Creating a gingerbread house will fill your home with holiday aromas and your heart with family memories. My take on this tradition led to a lighthouse, but you might get inspired by a surf shack, bait camp or offshore rig.
My advice? Break the project into several days. Make and chill your dough on a week night. Roll and bake it on another. And assemble and decorate on a day when you won’t be rushed. Let our coast inspire your creativity.
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup unsulphured molasses
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 to 2 batches Royal Icing, see recipe
In a stand mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add the brown sugar, continue beating until mixed well. Add eggs individually; then add the molasses. Beat well.
Combine flour and next 6 ingredients in a large bowl; stir with whisk. Gradually add to butter mixture while beating at low speed. Once the mixture is well blended, divide the dough into three equal parts. Shape into flat disks and wrap in plastic. Chill dough at least 2 hours. While dough is chilling create the templates for your house.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Removing one disc at a time, roll the dough to 1/8-inch thickness on a large pastry mat or sheet of parchment paper. Lightly dust with flour and place house template on top. Cut with a pastry wheel, pizza cutter, or straight-edged utensil. Trim away excess dough. Place parchment on baking sheet and chill in refrigerator. If using pastry mat, first transfer to Silpat or parchment lined baking sheet and chill.
Bake large pieces for 10 to 14 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack; cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough until all shapes have baked. Smaller pieces should bake separately at 350 F for 5 to 7 minutes.
1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons meringue powder
6 to 8 tablespoons warm water
Using an electric or stand mixer, beat ingredients at low speed until blended. Change to high speed and beat another 4 to 5 minutes or until stiff peaks form. If icing is too stiff, add additional water in ¼ teaspoon increments until desired consistency is achieved. Makes 3 cups. Note: Only prepare one batch of icing at a time, otherwise the icing will dry out before you have the opportunity to use it.
* Melted chocolate can be used to attach walls together instead of royal icing if preferred, but is not recommended for attaching decorations.
Get creative with your candy embellishments. Cruise your local supermarket and convenience store aisles to score specific shapes and colors to complete your gingerbread house. For bricks, I used pieces of gum, the wreaths are gummy apple slices, the bows fruit roll-ups. You can tint your royal icing or use different piping tips to achieve a specific look.
Alicia Cahill is the owner of The Kitchen Chick, 528 23rd St. in the island’s downtown.