Houses built with actual gingerbread. It's tough, sturdy, and turns hard as a rock in under an hour. I usually use the tried and true gingerbread recipe and house plans laid out in the Joy of Cooking. For our glue, we made royal icing. I recommend keeping the icing covered with plastic wrap while you work. Otherwise, it dries very quickly. You can also use a plastic bag with a corner cut out to pipe the icing and keep it from drying.
Most recipes will tell you to cut out your gingerbread patterns before you bake it, but I actually prefer to bake the gingerbread in large sheets and then cut everything out while it's still hot. That way, I end up with flat edges instead of rounded ones.
It makes for stronger structures, but you really have to cut out your pieces right after the gingerbread comes out of the oven and is still soft. Otherwise, it hardens and breaks. Don't you just want to outline the poor guy in chalk?
We like to add some extra class to our gingerbread houses by giving them "stained glass" windows.
They are really easy to make. Just crush some jolly ranchers or life savers, place them in the precut window hole, and pop the whole thing in the oven at about 350 degrees until the candy melts. I recommend using parchment paper or wax paper. The wax paper will stick to the candy, but you can just peel away the excess and leave it stuck to the window.
You can choose to go with one solid color or mix the colors together to get a marbled effect. Ooo pretty!
To build our houses, we split up into two teams - boys versus girls. Since we worked in separate areas of the kitchen, the boys frequently accused the girls of practicing espionage anytime we needed materials from their table. And vice versa.
Actually, it was amusing observing the boys working together on their gingerbread house. They appointed a team leader, used assembly lines, and were very methodical about the construction of their house.
And when they attached the rooftop... they used some extra pieces of gingerbread to keep the roof pieces from sliding down. Whereas, the girls just took turns holding the roof in place until the icing dried.
Did I forget to mention that the boys called themselves Team Bone Shrapnel? This is their mascot:
They later wrote "BS" on their mascot's chest. For Bone Shrapnel, of course.
Here's their pretty rooftop:
They also placed "wreaths" on the front of their house. Or, at least, they claim they are wreaths. We think they look like boobies.
I call it the Booby Frat Ginger House. Or Fort Bone Shrapnel.
The girls team was a little less organized than the boys. We didn't really have a leader. We just took turns, made suggestions, and debated over what would be prettiest. To each his own.
For our rooftop, we went the more colorful route.
We used sprinkles on top of the house, no spikes. We wanted Santa to be able to land smoothly ;).
We also added "icicles" around the edge of the roof. Again, it's a fairly easy technique. Pipe some icing onto the edge of the roof, then pull downward with your piping bag. Voila!
Theresa constructed the most adorable little tree for the front yard. And there was so much icing left over at the end of the night, that I decided our house needed LOTS of swirlies. Everything is better with swirlies.
So, here's the question. Who won the competition?
Or the girls?
We'll let the internet decide.