It doesn’t take an architect to build a sturdy and tasty gingerbread house, but if you have one on your construction team, it helps. Whether you choose to build a gingerbread house like the one that got Hansel and Gretel in so much trouble or prefer to re-create the features of a Greek revival antebellum plantation, you’ll be wise to start with a blue print, all the tools of the trade and a well-tested recipe. "The Gingerbread Architect” by Susan Matheson, an architect with a passion for baking and Lauren Chattman, a former pastry chef with a passion for architecture, is a good resource for the aspiring gingerbread homebuilder. The book contains recipes and blueprints for 12 classic American gingerbread homes. "One of us lives in a turn-of-the-century city brownstone and the other in a modest Victorian farmhouse, so we started there, with two authentic house styles that we loved,” the pair wrote in the book’s introduction. Whether you’re a beginner, like the third-grade students at Chisholm Elementary School in Edmond who built gingerbread homes last week, or you’re a former professional gingerbread contractor like Libby Payne of Oklahoma City who built gingerbread homes for fun and profit for years, there is a gingerbread blue print to match your ability in "The Gingerbread Architect.” How many gingerbread men does it take to build a gingerbread house? The authors rank each project’s degree of difficulty — the Pueblo House is simple with a ranking of two gingerbread men. The Urban Brownstone is a more sophisticated project with a 4-gingerman difficulty. Building your gingerbread house requires careful planning, timing and lots of delicious and colorful candy. You can use gummy penguins to pull Santa’s sled on top of a black and red licorice-thatched roof. Marshmallows make perfect snowmen and candy sticks or stacks of starlight mints become stately columns. Try Rice Krispie treat evergreens and watermelon gumball topiaries to line a bubble gum walkway to your gingerbread home. Whether you use a blueprint from "The Gingerbread Architect” or build a house based on instinct and imagination, this is a project guaranteed to bring you and your children closer together while creating unforgettable (and delicious) memories.
Gingerbread DoughHere is a recipe for about 3½ pounds of gingerbread dough, foundation of the homes in "The Gingerbread Architect.” 1 cup vegetable shortening 1 cup sugar 2 teaspoons baking powder 2 teaspoons ground ginger 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon ½ teaspoon ground cloves 1 cup dark (not light or blackstrap) molasses 2 large eggs 5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour →In the bowl of a large stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the shortening and sugar with the electric mixer on medium-high speed until well combined. →Add the baking powder, ginger, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves and beat until incorporated. →Add the molasses, eggs and vinegar and beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary. →Add the flour, one cup at a time and mix on low until smooth. Scrape the dough onto plastic wrap and press into a square. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for at least three hours and up to three days.
Making your houseAfter you’ve mixed and chilled your gingerbread, you’re ready to start dry-walling your home. Roll it out on parchment paper, cut the pieces for the walls and slide the parchment and dough onto a baking sheet to avoid tearing or stretching the dough. Bake the walls and glue them together using sticky icing. In "The Gingerbread Architect,” authors Susan Matheson and Lauren Chattman recommend using "Royal Icing,” a mixture of water, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and meringue powder which acts as a bonding agent for building and decorating your gingerbread house.