Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hanukkah Gingerbread House Jewish Holiday DIY Baking Craft Activity for Family & Kids

Baking

The family gingerbread recipe I used to make this holiday creation is the same one my grandmother passed down to my mom, who handed it down to me. As a child myself, I have fond memories of decorating gingerbread men with my mother, using festive sprinkles and red hot candies for buttons. When I had children, I decided to put my own signature twist on this old-fashioned tradition. So, as a mom of four born within one year -- triplets plus one more -- I'm carrying it on, making sure that everyone gets some one-on-one time with me in the kitchen. Certainly, the Hanukkah Gingerbread House pictured in this post, with the ingredients and instructions included, is easy, and fun. What's more is that it has a good chance of bonding the family that works together on building it. 

This  Gingerbread House is completely edible except for dreidels, deer & gold foil coins
iPhone Photo by Janis Brett Elspas, MommyBlogExpert.com

If you make this with your own family, your kids will likely enjoy it as much as mine have, decorating this extraordinary cookie sculpture as well as breaking it a part with a small hammer when it’s time to serve dessert. But wait – before you let the children demolish this edible holiday craft, be sure to take lots of photos so that you’ll be able to continue enjoying your gingerbread house long after it’s physically eaten and gone.

Chanukah Gingerbread House

2/3 c. shortening (half margarine)
1-3/4 c. brown sugar
2-3/4 c. molasses
1-1/3 c. cold water
12 c. white flour
4 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
2 t. allspice
2 t. ginger
2 t. ground cloves
2 t. cinnamon
Assorted candy, sprinkles & food-safe decorations
Royal Icing (recipe below)
Icing Gel Colors

Before beginning, cut out 3 rectangular cardboard templates from a cereal box that will fit together when assembled: front/back, sidewall, and roof to end up with a house with walls that are about 8-10” high.

Cream shortening and dark brown sugar. Then add molasses gradually stirring in water. In separate bowl combine the dry ingredients and then mix together with the wet ingredients. Gather dough into 3 balls and cover with plastic wrap; chill 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350. Dust counter surface or cutting board with flour and, using a rolling pin, roll out balls one at a time to 1/2” thick. Cut out TWO of each of the 3 templates out of the flattened dough and carefully transfer to lightly greased cookie sheets with cookie edges spaced widely enough so they don’t touch while baking. Also, from the dough, cut out the smaller cookie items you’ll be using to accessorize your house. I used cookie cutters from a Judaic set to create Star of David shapes in graduated sizes as well as cutting out a dog that resembled our pet Boxer dog. Bake larger house cookie parts for 15-18 mins; bake smaller cookie shapes for 14-16 mins, watching all carefully so they don’t burn. Allow cookies to cool completely on a baking rack before proceeding.

Royal Icing Recipe
While the cookies cool, mix royal icing by combining 10 T. of powdered egg whites or meringue powder mixed w/ a little less than 1 c. water. Gradually, blend in 2 lbs. of confectioners’ sugar and beat for about 10 minutes. Separate icing into smaller bowls, reserving and covering about 1/2 of the white frosting for later with plastic wrap. Color the rest of the icing in each of the small bowls in desired hues and cover to prevent it from drying out.

Now it’s time to assemble your house. Fill individual pastry bags with white in one and each of your other color in the others. Using a decorating #2 decorating tip create seams to connect the 4 walls together. Tip: Use a short stack of books or full soda cans to support the house until the icing dries. When it feels stable (about 30-60 mins) you can use the same process to attach the roof.

Here’s the really fun part: decorating your house. You can decorate using anything you want that’s edible in the way of candies and sprinkles and then attaching it with royal icing as the “glue”. You might also want to add some food safe non-edibles, like the dreidels, gold foil covered chocolate coins, and 4 deer cut outs that I used to represent my children. Also I used kosher salt to create the effect of sparkling snow and I melted chocolate and poured into candy molds to create the miniature chocolate menorah and the Hebrew chocolate letters over the door spelling out our last name. The sky’s the limit, so use your imagination and personalize it with things that relate to your loved ones and if you have kids, even toddlers, get them involved in some of this DIY crafting with food.

What kinds of edible crafts have you made (or will you make) for the holidays? Please share them in the comment section below.





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