A gingerbread house decorated with gumdrops, candy canes and hard candies is the perfect classic, whimsical and festive decoration for the Christmas season. It’s important, however, that the structure of your gingerbread house is tough enough to stay standing for the entire holiday season. That’s why there’s one major ingredient you should omit when converting your fluffy, cakey gingerbread cookie recipe into sturdy gingerbread for houses.
The secret to making gingerbread tough enough for houses is to leave out the leavening agent. That means you should keep your baking soda and baking powder in the pantry while baking your gingerbread. What do baking powder and baking soda do? They make your baked goods rise and expand. This expansion is essential for making soft and delicious Christmas cookies, but these leavening agents will make your precisely cut gingerbread walls, roof pieces and chimney bubble up and expand, making it harder to match edges exactly so your structure stays intact.
Precision is the key to making the components of a gingerbread house, which is why you should also be sure to refrigerate your dough after mixing for at least half an hour before baking, drying it out and further toughening the texture.
Also be sure to lay out dowel rods on your counter as you roll out the dough. This kitchen hack we learned from our parents steadies your rolling pin and ensures you roll your dough to an even thickness. Maintaining this thickness is integral for even baking and making sure that your gingerbread house pieces line up.
If you really want to make sure that your gingerbread is as sturdy as can be, bake it a week in advance of when you want to build your house and keep the pieces out on your counter. Yes, they will be stale as heck, but this stale gingerbread will be perfect for construction. This tip will result in gingerbread that isn’t super tasty but is perfectly sturdy.
When it comes time to assemble, use royal icing, which hardens quickly and acts as a great binding agent, as your glue. Knowing which ingredients to use in every baking scenario is just one of those hacks every home baker needs to know.