Updated: Oct 4
We love celebrating Halloween in our home, but I have never been one for all the commercialism around this celebration preferring a more quiet celebration, with handmade treasures, hand carved pumpkins and homemade food. Making a gingerbread house is a wonderful family tradition which we enjoy doing (and eating) immensly. Now I have had a few eyebrows raised when it comes to gingerbread houses on Halloween, but as soon as I mention the story of Hansel and Gretel the penny drops for most.
If you are not familiar with the story of Hansel and Gretel, it is a well known fairy tale published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. German in origin, it follows the plight of two children, a brother and sister, who are kidnapped by a cannibalistic witch who lives in a house made of gingerbread, cakes, sweets, and other confectionery. The two children escape outwitting the witch. So in the end a tale we can all celebrate.
So now we have our basis of our gingerbread house, I use my own Gingerbread recipe, but I use the pattern from the book 'All Year Round A calender of celebrations' for the pattern and construction of the gingerbread house.
Making the Gingerbread
800g plain flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
4 teaspoons of ground ginger
4 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
360g unsalted butter, softened, at room temperature,
250g soft dark brown sugar
For the Royal Icing - the glue that will hold the house together.
1 egg white
150g icing sugar
1 tsp lemon juice or a pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon of glycerine
For the decoration
A range of sweets chocolates and confectionery, you can make another batch of Royal Icing and add some food colouring to stick them on with.
Make the dough.
Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and all the spices along with the salt in a large bowl and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy
Slowly beat in the eggs and then the treacle ensuring you scrape any unmixed mixture from the side of the bowl.
Slowly fold in the flour mixture one tablespoon at a time, once a nice smooth even dough has formed, split it into two, wrap in clingfilm and leave to chill overnight in the fridge.
Make your house template
Start by deciding how big you want your house, my cardboard pattern is as follows
Side walls x 2 15cm wide x 11cm high (cut your own windows making sure the frames are not too thin or they will be fragile
End Walls x 2 Draw a rectangle 12cm wide x 11cm high, mark a centre line down the middle of your rectangle, extend this line 6cm above the top of the rectangle then join this top point on both sides to the outer top corners or the rectangle, this should form eaves on which your roof can sit (cut a door out of one of your end walls)
Roof x 2 18cm wide x 12cm high
Chimney Use off cuts from the roof and door to fashion a wonky chimney on top.
Cutting and baking your house
Before working with the dough to cut the house, allow it to rest out of the fridge for ten minutes, pre-heat your oven to around 170 Celsius and lightly dust your work surface and you are ready to begin.
You want to use one half of the dough to make half of your pieces, roll the dough to around 5mm thick, you don't want pieces too thin or they will not be able to support the weight of the roof.
Carefully lay on your patterns and cut them out with a sharp knife, carefully transferring to a baking sheet, leaving room for expansion. If you need to bake pieces separate you can do.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for around 15 minutes until golden brown and slightly darker on the edges. Leave the pieces to cool on the tray for around ten minutes before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely. Once cool you are ready to assemble your house.
Assembling your house
First you need to mix your royal icing, mix all the ingredients together and beat well until glossy and smooth.
Assemble your house on a board or sturdy surface where it can live, trying to move it afterward without a base is risky and you don't want to risk any accidents!
Apply gentle pressure as you assemble the house, your end pieces will sit in between your side pieces (see my gingerbread house above), so start by putting icing on the bottom and side of one end of the house, and on the bottom only of the side piece. hold them together forming a right angle as best you can, fix the other end piece to the other end of the side panel you have just put into place and then finish by adding the last side panel. Gently hold it in place until it begins to set a little, then add the roof, with plenty of icing to cement it on. Fashion a chimney from offcuts and then have fun decorating however you like!
If you have leftover dough why not try making gingerbread people for Hansel and Gretel or the witch? You could even make the Gingerbread man and the fox and make it into a fairy tale feast!