Chef and cookbook author Jennifer Chandler is not sure who has more fun during the holidays — her or the children. Decorating Gingerbread houses is a tradition that her family looks forward to every year. Some seasons it's just Chandler and her two girls; and other years, they turn it into a casual vholiday party by inviting friends to join in the fun.
Here are some tried and true tips for a fun afternoon of decorating Gingerbread houses:
1. Try to get the pre-assembled Gingerbread house kits. They come ready to decorate with candies and icing. About $15, these kits are found in the holiday section at stores like Target and Michael’s. The pre-assembled houses sell out quickly, so shop early if you can.
2. If you can't find a preassembled kit, many stores also sell Gingerbread house kits that you can assemble yourself. Also, you can always bake your own gingerbread. Plan to assemble your houses at least one day before you will be decorating your houses. The royal icing "glue" needs time to set. Most kits include detailed instructions but Chandler recommends assembling the sides first, allowing them to set up for about 30 minutes, and then adding on the roof. Assembling the house in steps will help prevent the weight of the roof from causing the sides to separate. Just remember: any flaws can easily be covered up by royal icing “snow” and candies.
3. Always buy extra candy to decorate with. Christmas M&M's, gum drops, peppermints, candy canes and Christmas peeps are always on my shopping list.
4. Cover your table with a disposable table cloth for easy clean-up.
5. Pretzels are great for making windows and piles of firewood.
6. Frosted Mini-Wheats can be used to make snow-covered roofs.
7. If sending houses home with guests, wrap them up in cellophane paper. It makes a pretty presentation and sugar doesn't get all over your friends’ cars.
Necessary Supplies:Gingerbread HousesRoyal IcingAssorted Colorful CandiesAssorted Pretzels and CerealsA Base for the House (a plate or piece of cardboard)
Most Gingerbread house kits come with Royal Icing. This edible white icing makes a wonderful glue for attaching the decorations on to the house, as well as lovely snow. If your kit doesn’t have enough, you can easily make your own.
Ingredients:1 pound powdered sugar2 large egg whites
Directions:Using an electric mixer, whisk together the sugar and egg whites until smooth and shiny. If the mixture is too thick, add a little water a teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached. If the mixture is too thin, add more powdered sugar a spoonful at a time until the desired consistency is reached. Keep tightly sealed at room temperature until ready to use.
A Sweet Holiday Decoration
Story and photos by Jennifer Chandler