Gingerbread houses are way more fun when you give the dough some color, but it is tough to do that with the dark brown gingerbread cookie dough you traditionally use. I substitute honey and granulated white sugar for the molasses and brown sugar in this recipe so you have a lighter gingerbread that you can add food coloring to. For the roof (or anything else you’d like to make brown), make a traditional gingerbread by substituting molasses and brown sugar. I also use shortening rather than butter so the cookies don’t spread as much in the oven.
By the way, this is NOT that rock-hard construction gingerbread that you often see used for gingerbread houses. This is a traditional recipe, which works for houses BUT also tastes (and smells) good as well. After all, what’s the point of making a house out of cookies if you’re not going to eat it?
This also recipe makes great gingerbread cookies. I made green gingerbread trees out of the extra dough I used for the house I made this year. Our kids loved them.
3 cups All-purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
4 tsp Ground Ginger
1/2 tsp Allspice
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
3/4 cup Shortening
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar (white)
1/2 cup Honey
Optional: Gel Food Coloring
Optional: Sugar-free Candy (for windows)
Combine 2 cups of the flour with the salt, baking soda, and spices. In another bowl, beat the shortening with the sugar in a mixer. Add the egg and honey to the mixer and then add the flour combined with the spices. Add the gel food coloring to get your desired color. Mix together and then add the final cup of flour, a heaping tablespoon full at a time. Form into a disc with saran wrap and then chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes to an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Roll out the dough on parchment paper that is cut to fit your pan until the dough is about 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick. Cut out your gingerbread house (or cookies) using cutters and remove the excess dough from the parchment paper. Transfer the parchment paper to your baking sheet.
Bake in the center of your oven about 10 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown.
Cut out windows in your gingerbread before baking the dough. Break up sugar-free hard candy into small pieces. When there are about 5 minutes left for baking your gingerbread, spoon the broken candy into the holes for the windows (be careful to not get any on the cookie!). Watch closely as they bake to make sure the candy doesn’t burn and is completely melted before removing from the oven.
A few tips for your gingerbread house
After removing the gingerbread from the oven, and while it is still warm, I like to recut the cookies using the same cookie cutters I used originally (or a knife) and straighten out the edges. Using shortening and chilling the cut batter before baking it will help keep things from spreading a lot, but it still spreads a bit. The sharp edges will look better when you put together your house.
After cutting the baked cookies, I also like to turn them over on the parchment paper to cool. This helps remove some of the “puff” and flattens out the cookies. Give it a few minutes and turn them over carefully so you don’t ruin your hard work! If you’re adding windows to the house, you’ll need to wait for the candy to harden before doing this.
Be patient and wait until the gingerbread has cooled completely before trying to build your house with it. Baking it the day before is ideal.
Also, I’m still learning how to pipe royal icing (it’s tougher than it looks!), but I’ve found that it’s easier to decorate the house before building it. That way, you’re decorating on a flat surface.
Use royal icing to put your house together.
I’m honestly a bit of a novice at doing this but have really enjoyed learning some new skills this past Christmas. What are some of your favorite tricks when building gingerbread houses?