Holiday craft idea: Make a gingerbread global village

In brainstorming holiday craft ideas, I tried to come up with something that would be geographic, gender-neutral, and fun for all ages…Why not transform the traditional gingerbread house into a gingerbread global village? You could make an adobe abode for warm-weather dwellers, an igloo, a tee-pee, an eco-home…

So, like any good researcher, I grabbed my roommates and put the idea to the test this past weekend. They made an elaborate, traditional Victorian estate complete with an ice-skating rink and outhouse. I went less traditional–and only slightly less ambitious–and built a two-story adobe home and igloo.

gingerbread_village.JPGHere are our tried-and-true recipes, tips and ideas.

You’ll need:
–Gingerbread dough (recipe below)
–icing (recipe below)
–food coloring
–rolling pin
–measuring cups and spoons
–cookie sheets
–wax paper
–clean work surface
–pencils
–paper
–ruler
–scissors
–card stock or cardboard
–candy, such as gum drops, Life Savers, candy canes, Twizzlers, Pirouette cookies, etc.

We got the main recipe and instructions from “Elise” at Simply Recipes. Keep reading for step-by-step instructions.


Simple steps for making an igloo or adobe home variation of the recipe below:

TO MAKE AN IGLOO:
1.    Cover a small, oven-safe bowl with floured wax paper.
2.    Mold gingerbread dough around the bowl.
3.    Bake 10-12 minutes or until slightly brown.
4.    Cool dough completely and remove bowl.
5.    Spread icing on cooled, hardened dough.
6.    Cover with small marshmallows.

TO MAKE AN ADOBE HOUSE:
Plain, cooked gingerbread looks quite like adobe brick, don’t you think?

AdobeGingerbread1.JPGMake a gingerbread house as described below. Use the icing just as mortar to stick the walls and roof together, then leave the walls bare. Use green spice drops and a couple toothpicks to make a cactus. Cut red gum drops in half to make terra cotta roof shingles. Easy! This simple twist requires less time, icing and candy. And because the angles in adobe homes are often less rigid than other types of materials, you don’t have to be quite as exact in your measurements!

Step-by-step instructions for making gingerbread houses:
For your first time making a gingerbread house, I’d suggest keeping it simple. Stick to one small structure, and choose basic shapes. Bring in the “global” component through creative candy decorations (Step 6). Because the process has multiple steps, you’ll need a lot of time (block at least 2 mornings or afternoons) and several hands. It’s a great way to get the whole family involved. And the end result is well worth the time and effort!

Variation: If you don’t want to take the time to make the dough or are worried about using a stove with younger children, use graham crackers for the walls and roof, instead, and proceed to Step 5.

Step 1: Design your house
A. Sketch your house. Have kids draw your house blueprint on a sheet of paper first. You’ll need at least four walls and a roof (up to 5 pieces if you make a base and 4 sides) Windows, doors, a chimney (if a cold-weather home) and other structures can be made out of extra gingerbread, or other candies, and stuck on. Alternatively, you can cut out doors and windows. If taking this route, I’d suggest waiting until after the pieces have been baked in the oven and cutting out the doors and windows while the dough is still warm.

B. Make templates of house structures. After you have decided what your house will look like, have an adult or older kid use a pencil and ruler to make templates for each of the main pieces (walls and roof) by drawing on cardboard, cardstock, or thick paper. Use the scissors to cut out the templates–help younger kids with cutting.

Variation: For a simple house design with proven measurements, use the template provided in Elise’s instructions.

Step 2: Make the dough.
See Elise’s gingerbread recipe

Step 3: Cut out the pieces.
A. Roll the dough. Lay wax paper over your work surface and have kids sprinkle with flour. Use a rolling pin to roll out the chilled dough into sheets ¼ inch thick–kids love doing this. Just check their work to make sure the dough is even throughout and not too thin. Continue to sprinkle flour on the dough as needed to prevent it from getting sticky. Be careful not to use too much flour though, or the dough will get dry and crack.

B. Cut the dough. Have an adult or older child use a moderately sharp knife and your house templates to cut the dough.

Step 4: Bake and Prepare
A. Bake the dough. Once you have cut out all the pieces, bake dough in a 350 degree oven for 8-12 minutes–less time for smaller pieces, more time for larger pieces. Remove when the edges start to darken. It’s best to leave the baking to adults and teens; kids can help check the dough to determine whether it looks “ready.”

B. Trim & Cool. Let the dough cool slightly, about 10 minutes. While still warm, reuse the cardboard templates to trim the edges of your pieces. If you want to cut out any doors or windows, do it at this time. Let the dough cool completely, about one more hour.

Step 5: Make the icing
The icing will serve as the mortar holding together your walls and roof, and as glue to stick on candy decorations. You can also add food coloring to the icing and use it to decorate. Leave the icing white for snow!

See Elise’s icing recipe

Step 6: Decorate your global house!
It’s easiest to decorate the walls and roof BEFORE you construct the house so the candy doesn’t slide south!

A. Stick on the candy. Use a dull knife to spread the icing and stick on candy pieces–make sure to keep a damp paper towel over the icing between applications to prevent it from drying out. Or, use a pastry bag to squeeze the icing and make more precise decorations.

B. Candy suggestions: Large, rectangular or oval cookies like Vienna fingers, Milanos (remove the filling and use one-half of the cookie), or Fig Newtons make good doors. “Glassy” rectangular and circular candies, like Jolly Ranchers and life savers, are well suited for windows. Make shingles out of Oreos or gumdrops. Or, make a thatch roof using shredded coconut. Long, thin candies like Twizzlers are good for gutters and moldings. Use chocolate frosting, or slice Tootsie Rolls, to make Bavarian-style wood piping.  Construct Greek-style columns out of circular Pirouette cookies. Top it off with a Snickers Bar-chimney if you you’re building a cold-weather house. Let the icing dry completely before attempting to put the pieces together.

**Do you have other candy suggestions? Can you figure out how to make a Pagoda? Send us your ideas!

Step 7: Build your house!
A. Construct the walls. Using a knife, spread icing on the edges of your walls. Gently stick together, two pieces at a time, on top of a flat surface. Hold in place for a few minutes to allow the icing to set, and spread additional icing on the inside and outside of the joints to make them stronger–it’s probably best if the adult holds while the kids frost. Piece all four walls together and hold in place with soup cans. Let sit until the frosting is hard, a couple hours, before assembling the roof.

B. Final decorations. Once the icing mortar has dried completely, add final decorative flourishes of frosting to the exterior of the house.

When you’re all done, you can eat your house if you like. Just don’t wait too long, or the candy will go stale. But who would want to eat such a magnificent masterpiece, anyway?

Send us photos of your completed global houses and villages!

7 thoughts on “Holiday craft idea: Make a gingerbread global village

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