Here at Whispers From Elizabeth, we are making a gingerbread house for Christmas!
On Wednesday, I showed you the supplies you will need to gather to create your own gingerbread house. Today is Part II of this series. We are going to bake the pieces of the house and start decorating the trees, bushes and snowman.
Let's start with baking the gingerbread. As I mentioned on Wednesday, your gingerbread dough should be well chilled before baking. It is much easier to work with when it is chilled. Cut off a piece of the dough and roll it out thin. You will want the pieces of the house to be quite firm. They must have the consistency of a gingersnap cookie and not a soft and chewy one. I rolled the dough to about 1/8 inch.
Lay the cardboard pattern over the gingerbread and cut out.
Before you bake your pieces, put them in the freezer for 10 minutes or so. This is necessary so the pieces won't loose their shape while in the oven. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes. Here is a picture of some of my pieces .
When you have a few pieces that are ready for the windows, gather the Life Savers and separate by color. Take them out of the wrappers and place into a baggie. Wrap the baggie in a kitchen towel and smash the life savers into small bits. You will end up with some powder and some small bits. You can also use a mortar & pestle to break them up.
Next, wrap the section that needs the window in aluminum foil. This will contain the Life Savers powder so it won't run all over the cookie sheet. Then spoon in the Life Savers.
Spread the powder/pieces around so they are even. Make sure it is touching the edges of the gingerbread. When finished, the powder/pieces should be even with the height of the gingerbread. Don't overfill! Brush off any powder that may be on the gingerbread itself. You won't be able to remove it after it melts. Here is a picture of one of mine.
Bake at 325 degrees for 4 or 5 minutes. Watch these the entire time so they don't burn! Let them cool completely. Here is a picture of one of mine.
When they have cooled completely, gently remove the aluminum foil from the edges of the gingerbread. Then slowly peel the foil off of the 'window'.
After you bake your house pieces, it is time to make the icing. This icing is a quick drying, hard icing that will 'cement' the pieces together so the house will hold up. It is super easy to make. It does require electric beaters, the hand crank beaters take way too long to make this icing! This icing recipe is on page 78 of the book, Festive Gingerbreads by Evelyn Howe Fryatt. Here is the recipe:
3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 1/2 TBS meringue powder
Combine the water, meringue powder and cream of tartar. Beat until foamy. Start with a whisk and mix together until the meringue powder is moist. If you don't use the whisk and use the electric beaters now, you will send the meringue powder up in the air in clouds of dust! Using the whisk and beating by hand for a few minutes ensures the meringue powder goes into the frosting and not all over your kitchen.
Now you can use the electric beaters and beat until foamy.
Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time and mix well. Don't use the high speed on your beaters or you will mix too much air into the icing. Medium or low setting is best. Beat the icing until it stands in peaks, is dull in color, and is stiff and thick.
One more thing to remember when working with this icing. You must keep it covered with a wet towel to keep it soft. If you don't put a towel over it, it will start to dry in the bowl!
I colored the first batch of icing green to make the trees and bushes. Let's start with the bushes. Select well shaped marshmallows. You don't want any that are squished or otherwise misshapened. Here are the ones I selected from my bag.
Use the leaf decorator tip. If you are using sandwich bags to hold the icing, cut a hole in a corner and insert the leaf decorator tip in it, then add the icing. I am using a parchment triangle for this icing.
Hold the decorator tip close to the marshmallow, but not touching it. Start at the bottom. Squeeze the bag to let the icing flow. As the icing touches the marshmallow, stop squeezing and pull the tip away from the marshmallow. It should look something like this.
I didn't start at the bottom of this one so I could get a good picture of what the icing looked like when you squeeze it out. It is much easier to hold the marshmallow if you start at the bottom! Then, go all the way around the marshmallow, working your way up to the top. Each 'leaf' you add should touch the icing next to it. If you find a hole, just insert the decorator tip in the hole, and gently squeeze a bit of icing. Stop squeezing before you pull the bag away. (This is critical to make the icing look like real leaves.) Here is what mine looked like about halfway complete.
Next thing you know, you have bushes! It only took a few minutes to complete all five. I added red sprinkles to mine. It makes them look like holly bushes with red berries.
Now, let's do the trees. Use the same technique.
As I worked the icing up the ice cream cone, I added sugar pearls to make the tree look decorated. Then I added a candy star at the top.
It isn't necessary to add the decorations, the trees look just as good if you leave them plain. If you want to add decorations, add them as you work up the cone - while the icing is soft. If you wait until you finish icing the entire tree, the icing will be too hard to accept the sugar pearls.
Now, let's make the snowman. You will need fondant. Cut off a corner to make the first snowball.
Roll the fondant in your hands to make a very round ball. Smooth out the edges so you don't have any creases. Make three different size balls for each body part of the snowman. I also added some shredded cinnamon for 'arms'.
Let the balls dry overnight.
Next, I will show you how to put everything together!
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