Saturday, December 1, 2012

Gingerbread House Party

Our gingerbread house party was such a success!  The girls all loved it, and Amelia was so excited to have all her friends over, especially her new best friend Lexi.  Amelia and Megan each spent an hour putting candy on their houses.  I think Megan had more candy on her house than anyone else!

Here's what the table looked like before we got started.  Sharing muffin tins between two girls worked very well, and we added bowls of royal icing with plastic knives, in case they had a hard time with the frosting bottles.  The favorite candies were (in approximate order of popularity) dots, those hard extruded candies with the pictures on them that Ben likes, gummy rings, gingerbread marshmallow men, small nonpareils, Nerds, and gummy bears.  Surprisingly, the M&Ms were not too popular (maybe they were too small?) and neither were the ribbon candy, mini marshamallows, Mike & Ikes, candy canes, tootsie rolls, and smarties.

Amelia insisted that Lexi sit right next to her, so that they could share a candy container:

Amelia tasted a few of the candies, but spent a lot of time licking icing off her fingers:

Megan tried quite a few of the candies in the beginning, and so I had to tell her she wasn't allowed to eat any more, she had to put them on the house.  We had to put all the frosting on Megan's candy, and then she put the candy on the house where she wanted it.

Here are the girls with their finished houses:

They really liked making paths around their houses and decorating the ice cream cone trees.  Amelia used broken Necco wafers, which made a very cute cobblestone path.  Megan used mini nonpareils (Snocaps) to decorate her tree.

Things to remember for next year:
-- House decorating kept the girls busy from between a half hour and an hour (my girls spent an hour)
-- Have a plan for the kids who finished early; gingerbread men sticker ornaments from Oriental Trading were a hit with the 4 year old girl crowd
-- Two sets of adult hands were plenty, the 4.5-year-olds  needed very little help with their houses
-- 10" cake rounds provided a nice sized sturdy bases for the houses.  They were from Joann's (12 rounds for about $4 with coupon)
-- Two batches of dough will make 9 small houses and plenty of small men.  Houses were approximately 3" across, 5" tall and 4" long.
-- Use one batch of royal icing to put the houses together
-- Have two batches of royal icing for decorating, which will be more than enough
-- Do not buy small rolls of Necco wafers, they were all broken.  Broken Neccos make good cobblestone paths, though!
-- Do not buy string licorice, candy canes, tootsie rolls, or smartie rolls.  In fact, don't buy anything prewrapped.
-- Frosting bottles worked ok, although they were a little hard to squeeze.  Cut the tips down so there is a wide opening!

Gingerbread House Dough Recipe 
(makes 4.5 small houses, could probably make 5)

1 cup melted shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
2 eggs
5 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp nutmeg

Mix the shortening, sugar and molasses, blending well.  Add eggs, mix until creamy.  Add salt, baking soda and spices into mixture.  Slowly add flour to the dough until all flour is added.  Chill dough for at least 4 hours.

Roll dough between 1/8" and 1/4" thick, mine were probably about 3/16" mostly.  Cut out dough pieces according to pattern.  I found it worked best not to cut out the door pieces at this time.  Bake at 375 for 13 minutes.  (My directions said to bake for 5 - 8 minutes, but I found they were still really soft at 8 minutes.)  Cut the doors out of the front pieces as soon as the cookie sheet is taken out of the oven.  Let the house pieces sit for a day before assembling houses.

Royal Icing Recipe (assembles 9 small houses)

3 tbsp meringue powder
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla (can omit)
6 tbsp water

Mix for 7 minutes using a Kitchenaid stand mixer.  Keep tightly covered when not using so that it doesn't dry out.

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