My Favorite Gingerbread House Recipe

I love traditions...to me they make the holidays more exciting and special, something to anticipate...we have a lot around Christmas...here are some, just to name a few, sometimes they change, sometimes we don't fit them all in, sometimes we make new traditions. I would love to hear some of yours!
We always decorate the day after Thanksgiving, starting with going to get a tree from a farm (which sadly had to change as we moved south this year).
The kids draw names & get to go shopping for their brother or sister (this tradition started with my family when I was little...and we still do it, we draw families...which lightens the cost of Christmas a little, and is a lot of fun).
We have Christmas Eve dinner (so on Christmas we can just relax and eat leftovers) followed by reading the story of Jesus' birth and opening one present (always jammies from Shorty & Papa...Grandma & Grandpa).
One of our favorites that we added about 4 years ago is making gingerbread houses...sometimes one, sometimes everyone gets a small one...we always have a great time...they are never perfect, maybe when my kids get older we will have pristine, beautiful gingerbread houses...but I love the way they turn out now...with my kid's unbridled creativity flowing. One Christmas we spent with my family...every family decorated one and we had a contest (in which everyone won a category...ours was the yummiest) :)

Here is my favorite Gingerbread House & Royal Icing Recipes...


1 c. butter or shortening
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. dark molasses
1 egg
1 Tb. ground ginger
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
5 to 5 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1. Beat butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer (I use my kitchen aid...makes it easier) at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in molasses until well blended. Beat in egg until well blended, scraping down side of bowl occasionally. Beat in ginger, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice and cloves until well blended. Beat in 2 cups flour at low speed until well blended, scraping down side of bowl once. Gradually beat in remaining 3 to 3 1/2 cups flour until stiff dough forms.

2. Form dough into 2 discs. Square corners. Wrap disks in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1 hour or until dough is firm.

3. Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease 1 or 2 large baking sheets (16 x 14 in. without sides). Working with one disk at a time, unwrap dough and place in center of baking sheet. Roll out dough evenly to cover entire baking sheet with lightly greased rolling pin.

4. Place sheet of wax paper over dough to prevent pattern from sticking. Lay pattern pieces on waxed paper at least 1 inch apart. Cut dough around patterns with a sharp knife; remove patterns and waxed paper. Lift scraps from sheet; press together. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate scraps until ready to use.

5. Bake cookies 8 minutes or until no indentation remains when touched in the center. Immediately place cardboard patterns lightly on cookie; trim edges with a sharp knife; discard trimmings. Return cookies to oven.

6. Bake 5 to 8 minutes more or until cookies are very firm. Cool on pan 3 minutes. Remove cookies with large metal spatula to wire racks; cool completely. If cooled cookies remain moist in the center, bake in 250 oven 20 to 45 minutes. Do not burn. Cool completely on wire racks. Repeat with remaining dough and scraps.

Royal Icing:

1/4 c. meringue powder
6 Tb. water
16 oz. powdered sugar

1. Beat meringue powder and water in medium bowl with electric mixer at low speed until stiff peaks form.
2. Beat in sugar at low speed until well blended. Beat at high speed until icing is very stiff. Cover icing with damp cloth to prevent icing from drying.

To Assemble (I do this the night before):

Spoon icing into a piping bag (or Ziploc bag) cut off tip or use a large circle tip (line of icing squeezed out should measure 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick).

Pipe royal icing onto the bottom and side edges of one piece, "gluing" bottom edge to platter or covered cardboard, stabilize with two heavy cups or canned goods. Attach remaining sides. Allow to dry (I also like to pipe a bead of royal icing along the seams on the inside to reinforce). When dry pipe royal icing onto top edges and attach roof. Allow house to completely dry.

Decorate with candies of your choice, attaching with royal icing...have fun!


Christmas Goodies...

if you are getting a box of Christmas goodies from me this year...and want to be surprised...read no further...
If you just can't wait anymore...go ahead and peek :)
I LOVE to bake & make candy around the holidays...each year I do something a little different. And to keep me from eating all of it I send it away to my family (which they love) who all live very far away from me...I rarely can be there at the holidays to cook for them, so this is the next best thing :)

This year the array of goodies include (I always do a selection...with a little of each for everyone)

1. Pretzel Turtles
these can't really be counted as cooking in my book...they are so easy & you just have to assemble them...
You need:
square "snaps" pretzels
chocolate covered caramels
pecan halves
Preheat oven to 300. Arrange pretzels in a single layer (now is a good time to use your silpat...or line your cookie sheet with parchment paper). Top each pretzel with 1 chocolate covered Caramel.
Bake for 4 minutes...if you use "Rolos" bake for the full time, if you use dove bake only for 3 minutes, and be careful...a lot of my caramel tended to ooze out of the dove chocolates :(.
Remove from oven and press 1 pecan half into the top...let cool to re-harden.

2. Cinnamon Glazed Pecans These don't really look that tasty in the pic...but they are sooo yummy...you have to try them :)

You need:

2 egg whites
1 lb pecans
3/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamonBeat egg whites until stiff. Stir in pecans, add cinnamon and sugar. Spread on a cookie sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Bake one hour at 200, stirring every 15 minutes.

4. Candy Cane Two Minute FudgeFollow the recipe on the sidebar...omit nuts and add some crushed up candy canes (a good way to use them up...ours never get eaten) and some white chocolate chips.

Also try adding marshmallows & almonds (rocky road); a peanut butter swirl (mix a little peanut butter with powdered sugar to taste...swirl into warm fudge); cherries (candied or dried); caramel bits; or chopped pretzels...or really anything you enjoy with chocolate :)

This is my favorite cookie cookbook of all time...the pages are all dogeared and blotted with vanilla...I have tried so many of the recipes in it and none of them have disappointed yet :)

This year I chose to make...
5. Holiday Bonbons
(yummy sugary cookies with an almond paste filling...then dipped in chocolate)

6. Lace Cookies
(yummy, thin and crisp...buttery, brown sugar oatmeal cookies)

From Martha Stewart I tried these two recipes:
7. Coconut Balls

8. Lollipops
(my first attempt ever...they are shaped in a mold of Santa's head)
I substituted lemon extract for cinnamon extract...they were very mild (but perfect for little my nieces and nephew)

I also like to make my own bags from wax paper...just fold a piece into thirds & tape...roll up the bottom two times and tape...open and fill, then close it how you like. So easy and inexpensive (I always have it on hand anyway)
Here are a few other recipes that we love this time of year....Enjoy!
Coconut Swirls
Melt 2 T. Butter in a 2-quart saucepan. Remove from heat and add 3 T. water and 1 tsp. vanilla. Mix together 2 cups sifted powdered sugar and 1/2 c. instant dry milk, add to butter mixture, about 1/2 c. at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in 3 cups coconut. Drop by tsp. onto waxed paper. Melt 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate over hot water. Swirl about 1 tsp. melted chocolate over each coconut drop, then chill. Makes about 30.

1 (16 oz) package powdered sugar
1/2 c. butter or margarine
2 T. evaporated milk
4 to 5 drops peppermint flavoring (or 1 tsp. extract)
food coloring (optional)Combine all ingredients, except food coloring, and beat until well blended. Kneed until smooth, add food coloring. Shape into balls and mash with a fork making a "plaid" design on top. Put on a paper towel lined baking sheet, cover with another layer of paper towels. Let dry overnight or 24 hours.
Merry Christmas!


Christmas Time Is Here!

The Perfect SnowflakeI like to use 9 x 12 in. tracing paper to make my snowflakes...it is inexpensive, looks great, and is easy to cut through many layers at once...

I made 4 different sizes...whole page (about 9 in. square); half page (about 6 in. square); quarter page (about 4 1/2 in. square); and the smallest out of scraps (about 3 in. square).


Christmas Countdown

This is my kids' favorite countdown...and it is so easy (if you are willing to spend some more time wrapping) :)

Gather together Christmas, Holiday, Winter, or any other appropriate book for the season...you will need 1 for everyday you count down (we started on the 1st...so 24 for us). We add a Christmas book or two every year, and I make up for the ones we don't have by printing off Christmas stories or poems I find online...Wrap and number each book.
Each night before bed we find the appropriate numbered book and open it...we take turns, luckily 24 is evenly divisible by 3 :) and read the story together. It is a great way to spend a little extra time together and feel the spirit of the season a little more each day.

Have a great Holiday Season!

p.s. I found my stories online here...
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints :)
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