Up until yesterday I had never (succesfully) made a gingerbread house. In the Netherlands it’s not really a thing, we are more speculaas eaters and speculaas is notoriously short – not building material! In Sweden however, there is a great tradition of building “pepparkakshus”. I have wanted to make one of these for ages, basically since I was a kid. I tried making one with the Hummingbird Bakery gingerbread recipe two years in a row but failed miserably. This time I was absolutely determined to be successful!
I’ve always loved artsy things, me and my mum always used to craft things together. What’s better than crafting with food? Few things trump it. Especially when there’s candy involved. Sometimes things get a little out of hand, have you seen the White House gingerbread houses? They are COLOSSAL and absolute works of art. Since this was only my third attempt I thought I’d keep it simple, and simple is difficult enough when it comes to gingerbread houses.
There are a lot of things to consider upon baking a gingerbread house. You’ll want your gingerbread recipe to be sturdy enough but tasty at the same time. I found this recipe on Foodie Underground. There is the question of the cement, are you using caramel (more sturdy, but also more of a hassle) or royal icing (less sturdy, but child-friendly and easier). I opted for the latter because I really didn’t feel like washing up that caramel pan, plus you have to work pretty quickly with caramel and I like taking my time. Oh and then there’s deciding on a design! You can go simple, or crazy complicated – I just went with the flow as far as the icing was concerned. It’s a lot of fun looking at other people’s houses and drawing inspiration from them. I made a Pinterest board featuring only gingerbread houses (and cookies), feel free to have a look!
With the leftover dough you could make some extra cookies, I made some Dalarna horses with cookie cutters I bought at a Scandinavian market last year. So cute! Make sure to roll them out thinner than the house though, that way they’ll be crunchier.
The template I used can be downloaded here (in Swedish, but Google Translate = your friend :)!)
Recipe Swedish Gingerbread
yields 1 gingerbread House + some gingerbread cookies
200gr golden syrup
1 tbsp ginger
1 tbsp ground cloves
1 tbsp cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
155gr soft light brown sugar
50ml heavy cream (more if dough is very dry)
1 egg white
2 ml white wine vinegar
200gr icing sugar
Candy for decoration
1. Melt the butter and the syrup in a heavy bottomed pan on low heat. Once melted, take off the heat and leave to cool.
2. While your butter and syrup mixture is cooling, measure the dry ingredients out in a bowl. Once your butter and syrup mixture has cooled down to about room temperature, add it to the dry ingredients. Also add the heavy cream. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together, then knead by hand until you have a smooth dough.
3. Put the dough in a bowl, cover it with clingfilm and leave it in the fridge at least overnight. I strongly suggest you do this as the flavor will develop.
4. Preheat your oven to 190C/375C. Take the dough out of the fridge and leave it on a countertop for about 20-30 minutes so that you’ll be able to roll it out.
5. Roll your dough out to the desired thickness. I’d suggest using two long skewers to get your dough even for every piece of your gingerbread “puzzle”. What I do is I roll it out until its about 1cm thick, place my skewers on either side of the dough and keep rolling until the rolling pin “hits” the skewers. Make sure you have a skewer on both sides at all times to ensure evenness.
6. Once rolled out, cut out your pieces and place them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes (this really depends on your oven, but keep a good eye on them). Not all the pieces will fit on one baking tray, so just bake them after eachother.
If you have leftover dough, roll this out about half as thin as you did the gingerbread house, cut your cookies out and bake for 6-8 minutes.
7. Once baked, cut the gingerbread pieces again, with the help of your template, straight out of the oven. The gingerbread will never come out completely straight in my experience so this is necessary. The gingerbread is soft while it’s still warm and so this isn’t too difficult. Make sure you don’t burn yourself though! Once cut, place gingerbread on a wire rack to cool down.
8. To make the icing, measure out your ingredients in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form. This will take 3-5 minutes.
9. Decorate your gingerbread pieces. Assemble the house using the leftover icing. I decorated the pieces with icing first and stuck the heavier candy onto the house when it was assembled. You can find a video on how to assemble a gingerbread house here.
Source gingerbread recipe: http://foodieunderground.com/pepparkakor-making-swedish-holiday-gingersnaps/
Source icing recipe & house template: http://www.dansukker.se/se/recept/pepparkakshus-med-kristyr.aspx
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