I don't know if you caught this earlier? But I hate holiday baking. I've almost entirely sworn it off, in fact. And one of the big reasons for that can be summed up with two words: Gingerbread house. Or as I like to call it, gingermotherfuckingbread house. Look, there are those of you who are gifted in the gingerbread house arts. Lucky you!
But I'm talking to the rest of us. People who have tried and failed -- numerous times. I've baked gingerbread from scratch and I've bought those kits. And I've cursed and gnashed my teeth as walls warp, roofs collapse, and frosting fails to hold. And don't even get me started on how gingerbread for houses doesn't even taste good.
So here's my 101 on the easy, NO-BAKE gingerbread house. Some call it the graham cracker crack house. I call it saving my sanity.
You will need: 1 box of graham crackers, royal icing or ingredients (meringue powder, powdered sugar), pastry bag and tip or plastic bag, large plate or board, ginger thins or other round cookies, pretty candies and sprinkles, another adult, patience.
More from The Stir: Adorable Gingerbread People Are Good Enough to Eat
An aside: WHERE ARE THE GUMDROPS? I looked and looked, and it's like Sour Patch Kids are the invasive species of candy that made gumdrops go extinct.
1. Buy or make the royal icing. I'm sure someone makes royal icing, but I couldn't find any at my local stores. Fortunately, it's not too hard to make:
Royal Icing Recipe
- 3 tablespoons meringue powder
- 4 cups (about 1 lb.) powdered sugar
- 4 tablespoons warm water
Directions: Beat with hand mixer until icing is stiff. You want it thicker than cement, almost as stiff as play dough but not quite.
2. Scoop the icing into a pastry bag with a #7 or so tip. Or -- even easier, just snip a quarter-inch tip off a plastic bag and use that as a pastry bag.
3. Find all the unbroken graham crackers in the box and carefully set them aside. Let your kids snack on the broken pieces.
4. Put together the four walls. Go one wall at a time. Apply icing along longest edge of cracker and set firmly on your plate or board. Take your next cracker and apply icing along the long edge and one short edge, and place it at a right angle to the first wall. Hold each wall for a few seconds to make sure it sets. This is where having another adult around helps because they can keep holding a wall while you "glue" the other to it.
Tip: This icing dries FAST, which is what you want. But that means you only glue a little at a time, just what you need at that very moment. Also: Be sure and reinforce joined edges with more icing once you've got those walls up. Mush the icing into cracks with your fingers.
5. When you have your four walls up, start the roof. Figure out what angle you like for your roof and how many crackers you need first. Then, place each piece one by one, applying icing just where each piece connects with another. Reinforce joints.
6. For that space under the eaves, I glued in Anna's ginger thins (flower-shaped cookies). They don't cover the space perfectly, but they're cute and it's better than making yourself miserable trying to carefully cut crumbly graham crackers to fit that triangle space.
7. Now it's time to decorate! Again, this icing dries quickly, so glue on one piece at a time. I let my son glue whatever he wanted wherever he wanted it.
8. For these cute little icicles, press the icing tip to the bottom of your roof, drag down the icing, and then quickly pull away to leave the "drip." If you mess up, just pull it off and start over. Take it from me, a total Pastry Fail, it's surprisingly easy.
And ta-da! An easier, pretty-enough gingerbread house that your kid enjoyed decorating. Family togetherness without the tears: It's a Christmas miracle! Now let's look at this insane gingerbread replica of Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water. SIGH.
Have you ever made a gingerbread house with your kids? What are your tips?
Images via Adriana Velez