After spending two hours on your gingerbread house, when all of the sudden, the walls cave in and in one second, it’s destroyed. That feeling of defeat in regard to something you spent so much time working on is known to many, and although it may not seem like it, there is a preventative method to reducing gingerbread destruction.
The gingerbread houses that come in the boxes are adorable, however their walls are not very durable. In order to prevent a collapse of these flimsy walls, there are a few things you must do. First, the icing included in the kits is not strong enough by itself to keep the walls from falling apart. Adding in a quarter of a cup of whipping cream tends to thicken up the gingerbread icing, making it easier to work with. Then, refrigerate your new icing for 45 minutes before piping. The consistency of the reworked icing will be harder and thicker than the pre-packaged version, but not too hard where it won’t pipe, making it stronger. You can use edible glue to stick on candies if the icing runs out because usually there is only just enough to construct the house, not necessarily decorate it.
When actually beginning construction of the house, always put the icing on the inside of the walls first, then the top. Never start on the top, because then it becomes a balancing issue and the wall will not stand. Not required but recommended would be to put icing on the base of your walls to stick to parchment paper, that way there is less likelihood of everything toppling over. After ten years of mastering gingerbread houses, I have never had a collapsed house, and this method has always worked for me.
Once the gingerbread house is all set, it is time to move on to making gingerbread men. This part may seem like fun, but it can be quite tedious if not done properly. Any gingerbread recipe you find online will do; the hard part is decorating them. If the temperature is not right, if the icing is too runny, if the candy is not sticky enough, the whole thing will be a disaster. Leave the gingerbread men out of the oven for about ten minutes, to the point where they are warm, but not too hot. Use the icing recipe mentioned above to frost any types of designs you would like including clothes, hair, etc. I like to dye the icing with food coloring to make colors for the outfits like blue jeans and pink dresses.
After using the icing, it is time to add any candy to your gingerbread. Crushed candy canes, M&M´s, and gumdrops all make great decorations. The trick is to add the slightest bit of icing to the bottom of the candy, place it where you want it, and hold for five to ten seconds. This ensures that the candy won’t slide off but also gives you an opportunity to adjust it before it hardens. Once everything is decorated, put your creations in the refrigerator for thirty minutes. When set, the gingerbread houses and men can sit on the counter until they come to room temperature and can then be enjoyed with a nice cup of hot cocoa with whipped cream or non-alcoholic eggnog!