How to Make a Gingerbread House | Expert Advice
Royal icing is literally the glue behind any well-made gingerbread house. The recipe: well-beaten egg whites, confectioners’ sugar, and a little bit of lemon juice. The final substance should resemble paste. “You want it soft so that you can press candy into it,” Robbins notes, “but stiff enough so that it will dry and hold.” The same mixture can be used on the exterior of the walls, too, to hold candies and other decorations. You’ll find pre-made icing mixes at craft stores and party-supply outlets.
Tools of the Trade
You can go as bare-bones as you like. Ziploc bags make excellent pastry bags—just fill with icing and snip off the ends. Parchment paper and a good, flat baking surface are musts, as is a sharp knife to cut out the walls. For finer detail, pick up an icing tip (about $1) to give your roof and walls an intricate design. Robbins also uses a microplane grater to carefully shave off the sides of her walls to make them fit better.
Making a gingerbread house isn’t a one-day thing. One year, when her daughter was young, Robbins made a house that had two sections connected by a breezeway. The baking took a couple of days. At the very least, Robbins recommends gluing the house together the day before you decorate. The icing will need time to dry, and if you’re working with kids, it will let them home in on what they like best: dressing up the house with candy.
Beyond the Neccos
For as long as gingerbread houses have been around, the Necco Wafer, it seems, has been a staple decoration. But Robbins encourages bakers to experiment with other options. Triscuit crackers make good roofing shingles, while Frosted Mini Wheats give the place an even more rustic look. A stack of pretzel sticks becomes a handsome outdoor log pile, while ice-cream cones and a little green icing make perfect fir trees. Get creative, Robbins recommends, and don’t be afraid to goof up. “Icing covers up almost any mistake,” she says.
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