When you bake a gingerbread house yourself, you’ll need to make sure that you let the pieces cool off and set before you actually work with them to build the house.
How long this takes is going to depend on what kind of dough you use, and the humidity where you are.
The humidity is something that can REALLY make a difference, I’ve experienced all kinds of things with that…
The general rule for working with gingerbread house pieces is to let them cool off completely after baking, and then let them sit overnight so that they’re totally as dry and solid as they’re going to be before you try putting the houses together. Leaving them for that long will give you time to see if they’re hard enough, or whether they need to be dried out more.
If you start working with the pieces before they’ve had time to set up, they might end up softening up and not being stable once you put the house together.
But this does depend on a few things, like I mentioned above, so let’s look at that.
What gingerbread recipe did you use?
The recipe that you used for the gingerbread house pieces is going to make a huge difference as far as whether the pieces are going to be stable or not. If you use construction-grade gingerbread it will be harder right out of the oven, and it will be less likely to soften up if it’s humid. A softer gingerbread recipe will be more likely to soften and collapse if you try to build with it.
For a construction-grade gingerbread recipe, click here: Sturdy gingerbread recipe.
This kind of gingerbread is for building, not eating, and it bakes up as hard as a rock if you do it right.
This kind of gingerbread can usually be used when it cools off, but you should probably let it sit for a while to make sure that it’s not softer than you think.
If your humidity is really high it’s still possible that construction gingerbread can soften up, but it’s not as likely as if it’s regular eating-type gingerbread.
Gingerbread for eating.
Gingerbread that’s meant for building houses and is also for eating is softer than construction gingerbread, and that means it’s more likely to fall apart eventually.
It’s still not as soft as cookie gingerbread, but it’s softer than something that’s meant for building specifically, so you need to wait longer before building with it.
If you let this kind of gingerbread cool off and sit around for 24 hours at least, you’ll be able to tell if it’s going to soften up a lot.
If that happens because it’s humid, or if the cooled-off pieces are just softer than you thought, you can put them back in a low-temperature oven (like 200 degrees F) for a while to evaporate some of the moisture in the pieces.
That will make them harden up enough to build with them, but if it’s really humid they might soften up again.
Worst-case-scenario is that the assembled pieces will soften up so much they’ll collapse, so if it’s that humid you should plan on using construction gingerbread to avoid that!
For a recipe for building gingerbread that also tastes good, click here: Recipe for Gingerbread Houses That Also Tastes Good.
What about humidity?
So that’s the basics about the recipes. Regardless of what recipe you use, it’s always best to wait 24 hours before trying to build your houses if you bake the pieces yourself.
That will give you time to see how the pieces are going to behave and to bake a little more of the moisture out if you need to.
But what about the humidity? I wrote another article about building gingerbread houses when it’s humid and you can read that here: Humidity and Building Gingerbread Houses.
The short story about the house pieces themselves is that the longer pieces set up by sitting out in the air and cooling off, the more you’ll be able to tell if they’re going to soften up.
If you live somewhere with high humidity your house-building experience is going to be totally different from someone who lives somewhere with drier air, so this is something that you need to pay attention to.
You might take your gingerbread pieces out of the oven, let them dry out overnight, think they’re fine, build the house, then the next morning you see that the whole thing has collapsed.
Sugar is hygroscopic, which means that it attracts and absorbs water from the air around it.
If you live in Florida you’ll probably know that a “stale” cookie that’s been sitting out gets soft, not hard.
That’s because it’s absorbing moisture from the environment, and that’s what will happen to your gingerbread pieces.
If you live somewhere with high humidity, I would suggest baking the pieces, then letting them sit out on cookie sheets for a few days. That will give you time to see what they’re going to do before you try putting them together.
If they soften up, you can put them back in the oven and bake them for a while at a really low temperature so that they dry out more before you use them.
Even if they do dry out, though, they could soften up again after they come out of the oven.
Most of the time you’ll be able to build the house and it will stay up even though it softens up a little, especially if you have air conditioning.
However, if your humidity is severe, or if you have a lot of rain coming through, that can doom your house to collapsing, so you might want to build it around a support.
You can use cardboard pieces like a box that the house is built around to hold it up, and that will guarantee that it’s not going to fall in on itself.
It’s the same principle as building the graham cracker houses around little milk cartons. It adds a little internal support that can help keep the outer pieces where they’re supposed to be.
If the entire house has to be edible you might not be able to do that, but there are other ways that you can create supports inside the house that are edible too.
I’m thinking that candy melts used as cement and gluing large pretzel rods together to create a platform kind of wall support would work.
Candy melts aren’t humidity-sensitive, they’re heat-sensitive. So as long as the temperature isn’t high enough to melt them, that should work.
As long as you let the gingerbread pieces dry out long enough to see if they’re going to stay hard and not crumble, your walls won’t collapse.
Don’t build the house when you haven’t given it enough time to make adjustments if you need to, especially if it’s humid!
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