For years I’ve been making gingerbread centerpieces as Christmas decorations. Even though gingerbread is mainly associated with holidays I enjoy making Gingerbread Houses of all sorts.
Here are few I made over the years :
Today I’m going share with you a very basic gingerbread dough recipe I use for all my 2D centerpieces. It can also be used to make gingerbread houses or bird house if you’d like to make those. This dough doesn’t have any leavening agent so it doesn’t spread during baking. This is especially important when making gingerbread houses or other complex structures that require precision.
Even though this dough is edible I wouldn’t recommend munching on these. Cookies are hard and spicy. In my recipe I use double, sometime triple amounts of spices you’ll find in other recipes. Once gingerbread is decorated and assembled you can enjoy the beauty of the finished piece as well as wonderful gingerbread scent lingering throughout the house.
This is a construction cookie dough for houses and centerpieces. This dough is edible but I don't recommend it for making cookies for eating. Cooled cookies are hard and very spicy.
- 7 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tbl ginger
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp cloves
- 1 egg
- 1 cup margarine
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp molasses you can also use dark corn syrup instead, or use 1 cup molasses and 1/2 cup +2tbsp dark corn syrup, they are interchangaeble.
- In a medium bowl whisk together flour, spices, set aside
- Cream margarine or other shortening with sugar until mixture is light and fluffy.
- Add egg, beat well, then gradually beat in molasses and dark corn syrup, and mix until smooth.
- On low speed, gradually add flour mixture to the molasses mixture and mix until two are well combined.
- Turn the dough onto a work surface and give it a little knead so it comes completely together. If the dough appears too crumbly, add 1tsp water.
- I like to chill the dough before rolling it out, for at least an hour or so.
- You are now ready to cut out your cookies.
Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes or longer depends on the size of the cookies. Larger pieces I often bake for 16-20 minutes. Sometime during baking little bubbles can form on the surface of the cookie. Using a toothpick, make a pinhole in the cookie, where the bubble appears to be forming, while still hot to deflate the bubble. You can also flatten the cookie with a wide spatula while the cookie is still hot.
- When using small pieces for your gingerbread centerpieces, you need to watch them carefully as they bake, they will be done in less time.
- Thicker the cookie more time needed to bake them. I usually bake small pieces on the same baking sheet and large pieces on the another sheet.
- Cool the cookies completely before decorating.
I prefer using molasses in my gingerbread, but you can substitute molasses with dark corn syrup( it has a hint of molasses). They are interchangeable. You can substitute all or some of molasses in the recipe. For example : use 1 cup molasses and 1/2 +2tbsp dark corn syrup.
Molasses is usually more expensive than corn syrup.
I like using molasses because it contributes to the darker gingerbread and I also like the strong aroma of gingerbread when using molasses.
If you live in a humid climate I’m sure you know sugar and humidity don’t agree. What often happens is that baked gingerbread can become soft when exposed to high humidity. It absorbs moisture from the air and because of it baked cookie can become softer.
You can try this trick. Once the cookies are baked lower the oven setting to the lowest temperature. Place the cookies on a baking sheet in the oven and let the cookies dry out well, for 30 minutes up to an hour, or more as needed.
Before you assemble the house you can also brush inner walls of the gingerbead house with some royal icing to make it a bit more stable.
- What to use for glue?
My preferred choice of glue to use for Gingerbread houses and decorations is Royal Icing. Glue Royal Icing consistency is very important. Icing should be stiff but not too stiff. If you are using icing that is too stiff it won’t stick to the panels and because of it there will be a weak bond. It should be medium stiff, with a soft peak.
When using Royal Icing as glue it is best to glue the gingerbread house in steps. Letting each glued section dry before adding another part to it. Drying time can vary but I usually let it dry for at least 4-5 hours and then after a whole house once assembled its left to dry overnight. You can see here how I glued leaning Grinch Gingerbread House in steps
My 2nd choice of glue is melted sugar. It creates a strong bond instantly. I find this method very effective and useful for certain project but it is not without disadvantages. Because the bond is pretty much instant there is literally no room for error when aligning the panels. Sugar once melted, caramelized very quickly so you have to be careful not burn it as you are gluing gingerbread pieces together.
Also, in the humid climate, overtime melted sugar can start to weep.
- Stained Glass and Gingerbread
To create stained glass effect you can use crushed hard candies and/or melted sugar.
In some cases I like to pre-bake my gingerbread panels before I fill the open areas with candies. Let the cookies cool completely before adding the crushed candy and then bake the cookie at 350F for about 7 minutes, until the candies are melted. Let the cookies cool completely before removing them from the baking sheet lined with parchment.
When using melted sugar, bake the cookies first and then fill with melted sugar. Have a piece of parchment underneath and let the sugar harden before peeling it off from the parchment.
If you can get your hands on Isomalt you can use it instead of crushed candies or melted sugar. Isomalt metls at a lower temperature than regular sugar and it will not caramelize/ darken in color like sugar. It will stay clear. You can also get colored Isomalt if you’d like to make stained glass using different colors. If the Isomalt become a bit cloudy you can very carefully blow torch it and it should help and turn it into a clear glass. You can also try rubbing little shortening on the set glass if you don’t have a blow torch.
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