Have you ever had one day where you needed to accomplish a mountain of tasks only to be challenged at every turn?
That’s today for me.
For the first time in weeks, I have that woman warrior power again. There’s so much to be done, I’m under pressure from every direction. Everything weighing on me lately just got a dose of kickass. I’m in 4×4 all-woman drive!
The holiday season is my favorite time of year. Then I remember all those little projects kept in plastic tub tombs in the closets around the house. Tree ornaments need painting. Stockings need sewing. Cards need to be stuffed and mailed.
This year I wanted to build Gingerbread houses. I saw ready-made kits at the store yesterday and that sight really lit my mitts. I can do this. I will do this. First, we need construction materials. I need a strong cookie dough to build the houses with. With a bit of searching through all the cookbooks standing attention on the kitchen shelf, I found a recipe. Hmm… Where’s the molasses?
Adapted for my lack of enough molasses from
Better Homes & Gardens Cook Book (*) Ginger Cutout Cookies
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 sticks room temperature butter
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/4 honey
- 2 teas cinnamon
- 1 teas ginger
- 1/4 teas cardamom
- 1/4 teas nutmeg
- 2 teas baking powder
- 1 teas baking soda
Cream the butter for 30 seconds then add the sugar. Mix until well blended. Add everything except the flour then mix until well incorporated. Scrape the sides of the mixer bowl as you go.
Add the first cup of flour and blend slowly. Then add as much flour as you can of the remaining 4 cups. You should be able to mix it all in, or finish it off by kneading the flour into the dough. It was not necessary to knead when I made this dough.
Divide the dough in to four equal parts and form a disc out of each. Wrap in plastic and let the dough chill out in the fridge for 3 hours, or up to overnight. This recipe is enough for two cottages, about 6.5 inches tall.
The Mortar (Royal Icing)
I have a royal icing mix from a bakery shop which was intended to serve as icing on cute pumpkin cupcakes for Little Sister’s birthday party. I ran out of time for decorating the cupcakes, so there’s plenty of icing for the gingerbread cottages!
Whisk one 16 oz bag (or box) with 5 tablespoons of water. You don’t really need any fancy cake decorating tools for this job. A plastic sandwich bag will be fine. Fill one or two bags with the icing then snip one corner at the bottom. Twist the top of the bags to get all that sticky sugar down to the opening. The zipper top will tend to pop open (learn from my mistake!) so keep the top end tight with a twist-tie if you will set it down for any reason during cottage construction. For the children, put a small amount of the icing into smaller bags if you have them, this way they can help themselves to sticking candies to the cookie walls. I used one bag for the whole lot, Big Brother directed me where to apply his glue.
Designing Gingerbread Cottages
I really enjoy this part because baking and art come together! Art that is edible rocks if you ask me. Trust me, watercolor paint does not taste good at all. (Go ahead and ask me how I know this.) Make templates – any cardboard or heavy stock paper will work. I had to get out my civil engineering cap to find a suitable size for my little cottages, and use the dough that was already made. The east and west elevations consist of a 4″ x 4″ square with a peak 2.5″ on center. The front and back elevations are 4″ x 4″ squares, the roof pieces are 5.25″ x 3.5″.
Roll the chilled dough to 1/4″ thick, a quarter of it at a time. The templates can be placed quite closely together to maximize the useful areas of the dough. The extra dough can be gathered up and rolled again.
There was even enough for a few star cookies, a warranted snack for the hungry cottage builders. Use a fine toothed grater to smooth and square the edges. Apply a plump strip of icing to the interior edge of the wall, press gently to adhere then prop the walls up with cans. Let the walls dry and harden before affixing the roof. Use plenty of mortar for the roof!
The Candy-Coated Cottages
What makes edible art that much more fun is involving the kids in the creation. Big Brother really had fun adding his special artist’s touch to his house. I made the second one for Little Sister, who was napping at the time.
Improvise and have fun building and designing your gingerbread cottages 🙂