For Scale, the dog is half inch tall…
I’ve always loved the idea of making gingerbread houses. But I have to admit, even as a more experienced baker I’ve started probably 5 gingerbread house projects that ended up looking sad in my compost. They can be tedious, and fussy, and I have been challenged with the construction aspects of a larger spiced domicile. They also take space to store while you are waiting for the construction, and time to decorate.
Back in November I noticed an Etsy seller who sold the most adorable miniature gingerbread house cutters. Well, I love me some miniatures. I also hoped this would come together efficiently enough and be delightfully manageable. And, it did!
I added some tiny little mid-century porcelain dogs to mine,
you know, like you do.
I started with a boiled gingerbread dough. There are different schools of thought on this, and I have tried the chill dough, the no-chill dough, and several others. What I find with this dough is that it is fairly easy to make – and it rolls out very smoothly. It also held up to the pressure of construction.
This is a several phase project: Dough and icing preparation, rolling and baking, house assembly and house decorating.
- Make the dough (recipes below). Wrap it and chill. I would also make royal icing and put into a tightly covered bowl. If you are daunted by royal icing, they sell a mix at most craft stores (such as JoAnn or Michael’s) and – it’s indistinguishable from the homemade, safer if it ends up in little mouths, and A-OK for a gingerbread house which will not be eaten (supposedly).
- The next day (or after at least 8 hours chill time) – take the disc of dough out of the fridge and let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature. On a well floured board, roll it out to ¼ thickness. Ensure that your dough rolling is uniform, no ‘thick/heavy’ parts or your houses will reflect this. After rolling, cut out the houses. I used a free-form pie trick on this by placing the dough *on* the silpat (or parchment), ON the tray, then cutting out. That way you don’t have to move the pieces. Bake, cool.
- Assemble the houses. I recommend using small “squirt” bottles but I also have used toothpicks. I wouldn’t recommend piping tips for this – they are overkill. It’s very simple – take a wall piece, apply royal icing to it and stick it to a “front” piece. Repeat on the other side. Stick on the back. Allow to dry 20 – 30 minutes, stick on a roof.
- This is the fun part. By the next day (or 3-4 hours later) these will be as hard as a rock. You will be able to pick it up and decorate it.
I went to the thrift store and picked up some tiny vintage saucers on which to put mine, but the sky is the limit. Maybe an entire miniature gingerbread house village in a Christmas cookie tin?
Gingerbread for a Sturdy Mini Cottage,
as adapted slightly from the Gingerbread Queen Martha Stewart
1 C Tightly Packed dark brown sugar
¼ C White Sugar
¾ C Molasses
½ C butter
1 T cinnamon
1 T ginger
1 – ¼ C milk
1 T baking powder
6 – 7 C flour
Combine sugars, butter, molasses, spices and salt in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan. Stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Do not allow this to boil – only simmer. Stir in milk until incorporated and remove from heat immediately. Allow to cool, and pour into a standing mixer or large bowl. Add baking powder and stir. In a standing mixer or electric mixer, begin to add flour. Dough will be extremely thick. Add flour until well combined, divide dough into half and push into flat round discs. Wrap this in plastic and store it in the refrigerator overnight. This dough will keep in the fridge for a week.
3 Egg Whites
4 C Powdered Sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
Whip egg whites until stiff. Gradually add in powdered sugar, and lemon. By the way – a trick with royal icing is that you should be able to run a fork through it and count to 5 before the ‘wake’ closes in the icing. Then – it’s perfect. If it’s too stiff, add a little water (in half teaspoon amounts). If it is too runny, add a bit of powdered sugar in teaspoon sized amounts until desired thickness.
Gingerbread dough, ready for rolling – be sure to allow this to come to almost room temperature, or it is very difficult to roll.
Carefully place the cutter and press very hard – very evenly.
Rolled dough is placed ON the sheet prior to cutting. Use a pizza cutter to finish the edges, or a very sharp paring knife.
Finished pieces, ready to assemble!
“glue” (with royal icing) the side pieces first. Hold firm about 20 seconds, then let go. After about 20 minutes they are dry and you can add the other end piece, and then the roof.
Roof pieces going on…
Completed! I like to add a thick line of “snowy” royal icing to the top and place in some candies. Then, you are ready to decorate.
Candy top! Those are red hots, for perspective, it’s a very tiny house.
I placed these on tiny saucers I bought at Goodwill, my spiritual home. This in particular is a re-purposed 1950s ashtray!
For each of these I placed a little “walkway” of royal icing, to which I glued the house down and then embellished with “cobblestones” which are actually tiny cake sprinkles.