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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Gingerbread Houses

This week was Gingerbread People week with the Little People, and that turned out to be lots of fun.  We didn't do gingerbread people last year as a theme, but I found lots of fun ideas on Pinterest and other places.

We culminated the week with making the houses gingerbread, which of course were not really made of gingerbread, but rather from graham crackers.  (We did, however taste gingerbread cookies and graph whether we actually liked the taste of gingerbread.  Surprisingly, most of them did.)

I was going to go with the traditional "frostingglue graham crackers on milk cartons", but I was not excited about the whole idea of collecting the milk cartons and then cleaning them before using, etc.  (The only mental picture I could summon when thinking about it was a bunch of used milk cartons and several bottles of bleach, which wasn't a really good combination to me at all.) Fortunately, I saw a great idea a friend at church had for making gingerbread houses in a much easier way and decided to try that.

You still use graham crackers of course, but you don't actually build any kind of cube with them.  Instead, you cut the tops of the crackers at an angle, as shown below.  You just do this with a regular sharp knife.  (According to my friend, you really need to use "real" graham crackers, meaning Honey Maid and not the generic ones.  This is because the generic ones are too crumbly and just - well, crumble when you cut them.)

I used a cracker that she had cut as a pattern, and then cut mine.

 I was cutting enough pieces to make 25 houses, and since 25 X 5 = 125, it was a lot of cutting.  I started out cutting one or two crackers at a time, but of course, it wasn't long into the process before I decided to start layering them up and cutting a bunch at once.  Because why cut two at time when you can cut eight at a time?

However, when I did this they didn't cut straight and got all cattywampus on me, and of course that will never do.  (Although, in truth, if I were going to assemble them myself I would have just cut on them some more to make them work.  Of course, all of this recutting might have made the house about two inches tall, but we would assign those houses to those height-challenged gingerbread people in the world.  However, since I was handing them off to a helpful parent to be assembled, I felt that they needed to be straight and well-cut.)

To actually make the houses, you take five cut pieces and frostingglue them together, as such:

Then you take two rectangular graham cracker pieces and frostingglue them on like this.
I was thinking about peanutbuttergluing this model together for clarity, but then thought - nah.  (Although that would have killed two birds with one stone, because I did end up eating peanut butter and graham crackers for lunch that day.)

I did use the royal icing recipe with the meringue powder in it, because my friend said that was the only way to go - that regular icing just wouldn't do.

Of course, when I finally got done with this long cutting process, I of course had a bunch of cut-off corners and rejected cattywampus pieces left over.  And a whole lot of crumbs everywhere, which can be good or bad, considering your perspective.  Bad if you're in charge of cleaning.  Good if you're a dog.

However, despite the lengthy process (and I didn't even have to frostingglue them together), they turned out to be very hardy little houses for the kids to decorate.  And they had a great time.

Here are some of their completed houses:

The "heavy on the roof and moderate on the front" design:

The "heavy on the roof and heavy on the front" design:

The "heavy on the roof and stockpile the ground for later" model:

All in all, it was a great project for the Little People, and hopefully we can do it again next year.

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