A Contemporary Spin on the Gingerbread House

For the holidays this year we decided to try our hands at our very first gingerbread house (“gbh”). As big fans of contemporary architecture and with our own future home currently under construction, it seemed only natural that our gbh should be its replica. Normal, right? Definitely no ungapatchka traditional gbh for us!

With no CLUE how to build one we started by Googling and were shocked to find few good examples of well done, contemporary gbh’s! Really? It’s not that radical of an idea! The more we thought about it though, the more we realized that like building a contemporary “real” house, with flat roofs, exactly square lines, perfectly fitting forms etc, so too would we be challenged with the gbh construction. Who better then, to tackle such a task then an engineer/developer and his trusty assistants? We were up for it.

As with any great project, planning of course was key. So Arthur (husband) and Jon (brother) poured over the house plans and the scale model Arthur had previously constructed (naturally).

Planning begins

Arthur got down to baking while I placed a call to Mom to request she pack her pastry bag and piping tips, and then headed to the bulk candy shop for inspiration. $25 (good god!) later we had a nice selection.

It was a several day project but thanks to the “pre-work” and lots of help from family, it was a huge success. In a nutshell it broke down like this:

wall templateStep One. Panels rolled out onto this cool template Arthur made to ensure a consistent width and depth. He then traced Wall panels to cuteach wall, the openings etc from outlines he printed from the plans. Brilliant!

Step Two. Morter, made from a modified version of royal icing (below for recipe). Note how he made “columns” from gingerbread to hold up the flat roofs!

GBH columnspanels dryingunfinished gbh

Step Three. After drying overnight, Mom and I pitched in too (while Art Sr. dozed on the couch) and we collectively decorated the house, complete with modern couches on the balcony, a paver walkway, an interpretive contemporary Christmas tree, and a French snowman and his windblown companion atop the upper deck.

arthur_pipingbag group_pipingbag mom_pipingbagArt Sr helping too couches_closesnowmen_close

Fun family activity and damn if it didn’t turn out better than even we expected! Happy Holidays everyone!

Finished GBH
Final Finished GBH
Side by Side, Final GBH and Scale Model
Side by Side, Final GBH and Scale Model

Thinking of trying this at home? Following is the recipe and some guidance. Good luck!

GINGERBREAD HOUSE RECIPE

[Modified from http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gingerbread-house-recipe/index.html

Dough:

1 C [2 sticks] butter, room temperature
1 C dark brown sugar
½ C molasses
2 T cinnamon
2 T ground ginger
1 T ground cloves
1 t baking soda
5 C flour, all-purpose [use scale, 600 grams]
¼ C water

Directions:

In stand mixer w/ paddle, cream butter, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and baking soda together until mixture is smooth. Blend in flour and water to make stiff, formable, non-sticky dough [add more flour as necessary]. Chill 30 minutes until firm. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut paper patterns for gingerbread [“GB”]. Roll dough on parchment paper to uniform ¼-inch thickness. Place paper patterns onto rolled-out dough, cut around shapes with sharp knife, but leave pieces in place.

Carefully place parchment paper w/ trimmed GB shapes onto baking sheet. Bake 375 degrees F for ~15 minutes until firm and remove from oven. Immediately place patterns on GB again, re-trim shapes with sharp knife and remove excess GB. Leave to cool slightly on baking sheet then carefully remove from parchment paper onto wire cooling racks.

Reduce oven to 170 degrees F [be sure oven has cooled to 170 degrees F], place cooling rack[s] with GB panels onto oven rack and “bake” [de-hydrate] for ~1-hour until firm and dried-out.

ICING RECIPE

2 large egg whites
1 t lemon juice
1 lb powdered sugar, sifted [approximate quantity]

Using electric hand mixer, whip egg whites briefly until smooth. Add lemon juice and mix briefly. Add powdered sugar incrementally and mix until a stiff icing [but thin enough to “pipe”]. If too thick, add more lemon juice, if necessary.

Place icing into pastry bag with writing tip. Ice GB wall panels together at vertical corners [prop-up pieces using soup cans, etc. as needed until icing is dry [5-10 minutes]. Ice roof panels in place, then other miscellaneous panels/pieces. Continue decorating house. Let dry until hardened.

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