Over the festive season, few sweet treats are as magical as the gingerbread house. The warm smell of baking cookies wafting through the house brings with it an undeniable sense of Christmas, a familiar feeling of festive cheer, and an almost audible sound of giggling as families enjoy making a masterful mess decorating their edible architecture.
Grace Stevens, master baker and mother to four of her own elves, loves making Gingerbread houses at Christmas and is ready to gift you with her top tips to make your house the best on the block this year:
Involve Your Family:
A great way to keep children of all ages entertained over the holidays, gingerbread houses are a sugary delight. Grace recommends that for younger kids, generally those under 6, you stick with a simpler house design.
Teenagers can go wild and pick more elaborate designs but be aware that not all of them have the patience to take the time to decorate them. A great idea for those who have a few kids of various ages is to bake a mini house for each kid to decorate, which can be used as adorable placeholders at the Christmas table.
Go Big or Go Home…Sort of:
As cute as little houses can be, when you need to make heaps of them you risk feeling like a one-person catering company. Grace suggests for younger families, that you decorate one large house. She learned from experience when one year she made a full-size house for all her little kids and her, and her husband landed up doing all the heavy lifting.
Keep it Simple:
Keeping it simple, creates more time for family, sharing, and making memories. If making "the perfect house" is your goal, then keep one aside to make on your own when the kids aren't around. Family gingerbread houses will not be perfect, but they should be fun to make, build bonds between the family, and teach lessons about the value of sharing, helping, and working as a team.
Preparation is Key:
It’s well known to anyone who has ever hosted Christmas that an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of perseverance. Making the dough the day before and storing it in the fridge until you roll it out, will save you the extra dishes on the day. To avoid any unnecessary clean-up, scrap the flour in favor of rolling the dough out between two pieces of baking paper. It will prevent sticking just as well without any need for extra flour and mess.
Divide and Conquer:
Christmas, despite years of evidence to the contrary, is supposed to be a relaxing time both for the family and the cook. When it comes to your gingerbread house, plan to bake and decorate your house on different days. You will get tired after rolling out and cutting the house, especially if you are making more than one, and you don't want to do delicate decorating work when everyone is feeling tired and irritable.
Crank up the Carol’s:
Cranking up the Christmas carols while you work will help get the festive spirit going and your kids singing along, leaving you with wonderful memories of family fun. If you have little kids, who tend to lose focus quickly, they can help by separating the sweets into different colors. This is a great trick to prevent them from getting bored while waiting for the royal icing to dry after assembling the house, which will take 10-30min to form a crust and several hours to dry totally.
Having originated in Germany in the 16th century, from the fairy-tale of Hansel and Gretel, Gingerbread houses still carry with them a sense of whimsy, fantasy, and charm. They are great to dress up with any sweets you have, easily adapted to your family’s tastes and their long shelf life makes them the perfect Christmas decoration. Not to mention easy to manage for the novice baker and the perfect base for lavish detailing and complicated royal icing techniques. Gingerbread houses are a fantastically fun activity the whole family can enjoy, follow these brilliant tips from Grace to make your baking even more fun this festive season.
For more information and/or to arrange exclusive comment or a potential interview with Grace Stevens please contact:
M. 074 923 3835