Patience is key to gingerbread housing

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As the Christmas season approaches, building gingerbread homes are a must.

The edible and decorative gingerbread is both fun and challenging to build. 

Whether it is snacked on immediately after its creation or displayed as a monument to holiday cheer, no Christmas season is complete without a gingerbread house.

Here are some simple steps to get the gingerbread house started.

Important questions to ask yourself before building a gingerbread house are as follows:

How big will it be? What will it be made of? What is going to happen to it afterward? Can this be done on a date instead of alone?

It’s important to know what you want the house to look like, so if you don’t already have a vision, you need to find one. A quick Google search of gingerbread houses can be inspiring.

If a gingerbread house is created to be eaten, focus on taste and don’t worry about appearance. If a house is created for display, focus on appearance and don’t worry about taste.

Once you know the intended size and look of the gingerbread house, you should sketch it out on paper. Then, with a vision in hand, you are ready to choose the materials.

You will need a platter or plate—something on which to build the house. The sturdier this is the better because any warping of the platter will disturb the walls and alignment of the house, maybe toppling it.

To make a small gingerbread house, a box of graham crackers should suffice. If a bigger gingerbread house is desired, baking real gingerbread is required.

I’ve only used graham crackers, and they work just fine. A well-planned graham cracker house can be a square foot, while gingerbread houses may be bigger based on the size of baking pans used.

Icing is also required. Store-bought frosting will work, but many people like to make their own, so they can customize the color with food coloring.

When piecing the house together, keep the vision in mind and plan ahead. Look at the plans and lay out the gingerbread pieces for each part of the house. Try to piece the parts together preliminarily, and make sure that everything will fit. Cutting down and re-shaping the gingerbread may be necessary to make things fit properly.

If you tend to create haphazardly like I do, fight the impulse. Rushing this process leads to unstable gingerbread homes whose looks reflect how poorly they were planned.

After everything has been planned out, it is time to use the icing.

The key with the icing is a minimalistic approach. The thinner the layer of frosting, the quicker it is to dry and adhere. 

Apply a thin layer on the edge of a corner piece and let it sit for a minute or two. Once it is tacky, stick it to the adjacent gingerbread piece and hold them together. Repeat this until the entire house is standing.

I am a long-time convert to the notion of if less is good, then more is better. Unfortunately, this principle doesn’t apply well to frosting. On my first attempt this year, I used far too much frosting and my house collapsed. I had to start all over again.

After you have the bricks and mortar, so to speak, you must decide how to decorate the house.

The smaller the decorations, the easier they are to manage. Peppermints, Skittles, Red Hots, Tootsie Rolls, etc., can be used to create a cute little cottage look. Of course, you are only limited by your imagination. 

On my second attempt, I created a long, rectangular house with a porch.    

Instead of Greek columns, my masterpiece had candy canes. I used blue frosting and some gold fish crackers to create a pond in the back and then lined the pond with Skittles. I used marshmallows to create a polar bear raiding the pond. Some gingerbread people tried to run off the bear, armed only with pretzel sticks. 

While gingerbread houses are fun to make by yourself, they are even more fun to do on a date. Create a competition and give awards for the best gingerbread house.

Share pictures from your creation on the Dixie Sun News Facebook page and let us know how your gingerbread house turned out.