Sign up to get your daily dose of Miss Mustard Seed:

decorating with gingerbread

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

When it’s rainy and glum, Kriste and I usually drag ourselves around the studio, giving ourselves pep-talks to get something accomplished.  For some reason, it’s harder to be creative and productive and ready to tackle the world when the weather is blah.  But, today was drizzly, cold, and gray, yet it was still, despite all odds, an amazingly productive day.

I feel like celebratory hot chocolates are in order.

Unfortunately, it was so dark outside that I didn’t take any pictures of what we were up to, but I will share what we accomplished in a post soon.

Until then, I’ll share what I did over the weekend.

I made gingerbread houses and ornaments for the first time last year and I absolutely loved the creative process and incorporating the gingerbread as a part of the holiday decor.  It smells amazing and, come on, what is more homey and sweet than gingerbread?

I do make mine from scratch.  I really like starting with a lump of dough, because it’s full of possibility!

This traditional gingerbread recipe from The Food Network is the one I used.  Actually, I started out making a different one, but it required shortening, which I didn’t have in my pantry, so I switched to another recipe that used real butter, which I preferred anyway.  I was able to make adjustments mid-recipe, so it all worked out.

I knew I wanted to make some hearts, like I did last year, so I did…

mms-4533

I poked the holes in them before baking and then strung them on some twine once the icing has hardened.  (I almost said cured, like I’m talking about paint!).  The garland is hung from the range hood, which is perfect, since it’s right over the stove.  I don’t want to put garlands of poisonous berries or something right over our food!  If a cookie or piece of icing falls in…well, it might make for an interesting dish (I’m thinking lentil soup with a hit of cloves, all-spice and cinnamon), but it won’t kill anyone!

 I don’t use cutters for the hearts, but cut them out freehand with a knife, so I can make them just the shape I want.  I prefer hearts that are a bit more elongated and less rounded than most heart cutters.  I know.  Picky, picky.  But those little details do make a difference.

And, of course, I made some houses.  Well, two as of now, but I am going to make a few more later this week.

mms-4535

(That adorable gingerbread sign is from Ella Claire.)

mms-4537

I made a large house last year and it took a lot of dough and was a little tricky to assemble, so I decided to make several mini/small houses as opposed to one big one.

mms-4528

I put this house under a cloche with some fresh greenery, a mini bottlebrush tree and a tiny vintage cast iron cow.  A dusting of powdered sugar finished off the little scene.

mms-4542

By the way, I make some gingerbread cookies for eating and then some for decorating, like this house.  As I mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t put inedible fresh greens next to something we were actually going to eat.  The houses are just for decor.

Speaking of what’s made for decor…I had some gingerbread hearts hanging from the cabinet knobs in the dining room last year.  Over the season, they kept losing more and more of their icing.  I figured I was bumping into them when I was vacuuming or something like that.  Well, I later learned that my oldest son (not the one with T1D), was picking off the icing bit by bit when no one was watching!  Well played.

Anyway, I made some house-shaped cookies, too.  This batch of icing was a little runny, so the details sort of melted into one another, but I’ll thicken it up a bit when I make the rest.

Oh, speaking of icing, I learned something interesting!  I bought some organic powdered sugar for this project, which was a little silly in hindsight, because it’s still white powdered sugar, but it seemed like a good idea at the grocery store.  Anyway, DO NOT buy organic powdered sugar for royal icing unless you would like your icing to be an unappetizing beige color.  It was the craziest thing.  It was white in the bag and as soon as I mixed it with egg whites, it would turn beige!  So, I sent Jeff to get some reliably white ordinary powdered sugar.

mms-4543

If you’re thinking about making gingerbread this year, here are a few tips (in addition to the powdered sugar thing)…

  • Make a big batch of dough!  If you’re going to make a mess of the kitchen, it might as well be worth it.  I made three batches and about 1/2 of it made two small houses and about twenty cookies.
  • Make the dough one day and then roll, bake, and decorate another.  I did it all in one day last year and I was tired and rushing by the end.  This year, I spread things out, so I can take my time on the creative part.
  • Be as precise as you can.  That doesn’t matter if you’re making cookies, but if you’re making a house, it goes together so much easier if everything is sized properly and the sides are square, straight, etc.
  • Gingerbread is forgiving.  I am not precise, so even when I try, my walls end up wonky.  I learned that gingerbread can be trimmed to straighten things out, which was a big relief to me!
  • Icing covers a multitude of imperfections.  It’s like caulk for trim.  It hides any wonkiness that does happen if, like me, you aren’t totally precise.  Just cram a bunch of icing in there and pile some drippy snow on top and you’re good to go.
  • Dust with powdered sugar.  I just learned this trick this year.  Dust the gingerbread with a little powdered sugar for a snowy/icy look.  I especially loved it on the roof of the little house, so it brings out the “shingles” that I “drew” in the dough before it went in the oven.

Any “gingerbread experts” have anything else to add?

And, for a little more gingerbread-spiration, these are a couple from Instagram that inspired me…

Related posts:

Comments

  1. Oh my gosh I am in LOVE with these! Well done and oh so inspiring !

  2. Very cute. I myself would use the recipe with shortening – can’t justify using butter for mere ornaments. I use enough butter this time of year just making my husband’s favorite Christmas cookies (one batch uses three sticks).

  3. Kim Price says:

    Your snow kissed log cabin is so dear! At least to me it looked like a log cabin. I’m very inspired!

  4. This is so sweet! I am going to make these for our house.

  5. Joy in Alabama says:

    Well, I made lots of gingerbread stars and let them get hard and dry and put them different places on my Hoosier and the dining room. I also strung some on red and white baker’s twine for the kitchen windows. But yesterday they started crumbling and falling apart in the windows (we’ve had lots of rain so I guess they got damp). What could I do instead? Is there some kind of clay or dough that would stay hard?

    • Collette says:

      Joy – there is a DIY applesauce/cinnamon “clay” that has a gingerbread-ish color and a great smell that might work. I am sure a quick search would yield some info. I have never done before, but my sis-in-law has to successful results. Check it out.

  6. I love the idea of making the smaller ones. Yours are adorable! I plan to bake Friday so I think I will make a few smaller ones verses one big one. :) My advice is make them on a low humidity day. I made the mistake of decorating on a rainy day once and struggled with my icing setting up, etc. Lesson learned!! :)

  7. Julie Lorson says:

    Love it! So festive and very Scandinavian. I love how they decorate almost as much I love how you decorate and create!

  8. Collette says:

    Love the vignette with the cloche and the Gingerbread baking sign. Too perfect! Looks like a scene from a North Pole bakery. I am transported! Thanks for the dose of adorable, Marian.

  9. Carla from Kansas says:

    I think that little house looks like a log cabin also. Very cute. And that sign is just darling.

  10. Seriously so so stinkin’ cute!!!

  11. I totally get your idea for elongated hearts…I chucked that I understood…and I love the little gingerbread houses…I bet they are easier than the big ones to construct. Thanks for the tips and recipe…this first-time gingerbread baker needs all the help she can get. :)

  12. LOVE!! Do you have a pattern for your small houses? The shape and size is perfect!

  13. Darleen says:

    Careful, dogs like icing too!

  14. Sharon Bates says:

    Making Gingerbread Houses has been a family traditions of ours since the mid 1970s when my mother started making them to sell in Waterford, VA. At that time they had a December event in addition to their annual October festival. They would line our counters and Dining room table. She made cottages, castles and it looked like the North Pole! I have continued the tradition and usually gift one to a family friend with young children. I love the look on their faces -no matter how simple or crazy the house looks!
    I have learned that it helps to decorate the walls and roof while they are still laying down. Then when the decorative icing is dry “build” the house. You can always add more touches but I found easier this way.
    I think shredded wheat makes beautiful “thatched” roofs with a light dusting of regular and powdered sugar!
    And on idea to avoid…marshmallow fluff is NOT a good icing substitute! :-)

  15. Clare Bauer says:

    Can you share your icing recipes? I’d love both the butter and the shortening ones that you have.

  16. I just love all of this. Thanks for sharing, Marion!

  17. Kristin says:

    Those houses are so cute!

  18. Maria says:

    If you find any gingerbread missing this year you might want to check with Sebastian :) When my son was about 8 we had spent almost 6 hours creating a gingerbread house masterpiece. We put it up on a “high” shelf in his room for display. The next day we came home after a day out and about and found only the aluminum foil covered cardboard base tucked under the corner of his dog bed. Apparently dogs really like gingerbread too!

  19. Catt-in-Kentucky says:

    I love the cloche and the footed wood base – so perfect for your darling house. I have seen similar ones – usually called cheese keepers, but couldn’t find your’s online. Do you have a source that you could share? Thanks.

  20. Marian, love the table with gingerbread in progress and the cute little gingerbread sign overhead.

    What an adorable vignette you’ve created under that glass dome too.

    Everything is so creative and fun and a pleasure to pop by for a browse.

  21. Jackie says:

    I loved all your ginger bread decorations. Makes me want to bake. I also loved you collection of wooden cutting boards, especially the large one with the unusual handle. Am in the process of remodeling my kitchen and love old cutting boards to display.

  22. Nancy mitchell says:

    Where can I purchase that cloche?

Leave a Comment

*