Humidity is the enemy of sugar and baked goods, so making a gingerbread house when it’s wet outside is a challenge.
When I was a kid we lived in very humid places, and I thought that it was normal to use soup cans to prop your house up while it dried.
I was also shocked when I moved to New England for college and I didn’t need soup cans when I made a gingerbread house!
The air was dry and the house didn’t need special treatment to stay together.
So what are some tips to help you if your gingerbread softens up when the humidity gets to it?
To combat humidity when making a gingerbread house, you should take precautions by using a sturdy construction-style gingerbread recipe, and by making sure that you give the components time to dry out while you build the house. If there’s adequate drying time, there will be less chance of the house softening up and falling apart.
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How to keep gingerbread from softening up.
Gingerbread is made from ingredients including sugars, and sugar is hygroscopic.
That basically means that it will attract and absorb moisture, so if there’s a lot of humidity in the air, it can make the baked gingerbread get softer over time.
This can lead to the structure of the house failing and the walls collapsing if they get too damp and soften up too much.
To keep your gingerbread house structure intact, you need to reduce the amount of liquid in it as much as possible, which means drying the pieces out to the point that they’re almost totally free of moisture.
Using a construction-grade gingerbread recipe is an important part of this, because they’re designed for strength, not eating.
Recipes that are meant to be eaten are generally softer and will absorb more moisture, so if you have a lot of humidity those recipes won’t work well.
After baking your gingerbread pieces, you can leave them in an oven on the lowest setting (usually 150-170 degrees Fahrenheit) for a few hours or overnight to dry them out completely.
This will get rid of as much moisture as possible from the pieces so that they’ll resist softening.
You can also put pieces that have been baked and have gotten a little softer back in an oven at a low temp to dry them out before you decorate with them.
If you think that your gingerbread has softened up at all, it’s a good idea to bake them a little longer to dry the pieces out.
Once the pieces are dry and ready to decorate, you’ll have to deal with your next challenge, which will be icing that might not want to dry if the air is too humid.
How to stick a gingerbread house together when it’s humid.
To stick a gingerbread house together when it’s humid, you can use regular royal icing and prop the pieces up until the icing dries, or you can use hot glue or melted candy melts.
If you need the house to be entirely edible the icing or candy melts will be your best bet, but to be 100% sure that the glue won’t soften later, you might want to use hot glue.
The downside to using royal icing in humid conditions is that it will take a long time to dry, and your house might not stick together well as it dries.
You might have to prop the walls and roof up in order to keep the pieces in place until the icing hardens.
You can use melted candy melts to stick the pieces together, but that can soften later if it gets warm.
Some people will use hot melted sugar, but I don’t recommend that in general because of the risk of burns. Hot sugar is a popular solution on social media, but in real life it can give you third-degree burns!
Plus, it will soften up too with excess humidity, so it might not be as stable as you think.
Hot glue isn’t edible, but it’s also not susceptible to humidity, so that’s the tradeoff.
If you want to stick with something edible (pun intended) then royal icing is a good bet, but you’ll have to be patient.
Some people will use a hairdryer set to a cool setting to speed the drying process, so that’s an option.
You can also make a brace that will hold the roof pieces in place as they dry.
You can make one out of cardboard, or use some floral wire to hook under the edge of the roof then twist it together at the top of the roof peak.
That will keep the roof pieces together while the icing sets up, but it might be hard to do, so you can also use the tin can method.
Using soup cans, or another object that’s the right height, push them under the edges of the roof and prop the pieces up so that they stay in place and don’t slide off while the icing is drying.
That can take quite a while if it’s humid, but you need to be patient with this. If the icing isn’t completely dry and you try to decorate the house, the movement and pressure can make the whole thing fall apart.
Even easier than that would be to use a template that has notches in the edges so that the pieces lock together and support each other while the icing dries.
Click here for a template like that: Interlocking gingerbread house template
Make sure that the house is TOTALLY solid before you start decorating, then start thinking about the kind of candy you’ll be using so that it doesn’t get destroyed by humidity either!
For an article about the best candy for gingerbread houses in general, click here to read my roundup.
The best gingerbread house candy to resist humidity.
Because candy is basically made of sugar, it’s going to attract moisture and absorb it.
Depending on what other ingredients are in it, the candy might not be affected much by humid air, or it can really start to soften and bleed into the icing that it’s attached to.
The candy that’s the most affected will be anything that’s made from straight sugar, like lollipops, candy canes, or other hard candy.
That type of candy will absorb water from the air and the outer layer will get soft.
You might know what I mean if you’ve ever eaten a lollipop and feeling that the outside of it has softened and is chewy, but the inside is still hard.
The problem with this is that if the outer layer softens up, the candy can start to bleed into the icing and stain the area around it if it’s stuck to the house with royal icing.
This can also happen if the candy has a lot of food coloring on the outside. That would be something like M&M’s or red hots, which are basically sugar with some cinnamon oil and food coloring.
If you want to keep the colors of your gingerbread house from melting, you should stick with candies that have lighter colors, like Pez or Smarties.
Anything that has very little food coloring in it will work best to prevent the color bleeding.
You can also use things like marshmallows and cereals that don’t have any food coloring in them to guarantee that there won’t be any color bleeding.
White candy like white Chiclets or TicTacs will also work because there’s no color to stain the icing in them.
Another type of candy that works to prevent color bleeding is anything chocolate.
Things like Hershey Kisses and Tootsie Rolls won’t bleed because there’s no food coloring in them.
They also have oil in them, which resists moisture, so they’re not as affected by humidity.
They can melt, though, so you shouldn’t put them somewhere REALLY hot or they’ll soften up too!
Gumdrops and other gummy candy are good for humidity too. They usually don’t have the color-running problems and they don’t absorb moisture from the air.
Humidity is definitely a risk factor for having your gingerbread house fall apart, but if you take precautions before assembling the house it will be fine.
Dry the pieces out thoroughly, be patient when you attach them together, and choose candy that won’t stain the icing. It’s all in the preparation.
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