I know that Nicole from Tikkido definitely had a few chuckles when she read my post about my gingerbread house making fiasco. And after she stopped rolling on the floor, she sent me an email where she graciously offered to right all my wrongs with a gingerbread house tutorial to beat all gingerbread house tutorials.
She has baked and frosted more gingerbread houses than she can even count. Literally. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I got the definitive how to build a gingerbread house guide in my inbox! Enough that I’ve tried gingerbread house baking over and over again since meeting Nikki. Our houses have been amazing since we took using her methodology!
And with that, I’m turning this post over to the master gingerbread baker herself…going to add to her list of credentials here that she recently made an appearance on Food Network on Holiday Gingerbread Showdown. If that isn’t a mark of expertise, I don’t know what is!
How to Build a Perfect Gingerbread House and Gingerbread Recipe
Each year, sometime in early December, our family starts our annual tradition. It’s such an undertaking that we have a name for it: Operation Gingerbread. My family has been making real gingerbread houses since I was an infant, so for nearly 35 years now, and we’ve made literally thousands.
And when I say literally I actually mean literally, not figuratively like most people mean. Years of one for every kid in my class, my brother’s class, the girl scout troop, the boy scout troop, all our teachers, neighbors, and the work Christmas party really add up! We lost count somewhere after house number 3000.
After all these years, through much trial and error, we pretty much have this gingerbread thing down to a science. Paula did a brilliant job with her first house (I couldn’t believe it was her first!), and actually managed to figure out many of our tips and tricks in her first go. Very impressive! But I thought I’d share some of the other tricks we’ve learned through the years, to make her next attempt (and yours) even easier.
First, to get you started, here’s the recipe we like to use.
- 2 C granulated Sugar
- 1 C plus 2 T brown sugar
- 1 C Crisco solid shortening
- 3 T molasses
- 4 eggs
- 1 ½ t salt
- 2 t baking soda
- 6 C flour
- 1 T ginger
- 1 T cinnamon
- Cream the shortening and sugar in a large stand mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until fluffy. Add the molasses, salt, soda, ginger, and cinnamon. Mix completely. Add the flour, one cup at a time. The dough will become very stiff, and the bowl will be quite full. Once the flour is incorporated, turn the mixer off. It is a very stiff dough, and the object is to incorporate the flour, nothing more.
- Roll dough to a generous 1/8” thickness directly on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Trace around paper stencils (available for publication) to cut out the walls and roof of a gingerbread house. Lift away the excess dough on the cookie sheet with a spatula or knife. Be sure to leave some space between the pieces—the dough does expand while baking.
- Bake at 375 degrees for between 10 and 14 minutes. Slightly over-baked (short of burning) is better than slightly under-baked as you need rigidity for constructing gingerbread houses.
- Let the cookie pieces cool completely before assembly—even overnight. When cooling and storing, do not stack the pieces more than three high. If you do, the pressure will cause warm cookies to cement together.
But there’s more!
The recipe alone is not enough. You’re going to want to know what to DO with that recipe, right? You’re going to want to follow my top 10 tips to make every gingerbread house come out in a spectacular fashion.
Operation Gingerbread’s Top 10 Tips:
Tip 1: Buy the cheapest store brand of shortening you can find.
Something full of trans-fat goodness. I’m all for getting rid of trans-fats as a general principle, but when Crisco came out with their new formula, they almost ruined Christmas for us. You will get much better performance with the cheap stuff. It’s not like a huge house-shaped cookie is good for you, anyway. Just exercise moderation.
Tip 2: Don’t roll out the dough on the counter and transfer to a cookie sheet to bake.
Grease the cookie sheet and roll the dough directly on the pan. Trace around your templates and lift the excess away.
You might have noticed that I didn’t roll directly on the pan. That brings me to…
Tip 3: Especially if you are going to be making multiple houses, roll the dough out on parchment paper.
I raid my pastry-chef-mother’s stash of perfectly pre-cut sheets, and each year vow that I should pre-cut a massive stack of my own. They’re really handy.
But the parchment paper slips and slides all over the counter, you say! Fear not, read…