Tag Archives: House

Seuss Gingerbread House III: the Decoration

I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.  Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.  Which is what I do, And that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.

-Dr. Seuss

Our idea for the Seuss house stemmed from the fact that we saw “Seussical: The Musical” the day after Christmas.  The audience was filled with kids who were cracking up at the silly costumes and dance moves, but the message underlying the whole story spoke to me, too–“a person’s a person, no matter how small”.  Seems like a good moral to base our baking extravaganza on, right?

Here’s another piece of our inspiration:

The whole family got involved in decorating (I was also making stuffed cabbage in the kitchen at the same time…mmm that recipe comes later):

Some of Eber’s artistic elements that really made the Seuss theme come alive:

And finally, here’s the house itself:

It was dark out by the time we finished decorating, so we had quite a set-up going as we attempted to get some good photos:

Lastly, the men included a tiny set of fairy lights inside all three levels of the house (that’s why there’s an electric cord running out of the back of the house), so it could be lit up at night:

Beautiful, isn’t it?  This was an incredibly fun and adventurous three-day process, and I really suggest you try it next year!  Maybe starting out less ambitious would have been good, because we set the bar really high for future houses, but we have a few ideas…

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Seuss Gingerbread House II: Construction

  Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

-Dr. Seuss

As I know you guys have waited with bated breath (and probably checking my blog every ten minutes to see if the moment you’ve been anticipating is finally here…or maybe not), I’m now ready to give you installment number two of our Seuss gingerbread house adventure.  But first…

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

I can’t believe it’s already 2011–especially since I graduate from school in 2012, which makes me feel I only have a year of school left.  Which isn’t true at all, but it sounds like music to my ears when I say it, so I will.  One year of school left!  Now I just have to stop writing 2010 when I date things, which from previous years I know will take me about 11 1/2 months (I just got used to 2010!).

But onto the gingerbread house.  This is your very first look at how we planned the Seuss house.  When I got the idea to build a gingerbread house, I know that the men would be behind the designing of the template and the women would bake and decorate it.  I was kind of anticipating your standard square house with a roof and possibly a porch if we got adventurous.  Imagine my surprise when I found this awaiting my approval:

The stakes suddenly were raised.

We knew that the icing we made would have to be incredibly strong to support all the weird angles and overhangs, and the second recipe we tried was by far better than the first–it was gluey, dried to solid rock in a few hours, but still malleable and easy to use in a pastry bag.

Gingerbread House Icing Cement (we used this for both construction and decoration)

  • 1 lb confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 t cream of tartar
  • 3 egg whites

Add all the ingredients into your mixer and whip using the beater attachment for five-ten minutes until it forms stiff peaks.  Save yourself the trouble of trying to do it by hand–you can, but it’s not nearly as good and it’s so much work!

So let’s construct.

Lay out all your gingerbread pieces.  Admire.

Now get to work icing from the bottom up, using a pastry bag and remember that more is more, not less.  You can always make more icing–we needed two batches.  While the men are constructing, use the leftover gingerbread to make accessories, such as trees, doors, chimneys, ducks, and possibly–a Grinch.

Despite your care to use as much of the dough as efficiently as possible, there will be leftover gingerbread covering the entire house.  Even a ginger aficionado like me couldn’t take care of every last piece (although I did eat a lot).  Lastly, watch your gingerbread house take shape.  It’ll take a while, because you may be recruited to stand there and hold on the roof while the icing hardens, but with every piece that is added on, you will become more and more excited to decorate.  At least I did (and no, I didn’t hold the roof.  I pretended to be busy elsewhere).

And there you have it.  The decorating step (you’ll see that tomorrow) really depends on how creative you want to be–and there’s really not much guidance necessary.  Just go crazy with it. 

We did.

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Seuss Gingerbread House I: the Dough

Now that the (amazing, fantastical, unbelievable) Dr. Seuss gingerbread house is finally complete, I can start blogging about it.  I want what it looks like to remain a bit of a surprise for now because you will really and truly be impressed at what we did when it is unveiled.  You really need to be in a house of artists and architects to create a masterpiece like this one.  It was so much fun, and the entire house was covered in candy, flour, and leftover gingerbread for three days–it was 100% worth it.  Now we just need to figure out what one does with a completed gigantic gingerbread house–we can’t eat something we worked so hard on!  For now I’ll just have to keep admiring it.

But you, my friends, will have to wait a few days to see the finished product.  Until then, here’s the recipe for the dough if you’d ever like to make your very own house!

Gingerbread House Dough

  • 1 1/2 C whipping cream
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 C firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 T baking soda
  • 1 T ground ginger
  • 2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/3 C light or dark molasses
  • 9 C (we used 8 1/2 for the perfect dough) all-purpose flour

First, preheat your oven to 300 degrees and line a few baking sheets with parchment paper (we ended up using five sheets…multiple times).  In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, baking soda, ginger (we added a bit extra the second time around with great results), and cinnamon.  Beat in the molasses.

In a smaller bowl, whip the cream and the vanilla together until it forms soft peaks, and add that to the molasses mixture.  Fold in the flour gradually (warning–the dough will be too tough for a hand mixer and might be too large for a stand mixer–we did the whole thing by hand), you will most likely end up “kneading” the dough together with your hands.  We added a half a cup of flour less the second time around, and the dough was a better consistency and much easier to roll out without having to worry about adding too much flour to keep it from sticking.

Lightly flour the countertop, and roll out a portion of the dough until it is ~1/8″ thick.  We made our house’s bottom walls first (oh yes, it is three stories tall) and they were the thickest layers (1/4″), getting thinner as we went higher for better structural integrity.  The topmost roof was about 1/10″ thick when rolled out.  Also, make sure to roll the dough out evenly and to bake equally thick layers at the same time to get a consistent color.  We got better at this as we went on, and you will too. 

Bake two sheets of dough at a time, for about 20-30 minutes, depending on thickness, until fairly firm in the center.  Take the sheets out and position your house template/pattern close together, and using a sharp knife cut around them.  We used a cardboard template that Johann created–you’ll see that in the next post.  Remove the pattern and the scrap pieces (eat those immediately for best results), and return to the oven for another 30 minutes, or until nicely browned and very firm.  Cool for five minutes on the baking sheet, then remove to a cooling rack–when cooled, they should be completely hard. 

At this point you have two choices: wrap the pieces in plastic and store for up to a month (wow), or start building your house.  Tune in tomorrow (or the next day…it is vacation, after all) for Seuss Gingerbread House II: the Construction.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Dr. Seuss:

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

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