Craft Projects with Food
Project: Gingerbread House
Level: Easy to medium
Age: 6 and up
- 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons baking soda
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 1/3 cups light or dark molasses
- 9 cups all-purpose flour
- icing cement (see recipe below)
To make gingerbread:
Whip the cream and vanilla until the cream holds soft peaks.
In a large bowl, mix sugar, baking soda, ginger, and cinnamon. Stir inmolasses and cream. Gradually add flour, mixing well.
On a lightly floured board, roll out a portion of dough until it's flat, but still thick enough to pick up easily without tearing. Place it on a greased and floured 12- × 15-inch rimless baking sheet. Finish rolling the dough on the pan, supporting the rolling pin on equally thickwooden strips placed along the opposite edges of the pan. Use about two cups of dough for each 1/8-inch-thick slab, about four cups for each 1/4-inch slab, and about six cups for each 3/8-inch slab. If cookies are not of an even thickness, the thin areas will bake darker in color and be more brittle.
You can bake up to two pans of dough at a time in one oven. Bake the dough until it's fairly firm when pressed in the center. In a 300-degree oven, allow about one hour for 1/8-inch-thick slabs; in a 275-degree oven, allow about 1 3/4 hours for 1/4-inch slabs and about 2 1/4 hours for 3/8-inch slabs. After 30 minutes, remove the pans from the oven and place the pattern pieces close together on the dough. With a sharp knife, cut around the pattern edges; lift off the pattern and scraps. (Later, bake the scraps to eat.) Return both pans to the oven, switching their positions, and finish baking.
When done, carefully loosen the cookies with a spatula and cool in the pan until firm, about five minutes. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely. Decorate and assemble the structure with icing cement, or wrap pieces in plastic wrap and then store up to one month. (Cookies will keep crisp longer, but will not taste as fresh.)
Gingerbread should be very hard when it's cool. If it seems too soft, return it to the cookie sheet and bake for five or ten more minutes.
To make icing cement:
With an electric mixer, beat together two large egg whites, 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar, and two teaspoons of water until frothy.
Mix in three cups of sifted powdered sugar; beat on high speed until icing is stiff, five to 10 minutes.
Use immediately or cover for up to eight hours. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
To assemble the house:
Make patterns on pasteboard, heavy paper, or cardboard, then cut them out. To test your design, fit the pieces together and secure them with tape. If the model wobbles, so will the gingerbread.
Use icing to assemble your house. Pipe it through a pastry bag with a plain or decorating tip. Hold the pieces together until they're set (extra hands help).
Fill in any gaps after the whole project is assembled.
Use icing to decorate as well, but before assembling the house. Let the decorated pieces dry for around 30 minutes before assembling the house.
Icing also becomes the "glue" used to attach candies. Some materials to try include jelly beans, gum drops, Starlight® mints, Lifesavers®, M&Ms®, Red Hots®, heart-shaped candies, wafer cookies (for doors and shutters), Necco® wafers for the roof, small candy canes, and red and black licorice.
If all this seems a bit daunting, you might want to start out just using whole graham crackers and working on a smaller scale. Make the icing cement recipe and assemble one unbroken cookie for each wall and one for each side of the roof. Decorate as you would a larger gingerbread house. These are simple enough that your kids can enjoy making a whole village.
More on: Crafts for Kids
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crafts with Kids © 1998 by Georgene Lockwood. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.