The construction and demolition of the Gingerbread House is well on its way to becoming a Christmas tradition in our house.
I have built gingerbread houses with my children every year since we moved to Sweden seven years ago. Even when we lived in East Africa between 2014 – 2018 I still made them. But this year, when we returned to Sweden, I was determined to make this year gingerbread house my best yet.
Here in Stockholm the making Gingerbread houses is taken quite seriously. So much so that there is an annual Pepparkakshus exhibition at ArkDes – Sweden’s National Centre for Architecture and Design. Children, young people, adults, amateurs and professionals compete side by side to see who can build the best gingerbread house.
I went along to the exhibition to get some inspiration, although I fear many of these were way out of my league.
Gingerbread House 2018 Exhibition at ArkDes in Stockholm
The exhibits were fantastic, but I was particularly impressed by the modern gingerbread houses that looked like they’d been designed by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
My personal favourite was a model of Pippi Longstocking’ House, Villa Villekulla, along with mini fondant Pippi, horse and her monkey Mr Nilsson.
Here is a step by step guide of how to make a basic gingerbread house. Good luck or as they say in Sweden, lycka till!
GINGERBREAD HOUSE RECIPE
10½ cups flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon allspice
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1½ cups syrup
1½ cups brown sugar
1½ cups (12 oz) butter (at room temperature)
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
In the large bowl put the flour, ginger, cinnamon and allspice and stir to combine. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl, and set aside.
Heat the syrup and brown sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat, stirring to ensure the mixture does not burn. When the mixture starts to simmer turn off the heat add the bicarbonate of soda and stir. The mixture should have a foam-like texture. Now add the butter to the pan and stir until completely melted.
Add the eggs to the dry ingredients, then slowly add the syrup mixture to form a smooth dough. Push all the dough together to form a ball. Now divide the dough into quarters and let it rest for a few minutes.
Knead the dough before using. Roll out the dough so it is 6mm thick, and cut out the house shapes using a sharp knife. You can also add windows and a door, for these I use rectangle and heart shapes. But the cut-out dough onto a baking sheet. Remove the unused dough around the shape and roll out for the next piece.
If you want to add ‘glass’ to your windows then put boiled sweets into the gaps where the windows are – as they bake they will melt and form a glass like texture.
Bake each piece for 15 minutes. The individual pieces are quite large and will require baking one panel at a time. When they’re done, the edges should be browned. Let cool completely on wire racks.
Cutting the pieces for the gingerbread house:
Two roof panels 18cm x 13cm
Two side panels 15cm x 12cm
For the front and back panel: Cut a piece of paper into a rectangle measuring 21cm x 16cm. Next fold the paper in half lengthwise. From the bottom measure 12cm, draw a line here. Open up the sheet and draw two diagonal lines from the top centre to the 12cm mark, creating a gable.
Save the 2 triangle pieces that were cut for the chimney, this will help you get the correct angle. The chimney requires four pieces. Use the pieces of paper scraps cut from the gable as a shortcut to get the proper angle for the chimney.
Two sides of 6cm x 4.5cm
Two sides of 6cm x 4.5cm with a small triangle cut out
Making the royal icing:
You will need plenty of royal icing to ‘glue’ your house together.
Royal Icing recipe
3 large eggs (whites only)
4 cups of icing sugar (sifted)
a little water
Mix egg whites and whisk until frothy. Add one cup of icing sugar and mix, then add gradually add the other cups of icing sugar until it is all mixed together. The icing will be very thick, add water, a few drops of a time, to think it to the correct consistency. The icing can be stored at room temperature in an airtight glass or metal container. It should be used within two days.
BUILDING YOUR GINGERBREAD HOUSE
Create a base for your house. I use a foam board or a baking tray, covered with foil.
First pipe royal icing on the base and the sides of each piece and use cups, bowls or jars to keep the structure upright while it dries. Reinforce inside the corners with more royal icing if necessary.
Next assemble the chimney. Let the four walls and chimney dry before placing roof panels on the structure and attaching with royal icing. Be warned this can be rather tricky, but it will work if you add enough royal icing ‘glue’.
Once it it totally dry you can decorate as you wish.
Here’s this year’s finished gingerbread house
DEMOLISHING YOUR GINGERBREAD HOUSE
Much as my children love to help to make the house, their favourite bit is smashing it up, as you can see from this video 😉
Finally, no post about Swedish gingerbread houses would be complete without this little ditty; Alla tillsammans nu: “Vi komma, vi komma från Pepparkakeland“.