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An Easy, Customized Gingerbread House

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My husband, Scott, and I have a tradition of making gingerbread houses at Christmas. We’ve rendered the Guggenheim Museum in frosting, Oreos, and Gummy Bears…

Gingerbread Guggenheim

Gingerbread Guggenheim

Amy Traverso

And built Boston brownstones with amber poured sugar windows.

Making the bow front was the hard part.

Making the bow front was the hard part.

Amy Traverso

These projects were fun, but between making  the dough, baking the pieces, assembling the buildings, and decorating them, they took about 1 1/2 days to complete. In recent years, we couldn’t seem to find the time to tackle another project, until my husband got crafty with a pre-made gingerbread kit.

As with so many household problems, we found our solution at IKEA. Their “PEPPARKAKA HUS” kit cost just $3.99 and had all the gingerbread we needed to make a simple cottage structure.pepparkaka-hus-gingerbread-house__0137263_PE295266_S4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then all we had to do was add modifications. Our son is a big fan of the LEGO Ninjago series, so we decided to make a dojo, or martial arts training center.

 

We took the standard parts and Scott sketched modifications on the instruction sheet…

 

 

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Then we cut our additional parts out of some sugar cookie dough I happened to have on hand.

 

Sugar cookie additions.

Sugar cookie additions.

 

 

We purposely overbaked them so their color would match the gingerbread. Then we assembled the cottage and added the extra pieces, using royal icing as the glue.

 

 

Beginning to take shape

Beginning to take shape

By adding red food coloring to some of the icing, we were able to glaze the ornamental pieces.

The "W" on the side is for Sensei Wu, a primary Ninjago character.

The “W” on the side is for Sensei Wu, a primary Ninjago character.

Then we used green M&Ms to tile the roof, added red M&M accents, and brought in the Lego characters. Our dojo was complete, and it took only half a day.

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If you plan to make a gingerbread house of your own, here’s a great (and food safe) recipe for making royal icing with real egg whites.

Royal icing should hold stiff peaks when it's finished.

Royal icing should hold stiff peaks when it’s finished.

Amy Traverso

Royal Icing

Makes: Enough icing for a typical gingerbread house

Total time: 10 minutes

Hands-on time: 10 minutes

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 standard 1 lb. box of confectioner’s sugar
  • Equipment: an instant-read thermometer

Crack the egg whites into a medium microwave-safe bowl. Add half the box (about 1/2 lb.) of the confectioner’s sugar and whisk until smooth. Put the bowl in the microwave and cook on high in 20-second intervals, whisking between each interval, until the mixture reads 160° on an instant-read thermometer. Watch the cooking carefully—if the eggs get to hot, they’ll solidify.

Once the egg mixture reaches the desired temperature, transfer it to a large bowl and add the remaining confectioner’s sugar. Using a standing or hand-held mixer, beat the egg mixture on high with the whisk attachment until it  is fluffy and holds stiff peaks. Transfer to a pastry bag and proceed with building.

 

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