Winter is truly a beautiful time of year here in New England. Soft blankets of snow cover fields and coat mountains. Rooftops, cars and even the mailboxes sport their little domed caps of snow, making everything look a little softer, a little puffier and a little gentler. Driving to work becomes a experience not just for the road conditions, but for seeing your everyday surroundings in a new light and giving new life to rustic scenes, like this Vermont farmhouse. Rich in detail, it is easy to assemble and customize to your style.
This lovely house begins with our basic gingerbread house kit. It included all of the house pieces, the royal icing "mortar" plus oodles of candy and an assembly base.
*I apologize for any earlier confusion. The fondant and food coloring must be purchased separately. The gingerbread kit does not contain fondant or coloring, just the items pictured. ~ MJR
Here are the pieces of pre-baked gingerbread included in the kit. I love how the windows and doors are marked in already. This can really help small bakers with their decorating, as well as those of us who like really straight lines.
Oh, yes. You will need some food safe plastic or vinyl gloves as well. Food coloring can really do a number on bare hands.
This is what my hands looked like when I forgot my gloves just for a minute. And that's AFTER I washed them!
Remove a large piece of fondant and knead it for several minutes until it is smooth, soft and pliable. Fondant will dry quickly at room temperature, so be sure to cover any unused fondant well with plastic wrap. Use a snipped drinking straw to apply a generous amount of food coloring to the fondant.
Knead the color into the fondant as you would knead bread dough. Use a touch of cornstarch to keep the fondant from sticking to the counters. For strong colors like red and black, you may want to knead on a kneading mat or parchment paper to avoid staining your counters.
Keep adding red, and just a drop or two of black until you reach your desired roof color.
Using more cornstarch, roll the fondant out with a rolling pin to a thickness of about 1/8". You can use the gingerbread roof piece as a rough guideline to be sure your roof shingles will be the right length.
Using a straight edge and a sharp knife or pizza cutter, slice several 1/2" wide strips.
Dust excess cornstarch off of the strips with a dry pastry brush. Avoid water, as it will leave shiny spots on your fondant.
Spread a small section of the roof with icing. If it is too thick to spread easily, thin it with a little water. (If you'd like, feel free to make Royal Icing from scratch.) Carefully lift a strip and lay it along the bottom edge of the roof. Place a second strip, slightly offsetting it to create a shingled look.
Using a sharp knife, trim the edges of the fondant strips flush with the edge of the roof. Repeat steps until entire roof side is covered with fondant.
Don't forget to occasionally brush excess cornstarch off of your work. Once the roof is complete, set it aside to dry and firm up. Wrap in plastic wrap loosely to avoid cracks in the fondant.
Cut some extra wide strips of the same red fondant to make the roof cap tiles. You'll need about a dozen, so make about 18 to cover breakage. If you like a rounded look, dry on a marker or other round object overnight. I had to scavenge 4 highlighters from around the room, so be creative.
To prepare the icing for covering the walls of the house, you will need to thin it down with water. You are looking for a consistency a tiny bit thicker than white school glue.
Using a disposable pastry bag with the tip cut off, pipe the outline of the house, and around the doors and windows.
Snip a bit more off of the bag end, and use the wider tip to flood the piece with icing. Try to sink the tip of the bag into the icing a bit, rather than holding it above the piece. This will give a smoother finish.
Set aside all of the flooded pieces to dry for several hours or overnight. It's really best to not try to "push" the timeline. Trust me, it is more frustration than it is worth to put a finger through icing that is still soft.
When the base icing has dried, you can start piping on your clapboards. Use the outlines you piped before and the impressions on the gingerbread as guides for straight lines. By the way, check out the top left corner of this wall piece. Fingerprint anyone? Be patient and let those pieces DRY!
Keep adding lines until you have even clapboards down the whole side of the building. You can make them skinny or wide, depending on your ideal siding.
For the shutters, roll out dark colored fondant and use a sharp knife to cut to fit. You can also add texture lines by pressing into the fondant partway. Be sure to make extras in case of breakage. Dry for 20 minutes or so, and then apply to the house using icing as your "glue".
Chocolate rocks from the candy store or online make for a terrific stone foundation.
For the lace curtains, roll out a thin layer of white fondant and cut small strips. You can leave all edges plain, or try a pastry crimper to add a ruffled edge. A small metal piping tip is used to punch the "lace" holes along the lower edge.
Apply the curtains as you did the shutters. As you can see, I applied my curtains after assembling the house and needed to use a toothpick to hold them in place until the icing set. In hindsight, you can save yourself the trouble by applying the curtains while the house walls are still unassembled and laying flat on the table.
What's more inviting in a holiday house than candles in the window? A small piece of white, plus a touch of yellow and red fondant will form the candles, and our new gold fine sparkling sugar will give them their glow.
Roll a thin rope of white fondant. It should be about as thick as a cooked piece of spaghetti. Snip off several pieces and use your finger to taper one end. Set aside to dry for a few minutes, or your candles will "melt" when you try to add the flames.
Blend the red and yellow together lightly, but not completely.
Roll the blended piece into a thin rope, and twist lightly. As you work with this rope, the colors will become more blended, but you will still see faint variations and striations that will really add to the look of the flame.
Pinch off a small piece of the rope and flatten and pinch a point into it to resemble the flame on the candle.
Use a drop of water to attach the flames to the candles. Again, add a few minutes of drying time.
Once all the candles are assembled and dried (you remembered to make extras, right? ) you can add a bit of sparkle to them. Sprinkle out some fine sparkling sugar. I really liked the look of our new gold sugar. Very warm and inviting.
Brush the flame with just a small touch of water and dip immediately into the sugar to coat the flame well.
Aren't those lovely? These will dry fairly quickly while you assemble the house.
For those of you who have read the other Gingerbread house blogs, you know my deep dark secret for assembling gingerbread houses. That's right, I use... a hot glue gun. In my defense, these houses have to do a lot of traveling to photography, etc. so the regular icing just doesn't hold up. If you don't plan on eating the house later on, the hot glue is the way to go. It's also a big help if you are making the houses with young children. Glue the house up the night before and let them decorate away knowing that the house will not fall apart during the fun.
Start by adding 2 side walls to the front panel.
Add the back piece, and then the roof pieces, one at a time. Notice the chocolate "rock" foundation. You can't really see it through the snow in the main catalog photo, but that's just typical of Vermont in the winter.
Before you ice down the roof capping tiles, lay them out without the icing, to test how many you will need, and to be sure you pick the best of the lot from the several tiles you made earlier.
When you are happy with the arrangement, set the cap tiles in icing, and let them dry. Having a little icing poking out is fine, it will look like melting snow on the rooftop. Let this dry for at least an hour to avoid losing your lid, as it were.
While you are waiting for the roof to dry, you can whip up a rustic log pile out of a handful of pretzel sticks. On a piece of parchment, spread a thin layer of icing. Add a row of 5 sticks, then a dab more icing, then another 4 sticks. You are looking to build a rough pyramid shape.
Continue to stack layers of icing and pretzel sticks until you reach the final "log".
To fit the winter scene, drizzle a little icing over the top of the pile to mimic drifts of snow. Set aside to dry, and we can begin to work on the window decorations.
Attach one candle to the center of each window with a dab of icing. In a separate bowl, tint some icing green and fit a pastry bag with a star shaped tip. I used a size 16 here.
Pipe a row of green stars along the bottom edge of the window. Don't worry about perfection here, as you will be adding more decorations, and the star shape will get "squished" a bit.
Using tweezers, add small colorful decorations to the window boxes. While you can use your fingers, tweezers are a HUGE help here, and prevent a lot of smudges.
After the decos are in place, you can add more greenery if you like, to fill out the boxes.
While you have the green icing out, let's work on making the wreath for over the door. Trace a small round shape onto a piece of parchment. I used our white glitter bottle.
Pipe a ring of stars, using the round tracing as a guide.
While the icing is still wet, decorate your wreath with small candy or decos. You can make one ring of stars...
or two. The most important thing to remember about the wreath is that it MUST dry overnight or you run the risk of breakage. It is a very good idea to make several wreaths just in case. The wreath in the main photo (very top of the page) is decorated with small sugar pearls. Once the wreath is dry, peel from the parchment gently and attach to the house with several dabs of icing.
To make the decorated trees for the front yard, begin with a small ball of green fondant. ]
Use your finger to taper one end.
Next, press the base down firmly on a flat surface. This will help the tree stand up in your landscape later.
Beginning at the base of the tree, pipe green stars with your pastry bag. The sides of the stars should just barely touch.
As each ring around the tree is completed, add small decorations using tweezers. If you wait until the end of the piping to add the decos, your icing may dry on the surface, leaving unattractive cracks when you add the decos.
There! A lovely tree with bright decorations and a hint of white glitter for sparkle. Make as many as you would like for your scene. Varying the size of the ball of fondant will make different sized trees. Rest easy, the white glitter is edible, so if small ones lick it up, no harm done.
A final piping of white icing on the roof completes your house, and a drift of our fine silver sugar adds that frosty touch. Have a wonderful time creating your own scene and making this house your home for the holidays!