It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – decorations are up, advent calendars are open and letters to Father Christmas have been sent.
It’s also a great time to put on your Christmas pinny and start some festive baking with your children. It can sound like a daunting thing to make but a gingerbread house can make a fantastic Christmas centrepiece and is a fun activity for kids to get involved in. And the best bit is you get to eat it afterwards. (Just make sure they swap out of their school uniform first!)
Here’s our tips for making the perfect gingerbread house.
There are loads of recipes for gingerbread online, but you’re looking for one that will make crisp biscuits that’ll hold together. There are also templates online so you could make one big house or mini houses, so your children can each have their own to decorate.
Once you’ve found your perfect recipe, roll out the gingerbread to about the thickness of two £1 coins and cut round your template. If you’ve got extra gingerbread at the end, make biscuits out of them in different Christmas shapes – these are great for little ones to decorate. You can also pierce a hole in your gingerbread shapes as they come out of the oven and turn them into tree decorations.
Gingerbread can spread in the oven, so trim it down while it’s still warm to make it easier to stick together. And, if you’re feeling adventurous, make stained glass windows in your construction; just crush up some boiled sweets and add into the hole halfway through baking. They’ll melt and then set when cooled to give a colourful finish.
If you don’t want to make your gingerbread from scratch, you can buy kits where the pieces are made for you, you just need to build it and then add on as many embellishments as you like!
This can be slightly tricky and an extra pair of hands can really come in, well, handy. You can use a caramel glue, but royal icing is probably easier and safer for kids as it isn’t hot and looks like snow once you’ve finished. You can buy royal icing sugar nowadays, which takes the hassle out of it, so you only need to add water.
Once your gingerbread pieces have cooled, take a board or large plate and start off with a layer of icing on the base and build the sides of the house up with the royal icing. You can pipe it on but a spatula will work just as well (it’ll look like snow at the end so you don’t need to worry about being neat). Once you feel like that’s stable, add on the roof pieces – you might need to hold these on for a few minutes while they set so they don’t slide down!
Once the main construction is in place the fun can really begin! This is where your kids can properly get involved and go as crazy as they like! (More is more when it comes to gingerbread decorating).
Chocolate buttons and matchsticks make great roof tiles, and sweets like jelly tots and wine gums add colour to look like lights. Use mini marshmallows for snow-like effects or larger ones to build some snowmen. Use any sweets that are in the house, so if you’ve been given lots of chocolates and sweets over December, use them to make it sparkle.
Taking it up a level
You don’t need to stop at a gingerbread house – get imaginative with your gingerbread constructions. How about a nativity scene with a stable and animals, or Santa’s sleigh with gifts and reindeer? The sky’s the limit, and once you’ve done it once, you’ll be sure to want to make one every year.