Tuesday, December 4, 2012

How to Construct a Gingerbread House: Part 2

simple and easy
     Now that we made the trees, we can make a few other things that are simple and fast and will make our log cabin more realistic. My daughter wanted a snow man and some chairs for the front porch. I decided on a pile of logs for the fireplace, a broom for the front porch, a ladder for the roof, (someone was looking for Santa) and a well and bucket since there is no plumbing in our cabin. All of these things can be made from pretzels, hard candies and royal icing. The snowman was made from cereal treats covered in white fondant but you could just cover the cereal treats with white royal icing. Just one bag of pretzels sticks went a long way.
Hole in back for wire
      Now on to making the sections of the log cabin. I use a construction grade gingerbread that has no eggs or butter and thus is sturdy and doesn't spread much in baking. I roll my dough out on my silpat or parchment paper so that I can just pick the sheet up and place it on my baking sheet without distorting the pieces. I roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness but you could even go to 1/8. Bake according to the directions. If you are putting lights in your house, as we are doing, make sure you cut out a small section in the back for the wire. Also don't forget to cut out your windows and door. 
                                                           Once the pieces come out of the oven, I always re cut them because even with construction grade gingerbread, there will be some spreading. I just lay the pattern over the pieces and cut them where needed. Do this while the pieces are still warm, if you wait until they cool, they are harder to cut and you run the risk of breaking them. If you want "glass" in your windows, wait until the pieces have cooled and then put some crushed hard candies in the window openings and put back into the oven for about 5 minutes or until the candy has melted into the opening. I use a butterscotch candy because I like the yellow look through the window but any color will work, it is your choice. Allow the pieces to harden overnight before attempting construction.
Gluing on logs with royal icing
     The next day, it is time for construction. If I am covering the walls with fondant or, as in this case, "logs", I do that before I put the house together. I find it is much easier to work flat on the table. The same holds true for the roof and chimney, if there is one. In this case, I used pretzels sticks to simulate logs and glued them on all 4 sides with royal icing, breaking them to fit. I covered the chimney with chocolate river rocks to simulate stone. Allow the walls to dry before putting the house together. I find using a pastry bag works better that a spatula for gluing the pieces together. If you don't have a pastry bag, a ziploc bag works just as well. Just cut the corner off. You have better control and the icing doesn't go all over the place. Dry fit your house on your board before you start gluing. You may not want the house right in the middle of the board because of the landscaping, ours was going to one side to make room for the bridge, stream and pond, and well. Have some heavy cans and jars put off to the side to use as supports as you work. Do the 4 sides first and allow to dry overnight before putting the roof on. Do all 4 sides at once so that you can adjust the angles so they all fit. Put royal icing along the bottom of each piece and up the sides and fit them together. Use the cans to prop the sides and allow to dry. Fill in any gaps with royal icing. If you are using lights, make sure you put the back piece over the wire so that the lights are inside and the battery pack or plug is outside. Once the house has set up and before you put on the roof, I secure the lights inside where I want them to be using the royal icing.
     As I mentioned, my daughter wanted a bridge over a stream. To get the arch in the gingerbread, I took a small empty tin can and cut it in half. I cut a piece of gingerbread to the width I wanted and put it over the well greased half can and baked it according to the recipe. Once cool, we decorated it with gumdrops and a piece of rolled candy over the top to simulate a railing.
     The roof can go on the next day. Again, if you wanted to use shredded wheat to simulate thatch or necco wafers for tiles, it is easier to do it before the roof goes on. Here we wanted a rusted tin look, so we used red cinnamon gum sticks and glued them on. Once they were dry and the house set up overnight, we put the roof on, again using a liberal dose of royal icing with our pastry bag. Our pattern had a roof overhang so we also used candy sticks in a coordinating color for support. We put the house away again to dry overnight. If you try doing everything on the same day, you run the risk of knocking something over. It is easy to do as the royal icing doesn't completely harden for hours, and you are trying to put small pieces with big hands. I find it best to do everything in stages.
     Tomorrow, we landscape and put our finishing touches on. Stay tuned. While you are at it, visit us at www.pattycakesncookies.com.

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