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Gingerbread Houses


Kids all over love this time of year, with the presents, the holidays, the cookies, it's all dreamland.  One of the perennial props for this time of year is a project that you can take on with your kids.  In Chef Jerry Pellegrino's opinion, nothing says winter holidays like a Gingerbread House.

Unlike making cookies, this is a structural project and you are going to need some plans to pull this off. There are a lot of different templates online that you can print out and use to cut out the different walls and roof. You're going to use Royal Icing to glue everything together. A recipe for that will follow the gingerbread recipe. You'll also use the Royal Icing in small amounts as glue to decorate the house. For this, anything goes.....use a variety of different candies to generate patterns and decorations.   Gumdrops, M&M's, licorice ropes and lifesavers are very useful.  I like to use graham crackers for shutters, doors or to make a chimney on top of the house. I also like to use fondant to form wreaths, candy canes, etc. to be glued to the house.

Gingerbread Recipe

1.      1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature.

2.      1/2 cup dark brown sugar.

3.      1/4 cup light molasses or dark corn syrup.

4.      1 tablespoon cinnamon.

5.      1 tablespoon ground ginger.

6.      1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves.

7.      1 teaspoon baking soda.

8.      2 cups all-purpose flour.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and baking soda together until the mixture is smooth. Blend in the flour and water to make a stiff dough. Chill at least 30 minutes or until firm. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 

Cut out the paper patterns for the gingerbread house template you have chosen.  

Roll gingerbread dough out to edges on a large, rimless cookie sheet. Place paper patterns onto the rolled out dough. With a sharp, straight edged knife, cut around each of the pieces, but leave pieces in place. 

Bake at 375 degrees F for about 15 minutes until dough feels firm. 

Place patterns on top of the gingerbread again and trim shapes, cutting edges with a straight-edged sharp knife. Leave to cool on baking sheet. 

Place royal icing into pastry bag with a writing tip and press out to decorate individual parts of house, piping on decorations, windows, door, etc., as desired. Let dry until hardened. 

Glue sides, front and back of house together at corners using royal icing. Place an object against the pieces to prop up until icing is dry (it only takes a few minutes). 

Glue the two roof pieces to the pitched roofline of the house. 

Continue decorating the house as desired.

Royal Icing: This is traditionally made with egg whites but I find it easier to use meringue powder. 

1 - 1lb. Box Confectioners Sugar

3 Tablespoons meringue powder

5 to 6 Tablespoons water

In a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment, combined the confectioners sugar and meringue powder on low speed. Turn the speed up to medium and start adding the water a Tablespoon at a time. As the icing starts to form add just enough to get it smooth.  Continue to whip the icing until it is light and fluffy. Use the icing immediately or store in an air tight container. 

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.