5 Steps to Great Gingerbread Houses

Vaucluse Gingerbread HousesPosted by Neil Myers

Gingerbread house construction requires nerves of steel, but is terrifically rewarding if you persevere.  Here are my top tips for minimizing the drama and avoiding pitfalls.

First, consider making just a façade of the house.  I really do like to make gingerbread houses, but we don’t have enough table-top space at the inn to display a three-dimensional house, let alone all six of the Vaucluse guest houses!  It was really a DUH!! moment when I realized we could replicate the facades of the houses and fit them all on one mantle top. Second tip, when making a template for your dream house, make the window openings larger than what you want the finished windows to be.  Realize also that the thicker you leave the rolled out dough, the more it will puff when baked and the tinier your windows will be.  Windows, like eyes, are most appealing when wide open. Third, roll out the dough onto a piece of parchment paper placed on a large cutting board.  Before cutting, pull the paper (with the dough on top of it) onto the back of a baking sheet.  Trust me, you do not want to crack your house trying to fish it out of the inside of a baking sheet with four spatulas and only two hands.  The year of the earthquake I used the excuse that the Manor House was cracked to make it look like the earthquake did it. Fourth, if you choose to make caramelized sugar windows, get organized and be prepared to act fast.  I make templates for the window sizes and draw them out on plain aluminum foil, not oiled, not “release” foil (I’ve made both of those mistakes too).  Mix two scoops of white granulated sugar with a little cream of tartar and just enough water to wet the sugar in a stainless steel sauce pan.  Put on over medium low heat and stir until sugar is dissolved and starting to melt.  Do not stir after this point, but you can swirl the pan.  When the sugar starts to turn gold, quickly but carefully pour it onto the foil into the window shapes.  The sugar will continue to darken in the pan so the last windows will be noticeably darker than the first windows poured.  Which is kind of cool, actually.  If your windows look more like amoebas than rectangles, you can score them with a knife as they start to cool and then snap off the “amoeba arms” after the sugar hardens.  And eat them of course!

Royal icing piped onto back.

Place window on wet icing.

A fifth and final tip is for the decorative icing.  Royal icing is a mixture of egg whites and powdered sugar.  Just make sure it is wet enough to flow easily because if it’s too dry it will end up popping off when it dries.  A bonus tip:  a #4 piping tip seems to be the happy medium for drawing lines. So, go crazy this year and make a village!

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The Inn at Vaucluse Spring is a fifteen room bed and breakfast spread throughout a small village of six guest houses surrounding a large limestone spring in Virginia’s fabled Shenandoah Valley.

Set amidst 100 scenic acres in rolling orchard country, the Inn is ideally located between the historic sites of Winchester and the outdoor activities near Front Royal and Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive. Choose from a wide variety of accommodations, from the elegance of the historic Vaucluse Manor House to the log and stone warmth of an 1850’s log house, to the privacy of individual cottages.

Spacious guest rooms indulge your senses with Jacuzzis, fireplaces, queen and king beds, and bucolic views.  Sitting rooms, porches, and outdoor seating abound, providing plenty of nooks for intimate conversation and daydreaming.

The Inn’s modern Southern cuisine uses the best local ingredients, including herbs, heirloom tomatoes and wild watercress from the inn’s gardens and grounds and fruit from nearby orchards.

Special Event Dinners:

Each year the Inn hosts a series of Vintner’s Dinner Weekends. Working with the evening’s vintner, we develop a special menu, and paired wines are selected. During the serving of each course, the vintner provides a brief description of the characteristics of the wine chosen to accompany each course.

Come discover why Washingtonian Magazine and American Historic Hotels  both named it one of their “Top 10 Most Romantic Inns”.

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