Instructables

Build a Gingerbread Brownstone

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Picture of Build a Gingerbread Brownstone
nighttime.jpg
facade nighttime.jpg
I can’t write this post without first making a confession: I have been through both architecture school and pastry school. For a long time I tried to avoid the obvious gingerbread-construction shaped overlap in my fields of study. (I was, I think, afraid of being pigeon-holed into the crafty side of pastry). Sometimes, the shoe just fits and there is nothing to do but wear it. I have made my peace. And, yes, I have also made gingerbread.

We’ve all seen a million gaudy little gumdrop-studded gingerbread cottages. (Yawn.) If I’m going to the trouble of making my own darn gingerbread house, then I’m going to make whatever type I want. So I thought I’d celebrate the house type in my adopted home, Brooklyn. And everyone knows New Yorkers spend a fair amount of their time coveting both real estate and fancy foodstuffs, so the whole thing just seemed to make sense.

My gingerbread house is, admittedly, a little bit on the involved side. So I’ve written instructions that you can use either to recreate my design, or to make your gingerbread creation, whether it is much simpler, or even more involved.  (If you do want to recreate my brownstone design, I have the templates that I created for this design attached in the images for this step.)

The gingerbread recipe I made is technically edible, but it really is not meant for eating. Which explains why I call for shortening (I just can’t stand to put perfectly good butter into something that isn’t going to be eaten). The ideal gingerbread for making a house bakes up hard as a rock. The texture and flavor are rather similar to a thin plywood. I make gingerbread cookies for eating with good butter, and a delicate balance of spices. This dough, on the other hand, was a good opportunity to get rid of some old, stale cinnamon. Royal icing is both the glue and the snow, and it is made of just egg whites and powdered sugar. With these two recipes at your disposal, you’ll be ready tackle just about any gingerbread project. And if you're really feeling ambitious, you can make poured sugar "glass" for the windows.  I have the base recipes for gingergbread dough, royal icing and poured sugar attached in one printer friendly pdf called Gingerbread Basics. These recipes make more than enough icing and gingerbread to make this house. If you're making a smaller (or larger) project, you can adjust accordingly.

This project, along with lots of other food-related nonsense is also posted on my blog, www.kitchentablescraps.com. Enjoy, and have a very happy holidays!

Overview
  • Design your house
  • Carve Templates (Optional)
  • Make Royal Icing
  • Mix Gingerbread Dough
  • Roll, Cut & Shape Gingerbread*
  • Pipe Freestanding Royal Icing Pieces*
  • Bake Gingerbread
  • Decorate Sides
  • Cook Poured Sugar Windows/Glue (optional)
  • Assemble House
  • Decorate
* Leave overnight to dry.

 
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squishyjoss9 months ago
Thats fabulous...
really amazing
(Passed out in awe)
sabu.dawdy1 year ago
WOW.. i have NEVER seen a ginger bread cake house before :o btw is it a cake? would love it if it is :D
spotyguy2 years ago
A-M-A-Z-I-N-G ! = )
dabchick2 years ago
Wow wow wow!
WUVIE2 years ago
Congratulations, indeed! A fine job, and so lovely!
Great Instructable!
kitchentablescraps (author)  WUVIE2 years ago
Thanks!
mezcraft2 years ago
Congratulations! You totally deserved the grand prize - your gingerbread house is totally mind blowing and amazing!
kitchentablescraps (author)  mezcraft2 years ago
Thanks! And congratulations right back atcha. Your Weasley house= amazing. And I love that you illustrated the steps. Can't wait to see more of your creations.
Gorgeous! I feel like I could move right in!
Aswa2 years ago
This is totally amazing.
And the instructions are very clear and helpful.
I am planning to make a gingerbread Fachwerk house next winter, and I think this will be of some help.
Thanks for supplying so many photos, too!

I wonder if you could put it outside for animals to eat once you want to discard it. It would be a shame to just throw all that into the garbage. Even if it’s not meant for human consumption – it’s food after all!

Oh, I also really appreciate you showing the paper cornet technique. I think this is a much better way than wasteful single-use plastic bags.
I normally use my pastry bag for everything, but for those tiny little things the cornets are very handy and better to control.
kitchentablescraps (author)  Aswa2 years ago
Good thoughts on animal feed... I think it would depend on what type of animals will be eating it. I know sugar isn't the best stuff for some critters. I think that this guy will eventually end up in the compost bin.

Would love to see pictures of your Fachwerk house next year!
The sugar could indeed be problematic. But how much sugar does a show-dough actually need?
I don’t know, I mean you also made it to smell good, so … I think if you could make a gingerbread dough with little sugar, you could just hack it into pieces after use and feed it to the birdies outside.
If you have chickens or pigs, they would probably eat it, too.

The compost bin is fine too, at least that way it will feed SOMETHING after all, and not end up in the landfill. Haha

If you are interested, here is the version of the person who originally gave me the idea:
http://red20.deviantart.com/favourites/?offset=48#/d2g07gr
I think it looks fabulous. :)

Btw: I checked out your site and added it to my food related bookmarks! Some great tips in there, thanks for sharing! :)
wow, now this is a gingerbread house I can appreciate! For the windows, I baker friend showed my a trick. You can buy gelatin in dry sheets that are about 3x4 inches. They are almost translucent and have a diamond grid shape on them - diamonds are about 3/4 inch. They accept diluted food dye really well so they can act like stained glass or just leave natural. The only reason I am mentioning this is because your sugar windows may begin to dissolve and droop due to ambient moisture. There is also another sugar product we used to get out of Germany, flown to Vancouver. Can't remember the name, reminds me of the name Glycol - but thats not it of course... Anyway it enabled you to make elaborate spun sugar decorations for dessert garnishes that wouldn't dissolve like regular sugar will. Anyway - awesome design - double love!

Thanks! I think that the sugary substance you were thinking of is glucose. (And you're right glucose does hold up in humid conditions much better than plain poured sugar. ) While it's not hard to find glucose in a pastry kitchen, it's a bit trickier and more expensive for your average joe to hunt down. I chose to stick to plain old sugar, just to make it a little more accessible. Great idea on the gelatin sheets! That would be fantastic for a project that needed to hold up for a long period of time, or in a humid environment.

So far my windows have been holding up great, but I've been able to keep the humidity at or below 50%.
Finally remembered - isomalt - how I got glycol out of that I'm not sure. And yes, not the easiest item to find, that and you need a silpad to pour them on. Regular parchment paper just doesn't work as well, unless you get the silicone impregnated stuff which once again isn't available at your average grocery store.
Oh, yes, isomalt! Magical secret pastry stuff. I remember while I was in culinary school having daydreams about making some sort of hot glue gun that fed you isomalt.
LOL! Thanks, @kitchentablescraps -- the glucose would have made this a tough project for us average joes.

All I can say is Wow! Brilliant work, and a superlative 'ible. Thanks for showing us what's possible.
kitchentablescraps (author)  gafisher2 years ago
Thanks! And, yes, I realize that I am using "approachable" as a relative term. ;)
Lindie2 years ago
This is awesome! Well planned out, too!
greybunny2 years ago
I think those gingerbread people need to salt their steps before one of them breaks a neck.... Or gets eaten, whatever comes first.
timothymh2 years ago
Are there photos of the house when the lights are on?
kitchentablescraps (author)  timothymh2 years ago
Just added a few "nighttime" photos to show off the lights and windows. :)
Looks awesome!
I love that you did something so fun and unique! I've always wanted to do curved pieces but the dough always cracked or burned and so I thought it wasn't possible - I'll have to try your idea of letting it dry overnight and baking it so long at a low temp. I hadn't ever thought of putting designs in the dough before baking like the bricks - I really love how it came out! You had a ton of ideas I had never thought of or found in my gingerbread research - thank you so much for sharing! I especially love how it didn't need a ton of decorations, just a tiny bit of candy, simplistically breathtaking.
raviolikid2 years ago
Absolutely gorgeous! Thanks for sharing.
sylrig2 years ago
This is absolutely gorgeous. Thank you for putting it into such a thorough instructable--I can't imagine how much time that must have taken in itself! And I, too, would love to see a photo of it lit, if there is one.
kitchentablescraps (author)  sylrig2 years ago
Just added a few "nighttime" shots to show off the lights. :)
HollyHarken2 years ago
Awsome!!! I found this while surfing another website as an alternative to carving your own brick rolling pin. http://www.nycake.com/hearttexturerollingpin-6.aspx
kitchentablescraps (author)  HollyHarken2 years ago
Great find, thanks for sharing! There are lots of pretty textured rolling pins on the market. My only note of caution would be to make sure you get one with a fairly deep relief. Some of these rolling pins are designed to be used with fondant or gum paste, and since you don't bake fondant or gum paste after rolling it, they can accept very delicate, shallow patterns. If the patterns are too shallow, they might disappear once you pop it in the oven. You can also play around with using everyday objects (fabric, metal mesh, etc) to imprint some texture. (Just make sure they are clean and food safe)
treardon2 years ago
FABULOUS!!! What a great piece of "gingertecture" (I made that word up) This is a show stopper for sure. Hope you entered this in a contest somewhere, it is sure to take 1st prize!!
agis682 years ago
epic xmas gingerbread....5/5, i would add an mp3 player with a small amplifier to play xmas songs
whoa. a 5 story cookie! now all i need is a gallon of cocoa, and i'll be set. this is so cool. oh, to be a mouse in your house. lol!
brewcrewfam2 years ago
amazing! the snow covered steps, carving, yadda, yadda is simply awe inspiring.
This is stunning!
Raforther2 years ago
Absolutely marvelous! The attention to detail is simply stunning, keep up the excellent work!
tseay2 years ago
I love this, reminds me of Chicago... Sweet Home Chicago.......
Can't talk normally -- the only thing that comes out is "oooooooooo" and "oooooaaahhh". This is brilliant! My usual stereotype of an architect-slash-pastry chef is somebody who is rotund, wearing thick spectacles. Now I know better -- it's actually someone who thinks outside the Saltbox! 
sitearm2 years ago
@kitchentablescraps; It's good to let your Inner Architect & Pastry Chef out! I've sent your instructable to all my cooking relatives. Cheers! Site
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