“The Sugarplum Fairy herself could have made no grander gesture.”~Shana Alexander
…More for the love of gingerbread! A month or so ago I had a vision regarding my holiday table… tiny, decorated, edible gingerbread houses elevated on Victorian cupcake pedestals adorning each place setting. This was a challenging endeavor, but I was so pleased with the results! Below are all the details! Enjoy!
As I mentioned in my previous post detailing my adventures creating mini gingerbread men, I found the following perfect gluten-free gingerbread recipe at a wonderful blog called Only Sometimes Clever courtesy of Karen Joy. I have used this blog for other gluten-free recipes and have found it to be such a treasure, including a gluten-free flour mix that knocked my socks off!! (Great taste, texture, & everything!)
GFCF Gingerbread Cookies
Makes about 8 dozen medium-sized cutout cookies
- 1 cup amaranth flour
- 2 cups potato starch
- 3 cups sweet rice flour
- 3 cups brown rice flour
- 2 Tbsp xanthan gum
- 3 Tbsp baking powder
- 3 Tbsp potato flour (optional)
- 2 Tbsp ground ginger (or more, if you like ‘em really gingery)
- 1 Tbsp ground allspice
- 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 2 cups dark brown sugar
- 2 cups shortening
- 1 cup eggs (depending on size, 4-5 eggs. Measure into a glass measuring cup.)
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp dark molasses (OR 1/3 cup blackstrap molasses)
- 1 Tbsp salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, with a whisk, mix together the flours, starch, xanthan gum, baking powder, and spices until well-combined. Set aside.
- In another large bowl, cream together the powdered and brown sugars, shortening, eggs, molasses and salt.
- To the sugar mixture, add flour mixture, about 2 cups at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon. Once the flour mixture is mostly incorporated, knead the dough in the bowl, slowly punching the dough down in the middle and folding the sides of the dough into the middle. Or, put the dough on a non-stick surface (like a silicone mat or a marble slab), and knead it on there. Incorporate all the flour mixture until you have a stiff dough.
- If the dough is too dry, and will not hold all of the flour, add a Tbsp of water at a time until it will gather into a ball. Resist adding water if at all possible. The dough works best if it is not very moist.
- If you refrigerate or freeze the dough, bring to room temp before rolling. For the most uniform cookies, and definitely for the large sections required for gingerbread houses, roll the dough right onto a large piece of foil or parchment, then pick up the sheet and transfer to the cookie sheet. Working with about 1/4 of the dough at a time, roll the dough 1/4″ thick. (Bob Vila’s gingerbread site had a great suggestion: Use 1/4″ round dowels as a guide for uniform thickness, as illustrated on the right.) From this dough, either cut sections for your gingerbread house from a template, or use cookie cutters.
- Greasing the pan is not necessary, but I favor using nonstick foil. For best results, use insulated pans. (Hint: for your own insulated pans, take two regular jelly roll pans, and between them, add a layer of heavy duty aluminum foil that has been wrinkled, then partially smoothed out. This will create an air gap between the two pans.)
- If you roll your cookies to 1/4″ thickness and bake on insulated pans as suggested, baking time is 19 minutes. If your cookies are thinner, and/or you’re using thinner pans, bake time will be shorter. When done, the corners of your cookies will just start to brown, and the middles will no longer feel spongy. Also, you can bake for 16-17 minutes to produce a softer, chewier cookie (this is not recommended for gingerbread houses, though).
My personal tips, tricks, and suggestions:
- Setting all ingredients out in advance helps the process to flow more efficiently once started.
- Once the dough is mixed, it needs to be rolled out and cut into the house components. I created my own mini house template designed specifically to fit on my Victorian Cupcake Pedestals and to work with the unique expansion properties of the recipe above. Feel free to use mine or to create your own. Click on image below for printable pdf.
NOTE: Remember to adjust your printer settings not to “scale to fit” the printout (usually a box that needs to be unchecked) , so that the measurements remain accurate. See example below:
- By using long straight cuts for shared edges, more components can be created from each roll.
- Because the dough does not expand excessively when cooked, many pieces may comfortably fit on the cookie sheet
- Once baked, separating the pieces into “one pile per home” helps to assure that enough of each component has been created and that the total number of houses will be sufficient for your needs.
- Royal icing is the perfect “glue” for assembly. I purchased mine from a local farm stand, but for your convenience here is a link for creating your own Royal Icing. I have never personally tried this recipe, but the blog looks very detailed and informative! Disposable Decorating Bags are also a very convenient means of applying the icing.
- Once completed don’t worry about inconsistencies or “globby” connections. All can be corrected during decorating.
- Just as with baking it is helpful to set out in advance all candies and toppings that will be used for decorating.
- Even “used” candies may prove to have multiple utilities. Therefore, holding onto “snipped” gumdrops, previously grated cinnamon sticks, sprinkles left over after application, and the like becomes a fantastic way to conserve ingredients and combat wastefulness. I had a “used candy plate” that evolved into my primary “goto” source.
- Pacing yourself and not “biting off” too much in a single sitting helps create very meticulous little houses. I split the job over a three-day span. Day one was spent baking and assembling. On day two, I completed the roofs only and allowed them the opportunity to dry overnight. Finally on day three, I allowed the roof designs to inspire the remaining features on each mini house. Each job involved time and effort, but patience rewarded me with a truly enjoyable albeit time-consuming experience.
- Finally each little work of art found its home on my holiday table atop a lovely Victorian cupcake pedestal.
- Each house was unique and displayed its own personality.
- Each guest seemed truly touched to have such a thought-out “favor” that could be both aesthetically enjoyed as well as taken home and eaten!
- I even took into consideration the differing personalities of my guests and attempted to match them with the colors and designs I thought they might like best.
- Color options know no bounds! From almost electric brights to soft pastels… anything goes!
- Crushed peppermint is a classic!
- Draped icing creates an extra special touch!
- After the celebration is complete, a wonderful way to bid farewell to guests is to provide them with clear treat bags to bring home their houses in. These allow not only for safe and sanitary travel, but also for possible storage, and even continued aesthetic enjoyment thanks to their transparency!
Have a wonderful time crafting and decorating with these fanciful mini gingerbread houses! May they tickle the inner children of you and yours even as they delight and inspire!