Some gingerbread houses have designs that include bent or curved pieces, and the question of how those pieces are made comes up a lot. There are a few ways to bend gingerbread pieces, and I tried the after-baking bending method to see how it worked.
To bend gingerbread after it’s baked, you need to prepare the forms that you’ll use to cool the gingerbread into the shape that you want the final piece to be. The gingerbread should be baked thinner than usual and for a slightly shorter time, and placed on the shaping form immediately when it comes out of the oven. It will cool off very quickly and become impossible to bend.
Some gingerbread recipes work better for bending than others, but in general, most can be shaped after baking as long as it’s done carefully.
What forms to use to bend gingerbread.
To bend gingerbread, you can use any heat-resistant form that will hold the hot gingerbread in place until it cools. The forms can be made from anything that will hold its shape if the gingerbread needs to be pressed against it. If the gingerbread just needs to be placed in a slight curve and not pressed around the form, the form can be made from tinfoil.
For this experiment, I used a small, round candle because it was about the right size to make a little awning. I wasn’t worried about the wax melting because the gingerbread was going to cool off really quickly, and it wouldn’t be long enough to melt the candle.
I cut the piece to be the length that was about half of the candle by wrapping it around the candle and cutting the ends. I made sure that one side was completely straight, since it would need to go up against the wall of the house.
I rolled this out to be about 1/8″ thick, so it was going to bake faster than the larger pieces. The thicker the piece is, the harder it will be to bend it if it bakes for too long!
Don’t bake these pieces for too long or you won’t be able to bend them. Pieces that are going to be bent should be very slightly underbaked.
How to bend the baked gingerbread piece on the form.
When the gingerbread comes out of the oven, IMMEDIATELY place it onto the form. If the gingerbread was too thick, or baked for too long, it can crack, but if you press it gently around the form it will keep the shape regardless. If it was completely overbaked it won’t comform to the shape of the form, so you may have to try this out to find the right combination of baking time and thickness of the piece.
In this case, I baked the little piece a little too long, so it started cracking on the top when I put it on the candle. However, I was able to shape it anyway and it didn’t break, so it worked out.
Press the piece onto the form if it needs to really bend, but use an oven mitt or potholder so that you don’t burn yourself! The gingerbread is still going to be really hot at this point.
It will cool off quickly, probably within 30-45 seconds, so you need to work fast.
Make sure that the shaping is done correctly.
As you shape the gingerbread piece onto the form, make sure that you place any edges that need to be in very specific positions in the right place. When the gingerbread cools off you won’t be able to adjust the shape anymore, so this needs to be done when you place the gingerbread on the form.
I needed this piece to go up against the front of the house, so one edge needed to be totally flat. I lined it up against the edge of the candle. and it cooled off with a flat side that I’ll be able to attach to the house easily.
When the bent piece cools off enough, you’ll be able to remove it from the form and let it cool off completely until it’s ready to be used.
Allow the bent piece to cool off completely, then use it for the house design.
If the top of the bent piece has cracks in it (like mine does) you can cover it with icing or other decorations. If you need a piece that’s entirely smooth, you might have to do this more than once, or you’ll have to bake the gingerbread in a shaped form.
In general, bending the gingerbread after it’s baked will work but it’s tricky to get it completely right. The more severe the bend, the more likely it is that you’ll have some cracking on the surface, so this method won’t work for every design!
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