Let's do something different this year. Aren't you tired of all that sawdust and building those projects out of cheap plywood and making stuff that everybody wows over when you give it to them at Christmas and then you never see it when you go to their house? I'm like most of you - I build stuff all the time including houses with my local Habitat Chapter. But the kids and grandkids will remember this project the rest of their lives.
We're going to build a Gingerbread House. Trust me, it's easier then you think and I will guide you through the process complete with pictures. You will need to set aside portions of about three days because if you do it all at once, you will get tired of it and mess it up. Course if you mess it up, have it for dessert, one of the other joys of working with this stuff. OK, here we go.
Make up a cardboard pattern for all the pieces. You will need a pattern for the sides 9 ½ by 5 inches. You need a pattern for the ends, 6 inches wide and the side of the end is 5 inches to match the side. The gable goes up another 2 inches to the peak. That makes an 8 pitch if I calculate correctly on my handy construction calculator. (Pitch is 33.69 degrees - I love that calculator.). Uncomfortable to stand on an 8 pitch, but if you put the house on the kitchen table and sit in a chair, you will be fine. Also make a pattern for a chimney. Cut a notch in the bottom of the chimney ends (8 pitch, remember) and make it about 2 ½ inches tall and then make sides for the chimney tall enough to reach the roof, about 3 inches. Save the pattern for next year.
You will need a recipe for gingerbread. All the magazines at the grocery will have recipes this time of the year. Roll it out (using that rolling pin you made for your wife last year) fairly thin, just under an eighth of an inch, and then cook it pretty hard. Watch it closely in the oven and when the edges start to turn a little brown and crispy, it should be done. If it is cooked too soft the roof will sag. You will need two sides, a front and a back, and two roof panels plus four pieces for the chimney. The smell of gingerbread cooking is wonderful and will linger for days. Your grandchildren will tell their grandchildren about it and the wonderful houses you built for them.
Run down to your shop and get a piece of eighth inch plywood about 12 by 18 inches and wrap it in foil for the base to build your house.
Go to the big box store (not the grocery) and get a can of "Meringue Powder." It is made by the Wilton Company and will be in the cake decorating section. Get a cake decorating squeeze bag and a couple of pretty wide mouth tips while you are there. You will need to make one batch of "Butter Creme Icing" and one batch of "Royal Icing" based on the recipes on the insert inside the meringue powder can.
First thing is to assemble the house on your base with the royal icing as a kind of mortar mix. Give it about 20 minutes and the royal icing will get hard as a rock and hold your house together. Use the butter creme for everything else and you can ice the yard, set in a fence out of marshmallows and pretzel sticks, make a tree out of ice cream cones with jellybean lights, and then decorate the rest of the house however you like. Make a woodpile on the side, pave a driveway, make a stepping stone sidewalk, anything you want. Candy canes all over the place. I love picking out the candy and I spend a good bit of time in the candy aisle trying to picture how the various pieces will fit on the house. One of my favorite things is to chide everyone about not eating all the candy before we get it on the house, all the time stuffing handfuls in my mouth. Didn't take long for everyone to catch on to that one. The final step is to take a sifter of powdered sugar and sift it over the whole thing. The sugar piles up like snow and the effect is wonderful.
Send me a picture. Merry Christmas to all!!