So it's December 14th and you have promised the kids to build a gingerbread house… here are a few tips from a pro, you might have seen my gingerbread version of our new building last year or heard of the gingerbread towns I constructed when I was the Pastry Chef at the Ojai Valley Inn and Country Club.
Here's my recipe for gingerbread houses/men/bells...
2¼ cup molasses
1½ cup brown sugar
1 cup water
½ cup shortening
10 cup flour
1 Tbs baking soda
1 Tbs ginger
½ Tbs all spice
½ Tbs cloves
½ Tbs cinnamon
Bake at 350 degrees
15 to 18 minutes for gingerbread men and things that will likely be eaten
20 to 25 minutes for gingerbread which is going to be used for construction
If you have enough space roll out your gingerbread on the paper you will bake it on. Often when you cut out your pieces and try to move them they will shift or warp; this will help them keep their shape.
Right out of the oven when still warm, place your patterns on to see if they still match, if they do not, trim at this time before it hardens up too much – use a bread knife or an exacto knife.
When putting the house together, classically royal icing is used as the "glue". It's a combination of egg whites and powdered sugar. The down side of royal icing is that it can take hours to harden, even if cooled, which means you're stuck building a house of cards. Professionally we have a trick- Chocolate! Melt chocolate and pipe it on to hold the pieces together, and to speed this up use a can of “dust away” (that canned air stuff) turned upside down. It will come out very very cold (be careful, watch your fingers and face, and do not allow the kids to do this). The chocolate will harden almost instantly! This will get the houses up and ready for the fun decorating.
This year there was no time for a big house to decorate at the shop –or a place to display it. We had a lot of fun with a client ordering 125 Giant Gingerbread Boys and Girls for their employees kids to decorate at the company party and then take home.
Just the smell of baking gingerbread is reason enough to start baking.