There are a lot of tips and tricks that people use for making gingerbread houses, and I’ve been collecting them for a while.
This is a collection of some of the tips that I’ve found that would be helpful for gingerbread house baking, construction, and decorating. I’ll continue to add to them as I find more.
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Gingerbread house planning tips.
1. Be patient! This is the most important thing you can do when you’re decorating, and even when you’re baking. Don’t rush the process because there’s a lot of drying time in between steps when you’re making gingerbread.
2. Make sure that you’re using a template or pattern that fits together well. If the pieces are off when you start cutting pieces out, it will make assembly harder.
3. There’s no shame in starting your gingerbread house months ahead of time, or in doing smaller houses with different holiday themes throughout the year. A lot of people do Valentine’s Day houses, St. Patrick’s Day houses, Halloween houses, etc. That can also give you a chance to try out new types of decorations.
4. If you know that you’ll be using a lot of candy on a house, watch for sales throughout the year. Most candy can be stored at room temperature for months without any deterioration, and planning ahead will save you a lot of money.
5. Make sure that you think the design is interesting or you’ll get bored and won’t want to finish! Also, give yourself time to actually work on the house, because they can take a lot longer than you think.
6. If you’re designing your own pattern, cut it out of cardboard before baking the pieces so that you can make sure everything fits together well.
7. If you decide to do a replica of a well-known building, check online to see if there’s a template available already. Chances are that if a building is famous, someone has made it in gingerbread before, so you might be able to find a pattern to use, or to start from to make a better version!
8. Decide how you’re going to make specific structural pieces, like windows and doors, ahead of time. You might need to order specialty materials like sheet gelatin so that you’ll have enough supplies on hand.
Gingerbread Baking Tips
1. Use the right kind of gingerbread. If you’re building a large structure, you’ll be better off using a construction-grade gingerbread than a regular cookie recipe. If you want to eat the house, use a recipe that tastes good, but make sure it’s baked enough that it’s dried out. You want to make sure that your house is sturdy and won’t collapse.
2. Make sure that whatever recipe you use, you bake it long enough so that it’s dry. Gingerbread will dry out as it cools, but if it’s soft when you take it out of the oven, it won’t harden up enough to let you use it for building.
3. Roll the dough out directly onto parchment paper that’s been cut to fit the cookie sheet. Cut the pieces out and remove the extra dough, then slide the paper onto the cookie sheet. Not having to move the pieces off of the parchment will help to keep it from stretching out of shape as it’s moved.
4. Roll the dough out using 1/4″ dowels on either side of the rolling pin to make sure you don’t get it too thin. You can also get a rolling pin with measuring rings that will help keep the dough rolling evenly. To see those, check on Amazon here: Rolling pin with measuring rings
5. If the sections seem to be too soft after they cool off, you can put them back in the oven on a low temperature like 270 F to dry them out a little. This is also handy if you live in a humid climate because it’s not unusual that the humidity will soften up the gingerbread after it’s been baked.
6. Trim the pieces using the templates and a pizza roller or a sharp knife as soon as they come out of the oven while they’re still soft. This will make sure that the pieces are all the right shape if they’ve spread a little while baking.
Gingerbread house assembly tips.
1. Use food coloring to make the royal icing the same color as the gingerbread to disguise the seams. Paste food coloring or gel food coloring won’t thin out the icing too much. Get it at the craft store in the cake supply section, or order online on Amazon: Paste food coloring
2. Use strong royal icing if you want kid-safe icing glue. There have been a lot of videos about using hot sugar and other melted candy as edible glue, but they can get to temperatures around 340 degrees F, and you need to know how to work with hot sugar in order to avoid burns. Never work with hot sugar when you have kids or pets in the room, and always wear gloves and have a bowl of cold water in the sink in case of burns.
3. Before gluing the pieces together, make sure that the edges are even and flat when they’re butted up against each other. Use a pair of scissors, a grater, or a micro planer to shave off bumps and straighten up the edges.
4. Give pieces time to dry before adding additional sections, especially if the weather is humid or when there are sections that will be supporting other pieces.
5. If you’re in a humid area, use cans and other items to hold the walls in place until the icing dries enough to hold the house together. If the house doesn’t need to be completely edible, you can use pieces of thin cardboard glued to the corners inside to hold the walls together.
6. Make sure to build your house on an appropriate board or plate that will support it without flexing or shifting.
7. If your house has a lot of piping designs on it, or any type of icing flood work, you might want to decorate it before putting it together. Piping on a flat surface is easier than trying to do it when the house has already been assembled.
Gingerbread house decorating tips.
1. Have fun!
2. To save money, use a limited amount of candy and try to get people to use more icing.
3. If you want to use a lot of candy, try to buy it ahead during sales throughout the year.
4. Use rolled fondant for cut-out shapes and things like doors and window shutters.
5. Don’t try to decorate the house until it’s dry from the assembly process. Give the houses enough time to set up completely.
6. This article will give you an idea about how much candy you need for different types of gingerbread decorations: How Much Candy Do You Need To Decorate A Gingerbread House?
7. Add some decorations outside the house to make a more themed design. Landscaping can add another layer to the decorating.
8. If you’re decorating with kids, keep your expectations realistic. It’s unlikely that little kids will produce artistically perfect houses, but if they have fun that’s the important thing!
9. While you’re working with the royal icing, keep a damp paper towel over the bowl to prevent it from drying out on the surface. If you have to store it, press plastic wrap onto the surface, then cover the bowl with another layer of plastic wrap. You might want to beat the icing again before using it if it isn’t as fluffy as you want it to be.
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