Thursday, December 10, 2009

Putting it all together - gluing the gingerbread houses

Most sources recommend using royal frosting to glue your gingerbread house pieces together. This works, but it takes a long time to set up, which means you need to find ways to keep the house propped up while it dries.

We glue our houses together with boiling sugar. It's dangerous but very effective. I have no idea where we got this technique, but it's easily the most exciting/terrifying part of the whole process.

sugar glue
{sugar glue}

The technique is simple - pour 3 or 4 cups of sugar in a large cast iron skillet and heat it until it starts to boil, stirring occasionally, then lower the heat to the lowest setting or turn it off completely. If it starts too get too thick while you work, hit it with a bit more heat.

You have to have everything ready and you need two people. Wearing gloves helps in case you accidentally drip hot sugar on yourself, but it's best if you also have a big bowl of ice water next to your work station, just in case. Hot sugar causes terrible burns, so it pays to be safe even if you don't end up needing it (my sister and I both came out unscathed this year).

gluing houses
{gluing houses}

One person should dip the edges of a piece in the sugar and the other person will hold the other pieces ready. The sugar cools quickly, so you have to work fast. Press the pieces together and hold it for 5 seconds or so while it sets up.

gingerbread house assembly
{gingerbread house assembly}

Here's how we did it, specifically.

- Kick all pets and children out of the house. Or at least out of the kitchen.

- One person holds the front and back of the house up. The other person dips the edges of a house side wall in the sugar and then carefully positions it between the front and back pieces. Repeat with the second wall. Set the base of the house aside for at least 5 minutes (this gives it a chance to really set up, which will make it sturdier for the next step). If you work assembly line style, you can get all the house bases set up and then go back down the line and attach the roofs.

- The roof is the tricky part. One person should hold both roof pieces while the other person picks up the entire base of the house and dips the top edges in the hot glue (this is where you are most likely to get burned, so be careful). Set the base down and press the roof pieces in place. Let it cool for 5 - 10 seconds and then tip the house over again and dip the roofline in the sugar (this just ensures that the roof is nice and secure).

- Have a base ready. We just use a rectangle of cardboard covered with aluminum foil. Dip the bottom of the house in the sugar and position it on the base. This keeps your house from shifting around, which is critical if you're going to transport it. Add the door, if desired, by dipping one edge in glue and sticking it on the house.

Voila! Finished houses that will not come apart, no matter what you do and are completely edible.

24 comments:

  1. extreme gingerbreading! I love it

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  2. Oo thanks for the tip about the sugar! I probably won't be trying this because I'm going to do a gingerbread house with my younger sisters but perhaps another time : )

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  3. wow,what an intense process. they turned out so well!

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  4. I love making gingerbread houses but had no idea that I could glue them together with boiling sugar!

    Then again, I live in a dry climate so the royal icing dries pretty well here. In any case, it's a fun gingerbread house.

    We donated the one we made to charity which was a fun way to do it. Instead of sitting aroud our house, our gingerbread house was enjoyed by nearly 80,000 people and raised a little money for a children's hospital. Makes the whole process even more enjoyable.

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  5. Thanks for the tips! I have always wanted to try something like this.

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  6. I'm very impressed by the effort that goes into this!!

    xo

    www.iplayinla.com

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  7. wow that post kind of stressed me out. that boiling pot of sugar is like hot lava!

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  8. Haha I can't believe you bowl sugar (yes agreed, most fun and most terrifying all wrapped in to one!)

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  9. We use boiling sugar too. Chop sticks work very well when you want to get the hot sugar in a very precise spot. We also attach the roof while the house is upside down. That way if the sugar runs down the sides it it the inside of the house that is marred and not the outside that everyone sees.

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  10. I'm loving these hard-core gingerbread house making tutorials.

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  11. i like a little danger with my baked goods!

    so very impressive, they look amazing! your holiday skills shame me.

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  12. Gingerbread really makes me think of Christmas. And it makes me hungry!

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  13. wow, that is amazing. thanks for the instructions! have a great weekend.

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  14. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS TIP!! I just tried it today and while I was beyond scared of burning myself, my gingerbread house actually stayed together!!!!! Happy Christmas!!

    xo,

    Sonia
    http://RunwayHippie.com

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  15. Do you stir the sugar while it's heating? Thanks!

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  16. Katie - yes, you do stir it while it heats, but you don't have to stir it constantly. Just keep an eye on it.

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  17. We have an annual gingerbread decorating party for young girls and the first year tried just the icing. It took so many things to prop it up that we took longer holding them together than decorating. We changed to the burnt sugar 3 years ago, and just have the houses together before they get here. Much faster and with no props. Must have 2 people, but defiantly worth it!

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  18. This is way my mom made gingerbread houses with my sister and I when we were little and now I do it with my girls. Love this!

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  19. I just tried this.. After trying everything to get them to stick and a lot of collapsing!! Its works brilliantly I think I'm permantley scarred bUt so much fun!! Thankyou! X

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    1. So glad it worked! I hope you didn't get burned!

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  20. Any hints on cleaning up the leftover sugar which is all over my pan and woodend spoon. I started soaking it, and I'm hoping for the best.

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    1. Never mind, just soaking in hot water cleaned it all up without even having to boil the pan with water in it. Changed the water a few times to keep it hot.

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  21. Thank you !!! I tried this last night and while i made multiple mistakes (pan too hot, didn't remove it from stove to sugar burnt and dipped too much so got lots of caramel all over the walls lol) it still stayed together and I'll do better next try !!!

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    1. It takes a little practice! And we definitely have years where we burn the sugar even after all this time. I find it best if I turn the heat off once most of the sugar has melted, even if some clumps remain. Then I have to reheat it briefly a couple times, depending on how many houses we're gluing together. Glad it worked for you!

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