The holidays are here, just in case you couldn't tell from the growing amount of greeting cards likely taking up residency in your mailbox. There are approximately one million activities to indulge in this season, from rocking around the Christmas tree to ice skating, but the most enjoyable — in my opinion — is baking. And while decorating sugar cookies with your family is a tradition, sometimes — no offense Mom — you need a break from passing the sugar sprinkles for the 100th time. That's why this gingerbread house recipe for one is like a holiday meditation.
It's a busy time of the year. Grandmas have been in your face about your love life since Thanksgiving, you've been gathering gifts, and prancing from one party to the next. In case you don't want to fall back onto the couch and watch Elf again to relax, there's another way to unwind while still keeping the holiday spirit alive.
Retreat to your kitchen and gather the few ingredients you need to whip up a gingerbread house from scratch. Decorating with the entire candy aisle of your local grocer is completely up to you. Once you build this miniature gingerbread house and become a pastry architect, you can feel free to devour it, eliminating all evidence that you dared bake a holiday treat without your family.
For the Gingerbread House
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3 tbsp light brown sugar, packed
- 2 tbsp egg, beaten
- 1 1/2 tbsp light organic molasses or honey
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/8 tsp cloves
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
For the Royal Icing*
- 1 egg white
- 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/4 tsp lemon juice
- Peppermint sticks
- Candy of your choice
*If you choose not to make your own icing, you can omit this for store-bought frosting.
1. Pre-heat your oven to 350F.
1. Using a whisk, cream softened butter with the brown sugar in a small mixing bowl. Use your bicep power here and keep whisking until the butter and brown sugar have been completely combined.
It should look like this:
2. Add the egg, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, salt and baking soda. (Pro-tip: When measuring your ingredients out, it helps to measure the egg before the molasses. That way, the molasses will slip right out of the measuring spoon!) Mix the ingredients together with a whisk or spatula.
3a. Slowly incorporate the flour, 1/4 cup at a time. Mix together until you've achieved a play-doh-like consistency:
Then, form the dough into a puck and cocoon it with cling wrap. Allow the dough to chill until firm, about 1-2 hours.
4. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured clean work surface. Using a paring knife, cut out the house shapes. You can either freestyle if you're confident, or measure out stencils for a more approximate and sturdy house. You will need:
- 2 panels for the roof, about 3x2.5"
- 2 side walls, about 2.5x2.5"
- 2 triangular topped panels for the front and back, about 2.5x2.5"
Bake the building blocks — I mean, cookies — for 10-12 minutes on a parchment paper lined baking sheet until your kitchen smells better than walking through a Christmas Tree farm. Practice a little patience and allow the cookies to cool before icing.
5. Meanwhile, prepare your cement — I mean, Royal Icing sugar. It's OK if you don't have a stand mixer. Harness your muscle power and whip the egg whites with a whisk until foamy. Slowly incorporate the sifted powdered sugar, whisking as a bit is added, until completely combined. Add the lemon juice and continue to beat until the icing is thick, about 15-18 minutes by hand (I know, but it's rewarding). The consistency should be thick.
6. With a spatula, dollop enough frosting on a cutting board or platter in which you'll build your home upon to root the panels in. Transfer the icing to a ziploc bag if you don't have a pastry bag, and cut a tip. Decorate your house as you wish!
Nip the end of the bag so that you can squeeze the icing out. Line the cooled Gingerbread House pieces with the frosting cement, and build on a piece of parchment paper or a small cutting board. If you're using store bought frosting, the same directions apply!
7. Decorate with the candy of your choice, design the sugared home of your dreams, Instagram and enjoy!
Don't you want to just live in it? (I mean, honestly, it's probably more spacious than my apartment in NYC. When can I move in?)