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Make your ideal holiday home
(And if you don't like it, you can eat it!)
Dave McTigue, the director of culinary and nutrition services at Lanier Village Estates in Gainesville, has been leading a crew to make an elaborate gingerbread house each year for the past five years. This home served as the centerpiece for the neighborhood’s annual Employee Appreciation Christmas Party last week.

Recipe for gingerbread to make your own house

Recipe for Royal Icing

Royal icing tips
Working quickly is very important as royal icing dries very fast once it has been piped. In order to keep it from hardening while you are working with it, store the icing in a sealed container with a damp paper towel directly on its surface.

  • If you don’t have a pastry bag available, simply use a heavy-duty resealable plastic bag with one small corner cut off for the piping tip to decorate your house.
  • Be sure to let your assembled gingerbread house dry for at least one hour before adding the candy decorations. This way, you can ensure that the weight of the candies will not collapse your structure before the royal icing has set.
  • If the royal icing seems too thick, it can be thinned with a tablespoon of water.
  • Try nuts, raisins, pretzels, dried fruit or any other snacks that are readily available to create a healthier gingerbread house.
  • Once you have completed decorating the gingerbread house, spread any leftover icing onto the base to look like snow.
  • Any leftover Royal Icing should be thrown out once the house is decorated, as it contains raw egg white, and should not be saved for later use.
  • For a finishing touch, sift a little bit of powdered sugar over the house for a “freshly fallen snow” look.

Culinary Institute of America

Baking and building a beautiful gingerbread house at home could be the one thing that really brings the Christmas spirit to your kitchen.

The smell of ginger, honey and molasses wafting through the house while playing architect on your new tiny construction project can be quite the adventure for your family.

But to create a gorgeous masterpiece of a gingerbread house in your own kitchen there are a couple of key rules, according to Dave McTigue.

First, royal icing is a must to hold your gingerbread pieces together.

“When you are making your icing you want to make sure that ... there is that right consistency where it’s not too wet and it’s not too dry,” said McTigue, the director of culinary and nutrition services at Lanier Village Estates in Gainesville. “If it’s too dry it can go on and look real nice but it won’t adhere and it starts falling ... if it’s too wet once you pipe it, it’s going to spread a little bit and it won’t go on good ... you have to find that perfect consistency where it’s sticky between your fingers then you know you can use it.”

Royal icing is made with egg whites, confectioners sugar and cream of tartar.

Then for sturdy walls, roof and other adornments, stick to a gingerbread recipe that doesn’t have any ingredients that will rise, according to McTigue.

“I don’t put any leavening ingredients in it such as baking powder or soda, yeast ... I don’t want it to puff up and get soft,” McTigue said. “I want it to stay hard so once you cook it, it stays hard.”

McTigue said he uses a basic gingerbread recipe with “molasses, eggs, brown sugar, honey, flour, ginger.”
For five years in a row, McTigue and his culinary crew at Lanier Village Estates have made an oversized gingerbread house that could compete with most doll houses. But their same techniques can be used at home.

If you are decorating the inside of the gingerbread house, like McTigue and his crew do, the assembly of the house changes. You begin with the interior of the house and move to the exterior.

“You measure and cut out the piece and cook that piece. It gets hard and it’s exactly the shape,” McTigue said. “All the pieces are cut from a roll and then cut to fit.

“For a house of this size, I use balsa wood and I make a super structure so I can use icing and stick the gingerbread to the frame.”

At Lanier Village Estates it took 151 man hours and 100 pounds of sugar to create the gingerbread house displayed in the reception area. The house has working lights, decorated rooms with two Christmas trees, a staircase and a mantle with stockings.

“It took nine days to make this and we had three or four people working on it,” McTigue said. “We had other people helping, too. A lot of our serves were helping make the trees, which are all made out of ice cream cones and icing.

“It’s a nice thing to look at and kind of a nice centerpiece and every time you look at it you see something new or different.”

If creating a gingerbread house of this magnitude isn’t your style, there is a simpler way to do it get into the action.

Phyllis Haynes, a library assistant in the youth services department at the main branch of the Hall County Library in Gainesville, recently taught a group of children how to make a gingerbread house out of graham crackers.

“You get a little school milk carton and then hot glue; it takes three full crackers for each gingerbread house, and then I just hot glue the crackers to the little carton and they go to it,” Haynes said.

Haynes suggested using regular icing and topping with candies and chocolate chips.

The icing is applied with large Popsicle sticks for tiny hands.

The children that attended to the gingerbread house workshop at the library said they really enjoyed the whole process.

“Oh, I thought it was great,” said Jacob Stevens, 6. “I liked the peppermint windows and all the candies I can eat when I get home.”

Stevens’ friend James Mercer said he like making the gingerbread house but he didn’t want to eat it — he wanted his mother to have it.