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Gingerbread Houses and Cookies
old picture of gingerbread house

Gingerbread Houses and Cookies

A good general-purpose recipe for making gingerbread houses, cookies, and things of that ilk

Assemble, frost, and/or decorate with Gingerbread House and Cookie Frosting/Mortar

Honest; I know I have some more recent pictures (in color, even) of gingerbread houses I've made--a couple of castles, some small cottages, and even a much-simplified version of the Taj Mahal (using the "mixing bowl" technique)--I just haven't been able to find them.

Mix in saucepan: 2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup molasses
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
Bring to a boil
and stir in:
2-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
(it'll start to foam up, so be ready for this)
Immediately pour
into a mixing bowl
2/3 cup butter
Mix in: 1 egg
5 cups flour

Spread into sheets with rolling pin and cut into desired shapes; bake at 325 degrees for 8 minutes.

Use the Gingerbread frosting and mortar recipe to assemble and/or decorate the cookie pieces once they have cooled completely.

I know everybody has their own ways of designing and building gingerbread houses; I find that making the shapes for the walls, doors, roof parts, and miscellaneous items out of manilla folders works really well. Cut the manilla folders into pieces of the desired shape and they'll soak up a bit of the butter from the cookie dough and won't stick at all. If you're using nonstick baking pans (flat cookie sheets work better for me than the jelly-roll pans with the raised edges), you'll want to be careful when cutting around the forms with a knife, otherwise the nonstick surface will get scratched up. Since gingerbread cookie dough isn't terribly tough anyway, a plastic knife with a pointed tip works fine and won't scratch the pan.

I've made castles and even gingerbread buildings with domes and odd shapes (you can form the dough over a metal mixing bowl), but, obviously, smaller ones are easier to transport and ship without breaking.

When it comes to decorating gingerbread houses and cookies, everybody has their own ideas, but I prefer to use all edible parts and think M&Ms and sprinkles (chocolate or multi-colored) are the best. Just for the record, I want to state publicly that I'm personally opposed to the use of gumdrops, jujubes, or gummi-anything as gingerbread decorations; they tend to get sort of nasty after a while, which is a bad trait in any form of culinary expression, especially ones that are often given as gifts.

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If you're feeling adventurous and are making a larger and more elaborate gingerbread house, crushed hard candies can be put into the openings for windows prior to baking and will melt to form an edible version of "stained glass." Whole candies will generally not melt fast enough or evenly, and, of course, don't even try this with gummi anything, gumdrops, or M&Ms--even if they're not supposed to melt in your hand, they'll still burn in the oven.

Max gets into the holiday spirit
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