Few pieces of decor say the holiday season is just around the corner like a gingerbread house decked out in brightly colored candy and dollops of creamy white frosting. Although many easy-to-assemble kits are available for purchase in the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, building your own gingerbread people to set out around the structure is a much more rewarding activity for adults, teenagers and children alike. Follow the instructions below, and you'll have gingerbread people worth bragging about for the entire holiday season in no time at all.
How to make the gingerbread
In order to build the best gingerbread people on the block, you need to start with the best possible gingerbread dough for a base. To bake a batch of gingerbread, gather the following ingredients:
To create the gingerbread dough, cream the brown sugar, butter, baking soda, molasses, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in a large mixing bowl until the mixture is smooth. Next, add in the water and flour, and blend the mixture until the dough is stiff. Cover the dough with a sheet of plastic wrap and allow it to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until it becomes firm.
Roll the dough out on a cookie sheet, and place paper patterns for your gingerbread people on the top (or use traditional cookie cutters). Cut around the patterns using a straight-edged knife, and remove the paper patterns for baking. Bake the pieces for 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Let the pieces sit for 3 to 5 minutes before removing them from the cookie sheet and placing them on a cooling rack until they are ready to be decorated.
Building your gingerbread people
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of baking your own gingerbread people is decorating your homemade creations according to your own unique sense of style using an assortment of savory sweets. When building your gingerbread people, the first order of business is to whip up a batch of royal icing. To make the icing, you will need:
Using an electric hand mixer, combine all three ingredients together and blend until you end up with a smooth icing that can be squeezed through the tip of a pastry bag. If your icing is too thick to decorate with, add more vanilla or almond extra to get the right consistency. Now you are ready to decorate your gingerbread people.
Separate the different types of candy you intend to use for decoration into individual bowls, and lay out your gingerbread people on a clean, cool cookie tray. Several different decorating options are available depending on how diverse you want your collection of gingerbread people to be.
An easy decorating option for children or beginners is to simply stick colorful pieces of candy directly onto the warm gingerbread cookie dough before it has cooled completely. Once you remove your gingerbread people from the oven, allow the dough to cool for approximately one minute or until it is cool enough that it won't melt your candy pieces but is still warm enough to allow them to be attached to the cookie as eyes or buttons on its belly. If you're struggling to get the candy pieces to stick, add a drop or two of icing to the candy before sticking it to the dough for decoration.
Another popular method of decorating gingerbread people is to skip the candy completely and create an outline of royal icing around the entire shape of the gingerbread guy or gal. Trace the surface of the cut-out cookies along their outer edges and add a dollop of two of icing to create its eyes, nose, mouth and buttons.
For a gingerbread person fully coated in frosting, start by squeezing a quarter-sized amount of icing onto the top and gently spread it over the surface with a butter knife. Then, add two small drops of icing to its face as an edible form of glue to attach chocolate chips or other small, round candies for its eyes. Attach M&MsR or Red HotsR to its belly for buttons on a jacket, and spread some brightly colored sprinkles over the arms and legs to create a dress or skirt.
If you're feeling particularly creative, you can draw on clothing, hair and unique accessories using different colors of frosting. Simply separate your white icing into several small bowls and add in a drop of two of food coloring to change up the color palette before squeezing it onto the gingerbread people and adding the candies of your choice to finish your creation.
When it comes to decorating the gingerbread people that will reside in your homemade gingerbread house this holiday season, the only limit is your imagination!