Saturday, September 23, 2017

Challenge #33 - Christmas Traditions & Recipes

Gingerbread Houses
What is Christmas without the smell of gingerbread in the air? 
And where would gingerbread men live if not in gingerbread houses? 

Gingerbread houses come is all sizes and shapes, from tiny toppers on hot chocolate mugs, to a simple stable housing a family of three, to a three foot tall cathedral. When it comes to these holiday houses, the only thing limiting their designs is your imagination.

You can buy pre-cooked gingerbread house kits, where everything, including the candy decorations, is included. I used to buy these kits during the after-Christmas sales when my kids were young. No one in our family actually ate the gingerbread, so it didn't matter if I packed the kits away for the year and we made them 12 months later.

If you want to make your own, there are gingerbread house molds you can use to build your own houses, as well, like the one offered by Nordic Ware and sold at Target stores, or the Pampered Chef retired Stoneware mold sold on EBay and Amazon (I still have mine). I found one last week at Goodwill, a local thrift store chain, for only $4.99!

Then there are freestyle houses, built by creating your own templates and carving out the walls, roof, etc., out of rolled out gingerbread dough. There are literally tons of free templates on Pinterest like this one.

Of course, a house is only as good as the mortar which holds it together. If you're making an edible house, you'll need Royal Icing, a frosting that hardens enough to cement together the walls and roof of a gingerbread house, as well as attach decorations to your heart’s content. Like all frostings, there are many various recipes for Royal Icing, but you really only need two ingredients: powdered sugar and water. The more water, the soupier (and slower drying) the "glue." (Hint: If the house is for decoration only, I advise using hot glue or quick drying glue-faster and easier).

Remember, when it comes to gingerbread houses, size doesn't matter. But if you're going to make tiny houses, make sure you make enough for each guest or family member, like the Mug-side Gingerbread Houses seen here. Not only does this talented baker give you the templates for these cup-sitting houses, but she also shares her gingerbread recipe.  (Photo from Juliette Laura)

Not everyone likes gingerbread, however, so there are other "building materials with which to create your Christmas dream house. I once saw a house built with KitKat sticks (a chocolate cookie/candy bar). Pretzel rods make great logs for a Yuletide log home. Again, if you're not eating your home, the logs will stay up better with hot glue. You can also use the thinner pretzel sticks and "cement' them onto a small cardboard milk or juice carton with peanut butter or royal frosting if your kids want to "eat you out of Christmas house and home"!   (photo from Worth Pinning)
No matter what cookie dough or building materials you use, making these houses are fun for the whole family. Some are for decoration only, some for eating. Some are as elaborate as castles, others as humble as a stable with a bright star above it. Whatever you choose to make, keep the spirit of the holidays with you at all times and have fun!!

photo from Roti n Rice
includes gingerbread recipe
Stable, figures and trees are store bought

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