Are you burnt out on gingerbread flavored foods this holiday season? Hopefully not as I have a wonderful “gingerbread” bread recipe to share today. I first made these gingerbread pancakes a few years ago and fell in love with them. For pancakes, they are a little on the dense side but it seems appropriate considering the punch of flavor that these offer. I know you are probably already saying to yourself that you’ve had enough “gingerbread” to last you until next Christmas (and we’re still a week away from the big day!) but I would suggest that you give these a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

While these are fantastic served with butter and maple syrup, like in the pictures above and below, an even better bet is to serve them with a lemon sauce (lemon is a traditional accompaniment to gingerbread). To make a simple, yet tasty lemon sauce, in a saucepan combine 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 1/4 tsp. of salt. To that add 1 cup of cool water and stir to combine. Bring to a boil and cook until thick and clear. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel and 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir until well mixed and the butter has fully melted.

Gingerbread Pancakes
makes 12 medium sized pancakes (enough for 2-4 people depending on their appetite)

1 1/4 cups All-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon Ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg, freshly ground
1/4 teaspoon Ground clove
3 large Eggs
1/4 cup Dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 cup Buttermilk
1/2 cup Water
1/4 cup Coffee
6 tablespoons Unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 170°F. Whisk together dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together eggs and brown sugar until smooth. Add buttermilk, water, molasses and coffee, then add the flour mixture. Finally stir in melted butter. Cook on a preheated griddle and keep warm in oven until all are finished.

One of the best things about this time of year are the Gingerbread houses.  I love building them and love to see what other people have come up with.  It’s always interesting to see what others do and I am often able to learn a trick or two from each piece I look at.  I’ve kind of been out the gingerbread building game for the last couple of years, but this last little adventure, with my daughter, reminded me of how much I like building and decorating them.  I can’t wait until she gets older and we can take on some serious projects together.  But, for now I’m happy building a few simple houses and letting her “decorate” them as she sees fit (meaning trying to fit candy on every available surface there is!). 

No list on gingerbread houses would be complete with a link to The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa.  They hold the premier gingerbread house contest in the country with entries coming in from coast to coast.  I hope to someday make it there either as a contestant or just to browse, enjoy the efforts of others and soak up the holiday spirit.  For now though, just check out the pictures from the best of this year’s show here.

Craft Elf has a great, indepth site for the novice gingerbread house maker. They’ve got a lot of great information and very detailed explanations and pictures for building your house.

It’s not often I hawk a product or a book here, on my blog, but with this month’s theme being gingerbread, I felt I had to give a nod to this book which can be found on Amazon. I own this book and have for a number of years. It is full of great ideas and the recipes all work well. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in getting into the making of gingerbread houses.

And because I can’t get enough of over-the-top gingerbread houses, here’s another site filled with large, ornate houses.

Decorated-Gingerbread-House

Yesterday we got as far as cutting and baking the gingerbread pieces. Today it is time to assemble and decorate. But before we can do that we need to make some Royal Icing to use as our glue.

Royal Icing
1 each egg white
1 tsp. cream of tartar
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Beat egg white just until it loosens up. Add cream of tartar and powdered sugar. Stir until fully incorporated. You may need to add more sugar, to get a thick, frosting like consistency. Using just enough icing to adhere the pieces, build the base of your house, like in the picture below, using heavy cans of food to hold the pieces together as the icing hardens. This probably won’t be enough but I prefer to work with smaller batches and make it more often.

Building-GB2-3804

Use only enough icing to hold the pieces together, initially. This helps the icing dry more quickly than when it it loaded on. After it dries and the pieces are somewhat secure, you can then go back and reinforce the joints with more icing. Only after you have a solid base, with joints that have dried, can you then add the roof. The same rule applies here; add only enough icing to cement the pieces together to speed the drying process, then go back and reinforce. As you can see from the picture below, I have found it easiest to place the roof flat on the counter top and prop up the house. This works for small houses, but not large structures.

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One of my favorite pastimes during this season is making Gingerbread houses.  I have made all kinds of Gingerbread houses from the very large and ornate to the small and simple; I love making them all.  I have created a number of large “centerpiece” houses for various functions and benefits, my favorite being the large church I created as the centerpiece for the gift table at my own wedding.  It was over 2 feet long and the steeple stood almost that high.  With large, candy “stained glass windows, Golden Grahams as roofing shingles and a full array of bells in the steeple the project took weeks to complete, but I enjoyed almost every minute of it.  Then there was the time, as chef of a country club, when I had to make 30 mini Gingerbread houses for kids to decorate.  I didn’t take the simple way out and make them out of graham crackers but cut out and “glued” together 30 of the little things.

Look for Part II where we put the house together and let my daughter have her way with it.

It’s been a few years since I last made a Gingerbread house, but this year my daughter is 3 and I figured it would be a good time to restart the tradition. Of course she is still too young to help Daddy build a Gingerbread house, but she would be more than capable of decorating one, so I set out to build a couple of houses, one for her and one for the neighbor boy who I thought would also like to decorate a house.

The making of Gingerbread houses is not a single day task, unless you want to drive yourself insane. I find that I like to spread it out over 3-4 days, if making an average sized house, many more if making a large or elaborate structure. Day 1 – make and chill the dough. Day 2 – roll out, cut and bake the dough. Day 3 – assemble the house. Day 4 – decorate the house. Of course some of these steps can be combined into single days, but as a working stiff, I find that breaking it up this way makes each step easy to accomplish while still allowing me time to do other things after work.

Gingerbread Dough

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup molasses
5 1/4 cups Flour, all purpose
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground clove
2 pinches salt
3/4 cup water

Cream together the butter and the brown sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add the molasses and mix well. Sift together the flour and baking soda and add, along with the spices and salt. Once well mixed add the water and mix to incorporate. Chill dough at least 3 hours, or better yet, over night. Meanwhile draw out your template for your house. For a basic Gingerbread house you will need 2 sides, a front and back and 2 roof pieces for a total of 6 pieces or 3 template pieces.

Raw-Gingerbread-Pieces-3790

To make a house with the same dimesions as I have pictured your side template should be 3″ tall x 4″ long, the template for the front and back (same template for both, just no door or window cut out for the back) is 5″ wide, a side height of 3″, and a roof slope of 5″. The roof template will then need to be 5 1/2″ tall (the extra 1/2″ for overhang) by 5 to 5 1/2″ wide (again to provide some overhang in the front and back and taking into account the width of the gingerbread pieces on the front and back).

After you have let the dough chill for the appropriate amount of time you then need to roll the dough out. Use plenty of flour to dust the dough with, to prevent sticking and roll it out on parchment paper cut to fit your cookie trays. The reason for this is once you cut the pieces it is easier to move the whole parchment paper so that you don’t accidentally stretch the dough out of shape. For a smaller house like this, roll the dough out to about 1/4″ thick, for larger structures you will want the stability of dough rolled out to 1/2″ thick. Place your templates on the dough and cut out the pieces cutting about 1/8″ larger than the templates. Bake in a 350F oven for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool, for 5 minutes on trays before transferring to a cooling rack. While still slightly warm shave the pieces down, using a serrated knife, to the exact size needed.

GB-Stained-Glass-3801

If you want to created glass windows or stained glass windows, use a hammer to crush up hard candies such as Jolly Ranchers. When the dough has 5 minutes more to bake, fill window with crushed candy, mounding it up in the center. Return to oven and finish baking.

A quick word about edibility. This recipe makes a great dough that provides both a good flavor and good stability. If you are not so concerned about edibility then there are few things I would recommend doing. First off, I would double all the spices. Doesn’t make for great eating but all those added spices helps keep the Gingerbread house fragrant for quite a long time. Also I would lower the heat to 325F and bake the dough for about 35-40 minutes. This will dry out the dough even more making it more stable, but also much tougher on the teeth.

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