After 10 minutes in the freezer bake the first sheet at 350˚F for about 10 minutes until cookies are cooked well done. They will still be slightly soft to the touch when warm and will harden and crisp up as they cool down.
- Pop the second sheet of cookies in the freezer while the first sheet is baking. Continue this process with the remaining dough and trays until all of the pieces are baked.
- Transfer cookies to cooling racks and cool to room temperature before assembling houses. Once cool, cookies can be kept at room temperature in a covered container overnight to assemble the following day.
- To decorate cookies, fill a pastry bag fitted with a #1 round writing tip with royal icing. To do this place the pastry bag in a tall quart-sized jar and fold down the ends over the outside of the jar. Add royal icing to the bag filling it 1/2 way. Then pull up the sides of bag and push down the icing with your hands. Twist the pastry bag so there is no air left in the bag.
- Working with one cookie at a time pipe icing in decorative patterns. I like to outline the shape then make doors and windows and decorative designs on each section of the house.
- Let icing set until it is hard and firm to the touch, about 1-2 hours or overnight, before proceeding to assemble houses.
- To assemble house fill a pastry bag fitted with a #12 round tip with royal icing as detailed in step 13 above. You can also use the #1 tip for this (as I did in the video) but will need to add a few layers of icing with it.
- Gather sections to complete a house and pipe royal icing on edges then stick sides together and hold in place with your hands for about 30 seconds. Continue piping on royal icing where needed to act as glue to hold the pieces of each house together.
- Pipe royal icing over the seam of the roof pieces and along the trim of the roof line to create a snowy effect. Attach chimneys with royal icing. Pipe icicles with the #1 tip by piping a little mound of royal icing onto the roof trim and pulling down. See video for detail.
- Allow houses to air dry overnight so royal icing hardens. Royal icing becomes brittle when dry so be extra careful when moving the completed houses. Icicles will break off easily just by touching them.
- If eating the houses or just making cookies, use them up within 1 week. Keep assembled cookies in a covered container at room temp for up to 1 week.
- I do not recommend eating houses that will be set out as holiday decor. And if holiday decor is your end goal, then use cheap ingredients and skip the fresh ginger and vanilla.
- Shortening can be swapped with butter or vegan butter. Use 1 stick/1/2 cup/115g of butter.
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Yield 6 cups
This royal icing is made with meringue powder so there is no worries of little mouths eating raw egg whites. It's the perfect *glue* for gingerbread houses and can be thinned out for decorating cookies.
- 2 lbs (907g) confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
- 6 tablespoons (56g) meringue powder
- 1/2 cup + warm water
- Wipe down the bowl and balloon whisk attachment of a stand mixer or a mixing bowl and beaters of a hand-held mixer with a paper towel dampened with white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. This ensures there is no oil or fat particles in the bowl, which will deflate the meringue.
- Add all of the ingredients to the bowl and whisk on low speed, increasing to high speed as sugar incorporates until glossy stiff peaks form in the icing, about 10 minutes. Stop and scrape down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
- This recipe should produce a thick icing which is good to use as *glue* for holding together gingerbread houses. For decorating cookies, thin out a portion of the icing with more warm water, stirring in 1 teaspoon at a time until a desired consistency is reached. Add even more water to thin icing to flood or fill in designs on cookies.
- To store icing: fill 3-4 pastry bags with the royal icing, leaving the tips of the bags uncut. Keep at room temp to use that day or refrigerate or freeze to use a later time. Thaw to room temp before using.
- When ready to use for piping, prepare a new/clean pastry bag with a tip. Place the bag into a large jar (quart-sized works well) and fold down the ends of bag on the outside of the jar. Then snip off the end of a bag of the stored icing and squeeze the icing into the prepped clean/new bag. Lift up the ends of the new pastry bag off the jar and twist the bag to push icing down and remove any air.
- Pipe icing onto baked and cooled cookies as detailed in the recipe for Gingerbread Houses above.
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