Today there are kits for making your own gingerbread house, contests for amateurs and professionals and bakeries all over North America displaying beautifully crafted renditions of Knuperhaeuschen. When Emmy was a little girl I tried several times to use my architectural skills to make our own little gingerbread house. Even with the aid of a kit I was no Frank Lloyd Wright. I'd get three sides attached and as I'd reach for the fourth side the house would slowly pull apart and collapse like the barn walls in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The roofs were impossible. I could stay for hours trying to prevent the painful slide of the gumdropless undecorated panels from their decent off the forty-five degree slant of the peaked roof line. My Knusperhaeuschen were certainly not works of art. They were just a mess, but this year was different.
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar - beat together
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg - add & beat well
3 cups flour
1 tspn ground ginger
1 1/2 tspn cinnamon
1/4 tspn ground cloves
1/4 tspn salt - add & beat until thoroughly mixed
Press 1/2 dough into a very well greased mold and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
Now repeat this process 40 times for 20 houses.
1 2# bag of powdered sugar
6 tspn meringue powder
Mix these together. While mixing the sugar and meringue powder slowly add 3/4 cup of warm water. Put the mixture into a pastry bag with a medium sized tip and you are ready to work. This tasty glue is the magic tool that makes putting together and then decorating your house a breeze. It's a tip worthy of a Martha Stewart gold star. No more having to worry about having six hands to hold your gingerbread roof in place while the watery slow setting icing of normal cake decorating oozes out from between the cracks and your roof pieces tumble and crumble before you even make it to adding those jellied gum drops.
1 cup shortening (Julie recommends Crisco as it is very white and makes good snow) You want to beat well and break down its consistency then add and continue to beat
1 2# bag of powdered sugar. You can, of course do this by hand but we highly recommend a good stand mixer
4 tbspn water - keep beating and adding one tablespoon at a time until well blended. For stiffer frosting decrease the water
Put your decrating frosting into a pastry bag and add any tip you want. Here Julie uses disposable bags for the kids so the clean up is easier.
Twenty-four hours after the last gingerbread house had disappeared out her front door, Julie was still scrubbing frosting off the tables and floor.
THE HOUSE I BUILT
Old Man and Deanna, 1986
Joyce Tenneson, photographer
Represented by Photographers Gallery, Los Angeles