07 December 2016

How to Construct a GingerBread House (& have fun doing it)

How to construct a gingerbread house (and have fun while you;re at it)

Right now you might be finding yourself in the thick of Christmas madness and this may at first appear to be another story to add to the pressure of all the things you could be/should be doing to make the season magical.
Don't worry, it's not.
This is a post written by a mum from deep in the trenches, who is facing her first Christmas as a sole parent and who turned to an old favourite tradition - and some dear friends - to help connect with JOY.

You won't find any professional-looking Pinterest-inspired gingerbread houses in this post to make you feel overawed or intimidated (though our houses are VERY well constructed and could withstand any earthquake - we'll tell you how). All decorating in this post was done by lolly-guzzling children and mums with sticky fingers and hands shaking with tiredness (or was that shoulders shaking with laughter?)

Here is a record of a village construction party that brought warm fuzzies into what was feeling like a very bleak time. It was an afternoon filled with laughter and teamwork, lollies and helping hands.

Let's get on with it:

How to construct a gingerbread house (and have fun while you;re at it)

HOW TO CONSTRUCT A GINGERBREAD HOUSE

YOU WILL NEED:
  • A couple of good friends and a bunch of eager kids 
  • One Gingerbread House Kit per family
  • Plenty of Royal Icing in piping bags (see here for printable recipe card)
  • Oodles of lollies (AKA "candy")
We were blessed with gingerbread house kits donated by Gingerbreadhouse.co.nz - a Wellington bakery that creates great kits for Kiwi gingerbread house fans. Each kit comes ready to assemble, and is guaranteed against breakage during delivery (if any bits are broken when it arrives at your door, they'll replace the whole thing). 

My friends Mel, Nic and I have been holding gingerbread house decorating parties every Christmas for years, but for the last few years it's become increasingly difficult to find good-sized, good value kits anywhere. Our last year's kits - the only ones we could find - were so abysmal (and tiny) we didn't even take any photos. This year I decided to plan ahead and source some decent sized houses, and stumbled across this website. I cheekily asked if they would like to supply us with gingerbread house kits for a blog post, and were stoked when they said yes! #woop

To have an awesome gingerbread construction party, you don't need a super-fancy. super-expensive kit, but you do need one that's a decent size for decorating. I really like these ones - they're quality, a decent size and Kiwi-made.

gingerbreadhouse.co.nz kits come packaged to avoid breakage and with a built in construction platform

(1) The house kit comes packaged up in a white box... (2) well protected in plenty of bubble wrap and with a piping bag full of icing sugar ready to go. (3) Unwrap each piece carefully and check for breakages (4)unfold the box and voila! you have a handy construction base and recipe card... (5) just cut off the extra flaps and there you have it, all ready to begin.

How to Make Royal Frosting

MAKING ROYAL FROSTING:

This stuff is the essential ingredient in successful gingerbread house construction; it is pure white and sets like concrete, rather quickly, but not toooo quick.

YOU WILL NEED:
  • One egg white
  • icing sugar (comes supplied in kit or get recipe here)
  • lemon juice
  • an electric beater or a strong arm and a whisk
  • a piping bag
(1) Separate the egg yolk from the egg white (put the yolk aside and use the white for the frosting.)
(2) Beat the egg white until thick
(3) Add the icing sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice; beat together until the mixture has the consistency of toothpaste!
(4) Spoon the frosting into the piping bag (it's easier with two pairs of hands)

GINGERBREAD HOUSE CONSTRUCTION

This next bit requires teamwork; an extra pair of hands (or two) makes this fun instead of stressful - I really don't think you could do this as a solo effort?? The idea is to enjoy it, have a laugh and hang out together while creating an edible house - not impressing the world with your piping skills. Phew.

(HINT: The longest pieces are the roof sections. The slightly shorter sections are the walls.)

Gingerbread House Construction - the walls

Once the walls are all up, WAIT. Have a cuppa and just sit tight for about ten minutes to let the frosting set a bit, before you put on the roof.

Gingerbread House Construction - the walls

Ready? Right, on with the roof...

Gingerbread House Construction - the roof

Our gingerbread house is all constructed - and now we get to the fun part: going nuts with the decorating.

Seriously, just go nuts. Squirt that white frosting all over the show and let the kids go ballistic with lollies...

Gingerbread House decorating fun
Gingerbread House decorating - mini marshmallows and candy canes
Gingerbread House decorating - mini MnMs, jubes, jaffas, jelly beans and skittles
Gingerbread House decorating - piping the frosting, adding the lollies
Gingerbread House decorating - decorating the roof

(Oops did I forget the chimney? Well, it's pretty self explanatory. Just repeat the process as for the walls, just a bit smaller. We stuffed our chimneys full of smarties.)

This really is a very cool thing to do with friends, and friends' kids. You'd think it might be a bit manic and crowded with three mums, nine kids between us and a Swiss house guest. But it wasn't. Kids drifted in and out, holding walls, piping frosting, (sneaking lollies). Somehow it all just works.
You see what I mean about the amateur decorating results, right? Frosting overload, lollies everywhere; a sugary, beautiful hot mess. But did we care? No.
Cos it's not about that.

It's the togetherness - constructing a gingerbread village with your village - that makes it really special. We all look forward to it every year - even the teenagers.
This year it lifted my spirits and has set the tone for the rest of the season.
Christmas is going to be OK.

And I know we'll be doing this for years to come.

Gingerbread House decorating - teamworkGingerbread House decorating - kids can pipe frosting too
Gingerbread House decorating is fun
Gingerbread House decorating is fun
Gingerbread House decorating is fun when you do it with your village
Gingerbread House vilage - not professional but still wonderful
Gingerbread House decorating is wonderful

This Gingerbread House construction party was made possible by the kind people at


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