Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gingerbread House Cookies

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Every year near the holidays, my elementary school would host a gingerbread house decorating night in the cafeteria. My mom and all the PTO ladies would hand out baggies of royal icing and we'd set out our extensive array of colorful candies and get to work. My siblings and I were ambitious little artists/mess-makers so our graham cracker mansions were constructed with only royal icing for glue, none of that hot glue stuff that our friends Kate and Kelsey tried to pull! However, their house was always standing at the end of the evening and ours undoubtedly had a few collapsed roofs, fallen turrets and tears.

Hard at work, squeezing that bag!
The only sad thing about graham cracker houses is that they don't taste as good as real gingerbread and they get stale just sitting around on the mantel for weeks on end. I would much rather have something I can sink my teeth into, without the added sugar rush and expense of mountains of candy decorations.

So when I heard that my brother and his cute family were coming for a visit this Christmas, I just had to make these cookies for my nieces to decorate! They are quite the budding artists, after all. Not only do these cookies taste delicious, but they don't take too long to prepare and they are a great project for kids and (a little) less messy than your traditional graham cracker house. We put all the white icing in plastic squeeze bottles and it was much easier for little hands to manage. If we had another bottle we would have put the red in one, too, so plan ahead a little better than me!

This cookie artwork was eaten by Santa!
Store these cookies, undecorated or extravagant, in an airtight container and they'll stay nice and soft for several days...if they last that long!

And a little help from cousin Sarah!
Gingerbread House Cookies [click to print]
Makes about 4 dozen cookies

3/4 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 c. molasses
1/4 c. sour cream
1 egg
4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. cloves
2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. nutmeg

Whisk together dry ingredients and set aside. Cream together butter and sugar. Add molasses, sour cream and egg; beat until well blended. Gradually add dry ingredients in about 3 additions. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Roll out dough between two sheets of wax paper. Use a cookie cutter to cut out house shapes or create your own. I made mine out of a piece of wax paper and used a pizza cutter, smoothing out any cutter nicks with my finger. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place cookies 2 inches apart. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. Allow to cool on wire racks.

Source: Adapted from Meet the Dubiens

Royal Icing [click to print]
2 egg whites, large
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. brown food coloring
3 c. powdered sugar

Beat egg whites, vanilla and food coloring until frothy. Add powdered sugar and continue beating on low until smooth. The mixture should be kind of thick, but pipeable, at this point. Scoop about 1/3 of the icing into a squeeze bottle or piping bag and set aside. Add water to remaining icing, about 1/2 tsp. at a time, until it is flooding consistency. If you make it too thin, just mix in a little more powdered sugar. Pour icing in another squeeze bottle (a piping bag will be much trickier, but still possible, for this consistency) and set aside.

Using the thicker icing, outline each house shape and allow to harden about 10 minutes. Using the thinner icing, flood each shape to fill in the outlines and allow to harden a few hours. Be careful not to get any water on them as they harden or they'll have lighter colored spots.

Once the cookies are well set, let your decorators go to work!

Source: Adapted from Joy of Cooking

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE this idea! No sad songs from little people trying to get something to stand up! So sweet!


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