Cliona Byrne explores making a ginger bread house for Christmas
Ginger bread houses have always been a fascination of mine, from fairy tales of Hansel and Gretel to the sheer skills needed for it simply to work.
As a child I would watch my grandmother bake cakes, buns and tarts. She would often let me make ginger bread men with an old red cookie cutter and the left-over pastry from her apple tarts. So, after years of curiosity and built up childhood dreams, I decided to embark on my own journey of baking and decorating a ginger bread house, with one exception.
This cakey house was not going to be the normal cabin-like ginger bread house but instead based upon my grandparents’ 160-year-old farm house.
Making a ginger bread house is the perfect project for the entire family. Between the skills of baking, constructing and decorating, everyone can take part in the process.
It can be eaten straight away and is edible for a whole week after it has been baked.
If you do not want to eat the house, it can be kept as a decorative piece for over four weeks.
Next week: Making the icing glue, constructing the house and decorating.
Ginger bread recipe
8oz/ 225g of dark brown sugar
12oz/ 340g of Golden Syrup for golden ginger bread or treacle can be used for a darker biscuit
2 lb 5 oz/ 1,050g plain flour
3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tsp ground ginger
28cm x 17cm
Front and back of house
28cm x 22cm
Sides of house
3cm x 22cm
Guide for ginger bread house
I suggest making the ginger bread in the evening. If you leave the ginger bread overnight before constructing the house, the pieces will be nice and sturdy and less likely to break.
This dough recipe is quite large but it will allow you extra dough for making ginger bread men and other pieces.
Making the gingerbread dough
1. Measure the butter, sugar and golden syrup or treacle and melt in a large saucepan at a low heat. Once the sugar and syrup are dissolved, remove from the heat. It is important not to continue cooking the syrup mixture after it has fully dissolved as it will turn into a hard toffee.
2. In a large mixing bowl, sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger.
3. Add the melted syrup mixture, combine and knead the dough until it comes together.
4. The amount of dough is quite large, so divide the dough in two and flatten onto a plate in a round and flat ginger biscuit shape, cover in cling film and place into the fridge for 30 minutes to one hour to allow to rest.
Making templates for the roof and walls
1. While the ginger bread dough is resting, make templates for the walls and roof.
2. Using the dimensions given, map out the three shapes on paper. If you want to change the shape of the house or make it smaller, follow the basic structure given and make sure that all the walls and the roof are a suitable size for each other.
3. Be adventurous with your design, you can base it on your own home, add a porch or even make a little tower or chimney.
4. After making the templates, cut out rectangle pieces of grease-proof paper that are large enough to accommodate the templates.
Rolling out the dough
1. Preheat the oven at 180oC (350oF).
2. Place a light dusting of flour on a piece of grease-proof paper and the rolling pin, take a large piece of dough and begin rolling in smooth sweeps, lengthways and sideways.
3. The reason for rolling the dough on the grease proof paper is so it is transportable to the oven tray. Make sure to do this, otherwise it will be almost impossible to transport the dough.
4. At first, the dough may seem crumbly but don’t worry, after rolling it will quickly combine in a smooth golden sheet of ginger bread.
5. Roll until the dough is even and 1cm thick.
6. Place the template over the piece of dough and trim with a sharp knife to the correct size and shape.
7. Using two sets of hands, take the grease-proof paper from each corner and transport to an oven tray.
8. Repeat this process for each part of the house.
9. Use any extra dough to cut out some ginger bread people, Christmas trees and any other accessories.
10. If your pieces are large like mine, you will have to bake the ginger bread in two lots.
11. Place the ginger bread in the oven for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
12. Allow a few minutes to rest before using the grease-proof paper to transport the ginger bread to a wire cooling rack.
13. Leave until the ginger bread if fully cooled before icing. For best results, leave overnight to rest, this will hugely minimise any chances of the gingerbread breaking during handling.