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Not Just a Gingerbread House… It’s HAUNTED!!

Decorating gingerbread houses is fun anytime of the year, but at Halloween it’s even better – the more mistakes the better…. er, spookier it is! Here’s my way to make a haunted gingerbread house.

We’re going to make this one from scratch. The good thing about making a gingerbread house from scratch is that the cookie dough obligingly comes out looking decrepit and well used – just like a broken-down haunted house should look. (Keep the perfect, clean commercial gingerbread house kits for Christmas, that OTHER, inferior, holiday.)

(Ah, heck, I have a quick and easy way using a kit towards the end of this article. Yeah, yeah, one year I used the kit, and it worked fine, though not as satisfying as from scratch. But I know that everybody’s busy!)

The other good thing about this project is all the Halloween candy you get to buy! You know it’s yummy.

Plan an entire afternoon for your gingerbread house, and be prepared for a grand time with the kids. Let’s go!

Haunted Gingerbread House Materials

  • Baking Parchment
  • Candy (woohoo!)
  • Decorating bags and tips (disposables are available)
  • Big aprons
  • House Pattern on cardboard (an old cereal box will work)
  • A free afternoon

Gingerbread:

  • 3 cup flour ( Whole wheat is not recommended for houses)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 egg, beaten

Icing:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 6 cups confectioners sugar
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar

Find a Gingerbread House Pattern

haunted_houseSimple house patterns can be found on the internet, or by browsing through clipart images for Halloween houses to find a shape you like.

To use my haunted house on the right, click on it for the full image. I’m one of those cooks that don’t really measure things (instead of a teaspoon, I’ll just shake some into a bowl. Usually works for me, lol!), so I don’t have really detailed blueprints. The shape in the guide is for the front and back of the house. Then measure rectangular walls and roofs with the measurements in the document.

Take the house shape you like and enlarge it to fill an 8-1/2” x 11” page. From there you may have to adjust angles or the height/width, by tracing it onto another sheet of paper so that it is just right.

Cut the pattern out of paper and then trace it onto poster board or light-weight cardboard (like a cereal box). Making a pattern out of paper won’t survive the first cut. Do this:

  1. Cut 2 of the shapes for the front and back.
  2. Decide how deep the house should be and mark that out along with the height of the wall to match.
  3. Cut out two rectangles for the roof pieces. Remember to make them large so they overhang, but not so large that the house can’t bear its weight.

Cooking the Gingerbread Pieces

Tips

  • Before baking decide if this house is going to be eaten or not; the baking time will be different, as well as the appearance of the house. I suggest making cookies to eat instead of trying to eat the house.
  • Try to assemble the house before the kids are around. At this point they won’t be interested or of much help. It also means the house will be set and have less chance of collapsing while it’s being decorated.

Turn your oven to 375 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients, then mix in the wet. I like the recipe above – it’s a trial and error modification from gingerbread cookies – the actual cookie recipe is shown at the end of this article. It includes some ingredients that would make the dough too soft to use (which I found out the hard way!) Otherwise, use your own favorite gingerbread recipe or find another one from the Internet.

Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment. I use parchment because it can be slid right onto the baking sheet- no moving house pieces and risking accidents or shape changes.

Now it’s time to cut out the patterns! Sprinkle flour over the dough before laying down the pattern so that they lift up easier. Place your cardboard shape pieces on top and cut the patterns out right on the parchment. Lift away and clean and use your shapes next year.

Slip the cut dough on a baking sheet and place in a hot oven. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. About 8 minutes through baking, take it out to re-cut the pattern pieces. This helps to keep the shapes the size they are supposed to be as they finish baking. (Or, cut and separate them in the first place, but be very careful. Usually I just slowly peel away the dough between the shapes.)

gingerbread-dough gingerbread-shapes

If the pattern is complicated, it is also very helpful in identifying which pattern piece is which. The pattern I used had several different pieces that were very similar. I labeled them with letters and then wrote the letters on the parchment before baking. It was very handy as they cooled!

Once they are done, let them cool – perhaps for a day (???)

Icing Your Haunted Gingerbread House

gingerbread-decorationsUsing the recipe above, start by adding 1 cup of sugar to the other ingredients, adding one cup of sugar at a time while mixing. Whip this together for about 5 minutes and voila! Gingerbread house cement. Seriously.

Cover the mix with a damp towel so it does not dry out. You can also use 2 t of water and 2 t of powdered egg whites or meringue if you don’t want to use egg whites.

Then, feed it into a thick plastic bag with a small hole cut at the end.

There are two schools of thought about how to ice a gingerbread house: pre-assembly and post-assembly. I’ve done it both ways, and the only difference is how perfect the house looks. Last year’s house was iced post-assembly and we were dismayed to see the windows run and drip. But in the end it had a rather eerie effect that we liked. Icing before putting the house together makes details much easier., but young kids may not be as interested, because … well, it doesn’t yet look like a haunted house!

Our haunted house, built from scatch!
Our haunted house, built from scatch!

Heck, I Don’t Have Time to Make it From Scratch!

Yes, doing this from scratch can take a while, especially if you aren’t set up for cookie decorating with bags, etc. Luckily, that’s where kits come in.

A kit costs about $25 in my area and comes with pre-cooked house shapes, icing, candy, and the decorating bags and tips. The kit I bought this year had bat candy! and it was already assembled (until the baby sat on it!)

We put it back together and the icing oozing out made it look even spookier. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

IMG00598_Small

Commercial haunted gingerbread house
Commercial haunted gingerbread house

Soft Molasses Cookies

I’ve tried several different gingerbread recipes for this sort of thing, including recipes that do not use eggs or baking powder. Those recipes wouldn’t hold together long enough to get anything put together. This is my favorite cookie recipe, and not just for gingerbread houses either. The recipe came from my mom. Enjoy!

  • 3 cup flour, whole wheat or white
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp warm water

Mix the dry ingredients first, then the wet. Let the dough sit for a few minutes before rolling it out. Yum!


About Ruth Randall

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