Nothing says its the holidays like decorating a gingerbread house! And why not make the whole thing from scratch?! Then you can even enjoy eating the scraps and extra house parts (and you'll know EXACTLY what went into them)!
The good thing? It's actually super easy, and there are a ton of templates online you can use, but we used this one here and it was super easy! Plus, the little trees to cut out as well turned out great.
There are really just a few things you must keep in mind as you make it yourself:
- Make sure to overbake your gingerbread! If you love soft cookies and want to eat some yourself, bake them separately. You do not want your gingerbread roof collapsing in on itself because it was too soft!
- Royal icing can fix anything - if your gingerbread house parts do break, use royal icing like glue to set them back together (this happened to one of our house side walls, and you would never know from the outside!)
- Make sure to trim your baked house pieces RIGHT when they get out of the oven, as the pieces cool, they harden and then if you try to trim them at all it's more likely to crack the whole piece
- Leave a little bit of dough unbaked until after you are sure your gingerbread house pieces all turned out the way you wanted them too; with our kit you have plenty
Now, onto the fun part! Either using our kit or any gingerbread cookie dough recipe will likely work, make your dough according to instructions before we get started.
Print out your gingerbread house template (either this one here or another one from online) and cut out all the pieces. Roll out your dough to a 1/4" thickness onto a floured surface and with a knife, cut out the house pieces, placing them onto a cookie sheet afterwards. Do not throw away the paper templates after you cut the dough! We'll need these again after the baking step.
Before you bake, it's important to let your dough chill one more time for 15 minutes or so! This will help your pieces hold their shape while baking and then less trimming afterwards. If you see ours, they look far from perfect at this stage but it turned out great!
Bake your gingerbread house pieces at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until the cookies feel almost firm to the touch (the edges will feel more firm than the middle). Place the cookie sheets on a wire cooling rack and grab the paper templates to check how your gingerbread pieces turned out. Wherever there is extra cookie relative to the paper templates, just trim gently with a sharp knife. The key is to do this while the gingerbread is still hot! Don't worry if your pieces are not perfect, but for example, the parts of the pieces that will be holding the house up and touching the group need to be flat!
So now we let the trimmed gingerbread pieces cool, and make our royal icing. Once made, add it to a pastry bag with a 1/4" hole cut off the tip (or just a zippered plastic bag).You'll also want to prepare either a baking sheet / tray or a piece of cardboard covered in aluminum foil for your work surface, and so it is easily movable once you are done.
Once the pieces are fully cooled, you're ready to start assembling. You'll notice that they have hardened considerably from when you first removed them from the oven. We started with on long side and one short side for assembly, made sure that royal icing hardened completely, and then stood it up to complete the assembly (minus the roof).
With the template we used, you could either attach the sides of the house inside or outside the front and back of the house, but make sure you check yours first! The roof might not extend all the way if you do it that way. If you're not sure, better to air on the side of caution and put the long sides on the outside of your front / back (opposite of what we did).
Once you add your roof to the base of the house, wait a few minutes to make sure you had enough royal icing to secure it before you start decorating. If it seems like it is holding, you're ready to go! If not, just add more icing to any weak spots!
To decorate, we used holiday themed M&Ms, Dots, mini candy canes, and peppermint candies, but go crazy with whatever you want!