Written by Amanda Marijanovic of Taste Buds Kitchen, Bannockburn.
Few things in life are as delightful (and delicious) as whipping up a batch of holiday treats with the ones you love. This year, why not add gingerbread house decorating to your family traditions? With their gumdrop roofs and candy cane fences, a gingerbread house creates a magical moment in time. Gather the generations for decorating fun, whether you start from scratch or take a shortcut with a store-bought kit or festive family workshop. Memories made in the kitchen can last a lifetime so take a break from last-minute shopping and get messy!
Amanda Marijanovic of Taste Buds Kitchen in Bannockburn, and expert gingerbread house decorator, is dishing out the how-to on gingerbread house success with tips for preparation and execution. Of course, if you’d like a little extra help, the good elves of Taste Buds Kitchen would just love to assist you at one of the many Gingerbread House Workshops offered this holiday season (more information below)! And now, tips for gingerbread house success:
Step 1: Get Prepared
To ensure sweet success, a little preparation goes a long way. Make a shopping list and stock up on supplies in advance. That way you won’t be mid-project when you realize you’ve forgotten a crucial ingredient. You’ll need: a house, royal icing, and LOTS of candy!
The House: Gingerbread houses come in all shapes and sizes – from the graham cracker on milk carton creations of your childhood to handmade houses baked from scratch.
Evaluate your time commitment to this project and assess what’s best for your family this busy holiday season. If working with kids, don’t forget to think about the attention span of littles who will likely be your sous chef and lead decorators!
Have a weekend? You’ll find amazing recipes and patterns for homemade gingerbread houses from scratch in your favorite cookbook or online. TBK tips: When rolling out your dough, ensure even thickness before baking. This helps to avoid burnt edges and makes construction easier. You’ll also want to build your house on a sturdy platter, cutting board or serving tray so it can be moved easily if needed.
Have a day? Purchase a ready-to-assemble DIY gingerbread kit at your local market then start your build! Constructing your house ahead of time will allow the frosting to set and lead to a stress-free decorating experience for the kids.
Have an hour? Attend a hands-on gingerbread decorating workshop. Fresh gingerbread and all the candy you can imagine with none of the clean-up? Yes, please! At Taste Buds Kitchen in Bannockburn, parent/child pairs work together to make their house a home with unlimited candy for endless decorating options from frosted candy roofs to pretzel picket fences. Guests also enjoy holiday tunes and sip homemade hot chocolate in a festive Winter Wonderland kitchen. Family workshops run from Dec 1-23 and are recommended for ages 2+. Registration includes one house, perfect for decorating as a parent/child pair. Teen and adult BYOB classes are also offered.
The Icing: To streamline the process, consider making your royal icing ahead of time, too. While many gingerbread house kits come with pre-made frosting, you can easily make your own by following this simple recipe. As the “glue” for house assembly and affixing candies, it’s important to have a high-quality icing to work with that’s not too thick or too runny. Put your icing in a piping bag or a large zip-top bag with a tiny corner snipped off to make it easier to pipe fun designs on your house.
The Candy: The goal here is endless decorating options for everyone to enjoy. Gather a fun selection of holiday candies in all shapes, sizes, colors and textures to can create festive elements like square pretzel windows, gumdrop shingles, and candy cane fences. And be sure to display your candy in bowls so everyone can see the options.
Step 2: Decorate!
Now it’s time for the magic to happen. Take your time and ignore the mess (for now). If your kids are small, consider pre-applying the frosting so they can focus on decorating. Older kids love to be really independent and create their own personalized masterpieces, so let them frost and decorate on their own.
Play with different candy combinations to embellish your house with character and charm. Did you know a green Rolo topped with a green Hershey Kiss looks just like a tree? And two marshmallows balanced over two mini candy canes can be decorated to be a snowman on skis! Here are a few other fun ideas to try:
- Roof: create a shingled look by methodically layering cereals like Shredded Wheat, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Chex or Frosted Flakes; or go for candy overload by covering the entire surface with gumdrops, peppermint discs or Lifesaver candies
- Fencing: secure the perimeter with candy canes or pretzels
- Exterior: turn your house into a log cabin by lining the sides with Tootsie Rolls or pretzel rods
- Windows: outline windows with thin red licorice rope and fill in the panes with colored sanding sugar
- Holiday lights: gumdrops, M&Ms or hot cinnamon candies
Find inspiration boards on Pinterest, holiday blogs or magazines.
Above all, have fun and take lots of pictures!
Don’t have it in you this holiday season to take on the gingerbread house project from scratch? No problem! Taste Buds Kitchen in Bannockburn offers family gingerbread workshops all season-long! Family gingerbread workshops are recommended for ages 2+. Each $39 registration includes one house, perfect for decorating as a parent/child pair. Teen and adult BYOB classes are also offered. Workshops run from Dec 1-22. Here’s the latest schedule: http://tastebudskitchen.com/bannockburn/gingerbread-house-workshops/
Extra extra, read all about it! A Little Gingerbread History Lesson…
There is no question that gingerbread houses, with their candy-coated exteriors, are just as decorative as they are delicious. These edible structures architected from spice cookies held together by royal icing have become a main stay of the holiday season, but the history of the gingerbread house has little to do with Santa or his reindeer.
The tradition of decorative gingerbread dates all the way back to the Middle Ages. Hard cookies baked with ginger, molasses, honey and spices into the shape of animals, flowers, and royalty, became popular at fairs throughout medieval Europe. The cookies were so popular that some of these festivals even became known as Gingerbread Fairs. In 16th century Germany, ginger cookies called Lebkuchen were often enjoyed around Christmas. While it was these early German settlers that brought the tradition to the Americas, the idea of shaping the cookie into the form of a house has been tied to the not-so-festive and quite dark children’s tale, “Hansel and Gretel” by the Brothers Grimm. No one can say for sure whether this story of two starving children that stumble upon a house made entirely of bread covered in cakes with windows made of sugar inspired what we now know to be gingerbread houses or if it simply helped the edible house gain popularity.
**This super cute how-to article was sponsored by Taste Buds Kitchen, Bannockburn. Thank you!