Tiny Gingerbread Houses
Christmas came early this year. The amazing smell of cinnamon and winter spices has already taken over our whole apartment and awaken our holiday spirits. Our cookie jars are almost full and it’s only the beginning of December! Christmas may still be weeks away, but it sure feels like one around here.
For once, I managed to get ahead of my holiday baking. I usually leave everything for the last minute and stress about whether I’ll make it on time. Having an extremely active toddler that happens to be sick most of the time (she somehow picks up all sorts of weird viruses and diseases at her kindergarten), I realized I have to get organized and get started really early if I wanted to get everything done. This includes midnight baking and lack of sleep, but I’m used to it. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are one of the perks of motherhood.
I usually make edible Christmas tree ornaments. When the lights warm up, the tree smells like one giant gingerbread cookie. It makes everything just a bit more special. This year, I thought I’d make some edible ornaments to decorate the apartment for Advent, as well. Making gingerbread houses seemed like a natural thing to do. I knew I’d have to stretch the work to several days, since I can only work at night after the baby has fallen asleep. This was actually great because it allowed the pieces to dry completely in between the different phases of building the houses. We ate some of the houses, and saved the rest to create a tiny gingerbread village as part of our holiday decoration.
I used the same dough to make a batch of Christmas cookies and ornaments, as well as some super cute reindeer cookies for my daughter. I smile every time I open the cookie box and see those red noses. I decorated them with tempered chocolate and royal icing that I’ve colored with some red food coloring. You could also use red m&m’s and glue them onto the cookies with some melted chocolate.
And then, life got in the way. Dalia got sick, which translates to four sleepless nights and five exhausting days. It soon became clear that my edible centerpiece will not be done in time. I wanted to make a big gingerbread house surrounded by snow, trees and reindeer, but getting some sleep became a priority. Luckily, I went to Ikea couple of weeks earlier and saw their gingerbread house kits. I decided to buy one and use it as a back up in case something went wrong with my house. Plan B. Always have a plan B when small children are involved. The Ikea kit consists of naked gingerbread walls. You have to make your own royal icing, decorate the pieces and glue them together. Building the house was still quite time consuming, but at least it saved me one huge step.
All is well that ends well. Just a quick look at my tiny snow-covered gingerbread village makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Oh, and did I mention that the the apartment smells divine?
Tiny Gingerbread Houses
Prep time: + dough chilling time
Total time: + drying time
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground ginger
100g butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp honey
Divide the dough in half, wrap each peace in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before rolling it. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one half of the dough to a 2-3 mm thickness. The cookies will puff up in the oven so try to roll the dough as thinly as you can. Using a template, cut the pieces from the dough using a small pizza cutter or a pairing knife. Instead of picking up the small pieces, peel the excess dough from around the house pieces. Run a thin palette knife under each piece and carefully transfer to a baking sheet so that they don't distort. Gather the excess dough together, roll it out again and cut the pieces from it. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
Put the baking sheets into the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before baking. This will keep the gingerbread from spreading too much. Bake for 8-10 minutes. As soon as the cookies start to get some color around the edges, take them out of the oven and trim any pieces that have puffed or spread too much while they're still hot. Cool the cookies completely before assembling the houses.
220-330g powdered sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
Group the matching gingerbread house pieces together. You should have two walls, two roofs and two pieces with doors. Make sure that both of the doors are the same width, otherwise the house won't sit on the rim of your mug. Start gluing the pieces together. Take one piece with a door slot and pipe a thin vertical line of royal icing on both edges (on the inner side). Take the walls and glue them onto the royal icing, making sure they are at a 90° angle. Now, take the other piece with the door, pipe royal icing on both edges (like you did with the first one) and set it against the walls. Hold it together tightly for a few seconds and then let it dry for 5 minutes before you add the roof. Make sure that the wall pieces are to be sandwiched on the inside of the door pieces, that way the roof fits on properly. Now pipe some royal icing all around the the top of the house and carefully set both roof pieces on it. Hold it in place for a few seconds and then pipe some snow on the rooftop and around it to create the illusion of snow. Set the house aside to dry. Continue with the rest of the pieces.
The houses will probably be dry in a couple of hours (depending on the humidity), but I recommend that you let them dry overnight. Once dry, store them in an airtight container and serve with warm milk, tea or mulled wine. You could dust them with some powdered sugar to create the illusion of fresh snow.