Christmas shouldn't have a monopoly on gingerbread houses. The color of gingerbread fits beautifully with the colors of Halloween, and there's plenty of candy for decorating. Let's make a haunted gingerbread cabin!
Ingredients & Materials:
Flour, sugar, molasses, salt, spices, shortening, eggs -- for gingerbread
Royal icing -- I use meringue powder with powdered sugar & water; easier than homemade
Cardboard round (9-12") for the base. Make your own from a sturdy box, or buy from a baking supply store
Foil to cover base
Pastry bags and tips for decorating with royal icing
Food color (paste or powder) for coloring icing. A little black made the grayish base color
Candy, whole spices and/or seeds for decorating
Step 1: Gingerbread
- Find a recipe for gingerbread (cookies or house, not cake) online or in a cookbook. Typically one calling for 5-6 cups flour will make about 3 small houses, so adjust recipe depending on the size of your house. This one is small.
- Templates for gingerbread houses are easy to find online. Print and cut out pieces. Some call for using cardboard, but you don't really need to.
- Rolling dough out on parchment makes it easy to remove excess scraps and to transfer the pieces to a baking sheet. Chill for an hour or so before baking to limit spreading of the pieces.
- Bake according to directions; pieces should be firm. If pieces are touching, run a sharp knife between them to make sure they will come apart. Trim pieces if they have spread in weird ways. Cool completely.
- You can continue with the construction now, or wrap and save the pieces for another day. That will give you time to assemble your other materials, if you haven't already done so.
Step 2: Candy Decorations
This is fun. Find any candy that is small and evocative of Halloween. You can also use whole spices and seeds or nuts. These are some ideas:
- Jelly pumpkins and fruit slices
- Candy corn
- Halloween marshmallows
- Licorice (cats, discs, vines)
- Jelly beans
- Necco wafers
- Nonpareils and/or dark chocolate discs)
- Candy-covered sunflower seeds
- M&Ms or Reese's Pieces
- Whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, allspice
- Pumpkin seeds, whole or shelled
- Dried fruit cut into shapes (kiwi used here)
- Silver dragees
- Crystal sugar in various colors
- Candy skulls
Step 3: Royal Icing
Royal icing is functional and decorative. It's the glue that holds the house together, but you can create designs and features such as windows, roofing and stonework as well. It dries as hard as sheetrock mud. Don't really want to eat it, although you could. You can make your own with egg whites and powdered sugar, but I think it is easier to buy meringue powder at a baking supply store. Once it is ready, color a portion for the base, and spread a thin layer on the foil-covered cardboard base. Sprinkle with crystal sugar (black and brown here) if you like. Allow to harden for several hours. Meanwhile, put the rest of the royal icing into pastry bags with decorating tips. You can make different colors or leave it white. Next time I would make some orange...
Step 4: Construction
- Start assembling your house according to the directions on your template. Pipe icing (a medium round tip works for this) on the bottom and side edges to fasten side and front/back pieces to the base and each other. Attach roof pieces. You may need to hold them in place for a few minutes while the icing sets a bit. Run a bead of icing along the ridge line to help hold the roof in place.
- You can start adding decorations now, but waiting for the house to firm up for an hour or so is probably better. Start thinking over your decorating plan while you wait.
Step 5: Bring on the Candy
- Using royal icing to fasten pieces of candy or other decorations, you can start creating your ghostly cottage. It's helpful to have some toothpicks and possibly some clean tweezers to help with placement of small stuff. Don't worry if you don't like something. You can remove it and try something else. Dried royal icing residue can be carefully scraped off or wiped off gently with a damp paper towel. (Darker colors may be harder to remove).
- Choose a bigger cardboard base if you want a larger yard area next time. It's fun to put in stepping stones, a woodpile (cut cinnamon sticks), a pond (melted Lifesavers), a tree with cobwebs (small branch with cotton candy webs).
- You can also make a border around the perimeter of the base. I kept this one simple, but candy corn would work well for that.
Sit back and enjoy your work!