Friday, November 6, 2009

Starting the Gingerbread Castle

The Thanksgiving Point Gingerbread Festival is right around the corner (Nov. 12) and I've been going like mad trying to get my castle done.

I used Loreta Wilson's gingerbread dough recipe again from her site Ultimate Gingerbread, but I changed the mixing instructions a little. The first time I used her dough was in 2007 for my Gingerbread Outhouses. The dough is awesome, and makes your house smell so good!

Loreta's Favorite Gingerbread Dough
Printable Recipe (original recipe)

5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup sugar
1 cup shortening
1 1/4 cups mild molasses
2 eggs, beaten

1. Combine all of the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and run the mixer for a few seconds to mix everything together.

2. In a small sauce pan, heat the shortening over medium heat until it's half way melted; remove the pan from the heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together the molasses and eggs. While whisking, slowly add the molasses-egg mixture to the melted shortening. (I've found a fork is better than an actual whisk for this). Whisk until well combined.

3. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the molasses mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until everything is combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and mix on medium-low for 2 minutes.

This dough is very soft, and needs to be refrigerated until it can be handled more easily. You can wrap it in plastic or put it in a bowl and cover the bowl with plastic. The dough can sit in the fridge for 2 or 3 weeks. The picture below is 2 1/2 batches of the dough. I ended up using 8 1/2 batches for all of my pieces (that doesn't include the 3 batches I had to redo because one day the dog ate half a batch of raw dough (and threw it up in the car), another day the dog stole off the counter and ate 11 pieces for the towers, and another day I screwed up the two biggest pieces and had to remake them--it's all an adventure, right?)

To use the dough, let it sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. Scoop out a piece of dough about the size of an orange (or bigger if you're cutting a big piece), and knead it for a few seconds. Then:

1. Heat your oven to 350. Wipe your counter with a damp cloth and immediately lay a piece of foil on the damp area--this keeps the foil from slipping around as you roll out the dough. Liberally sprinkle the foil with four.

2. Roll the dough to about 1/8-inch thick (I go a little thicker on big pieces to give them more strength against snapping). Sprinkle the dough with more flour. Lay your pattern on the dough and carefully cut the piece out. A pizza cutter is the best way to cut long straight lines. **This next part is important** Remove the excess dough from around your pieces. Pick up the foil, and lay it (with the gingerbread pieces on it) on a baking sheet. This keeps the pieces from distorting during transfer to the baking sheet because you don't move them individually.

3. Bake the gingerbread for anywhere from 10-25 minutes, or until nicely browned, depending on how big the piece is. Keep in mind that you're not making cookies, so you don't want the pieces to be soft after they cool (they will be soft coming out of the oven). It will take some practice to know how long is long enough. If the pieces are soft after they cool you can put them back in the oven for 5 minutes.

**I bake roof pieces until they are very dark, so they are hard as rocks and I won't have to worry about any sagging.**

4. Lift the foil off the baking sheet and let the gingerbread pieces cool completely on the counter. To keep the corners and any short ends from lifting or bending up, immediately after putting the foil/pieces on the counter, lay a cutting board on top of the hot gingerbread and press lightly for several seconds.

If the edges have distorted at all during cooking, use a sharp knife to straighten them out immediately after you take them out of the oven. Or you can use a belt sander (Ahhh...power tools!) to straighten the edges of hardened pieces.

5. If you're really good at planning ahead, it's good to let the baked pieces sit for a few days to dry and harden.

Next I'm going to add the sugar windows and start icing the outside walls. Check back soon!

Note: to make cookies, add 1/2 teaspoon baking powder to the dry ingredients.

Update: To see pictures of the finished castle go here.


  1. WOW! Impressive, that's a lot of work! Can't wait to see the finished product :)

  2. I've always wanted to do this, but figured I was too impatient! Can't wait to see the finished product. I love watching gingerbread house contests on the Food Network- and we have one here in town that I never miss.

  3. Amanda, it is a *ton* of work, so it's good it's only once a year. By the time the festival comes around I've forgotten how I just about died the year before ;)

    Barbara, I love to watch the FN contests, too! I don't know how they get them done in the 6 or 8 hours they're takes time for the royal icing to dry between's crazy! :)

  4. Tiffiny this is amazing! I am sitting here in wow mode. I can't wait to see how it all turns out!!!

    Anyway, about the three columns there are free sites to grab html to edit yours into three. We used one, but I can't remember which. However they are all about the same.

    You can even make it easier by googling three column google blogger and pick a template that is already done. They are free or very near free.


  5. I look forward to seeing your finished project! Good luck!

  6. I've always wanted to make my own gingerbread house (notice I said house...I could never even dream of a castle!) I look forward to seeing your finished product!

  7. I've always always always wanted to make a gingerbread house!! This one looks very professional. Also, I noticed that you are a Foodie Fights winner! CONGRATULATIONS!!!

  8. I love gingerbread creations! can't wait to see it finished! Love the outhouse, and your daughter's barn too:)

  9. I live in the The Rocky Mountains at an altitude of over 8000 ft. I have now made two gingerbread houses and although I sprayed this year's with a preservative coating, the icing/cement still dried out within days. Any tips from anyone? HELP

  10. Anonymous, what do you mean by "dried out"? Are you using royal icing? Royal icing is supposed to get hard, but is that different than what happened to your icing?

  11. While researching gingerbread doughs and looking through reviews and came across yours with your blog address listed. You look like quite a cook! We have always made gingerbread houses growing up, with stained glass windows and slivered almond and chocolate roof tops. This year we are making it in Malta, shall try this recipe. Thanks and happy I came across your blog, will be visiting again.

  12. Juniper, thanks for stopping by and double-thanks for your comment! Have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy your gingerbread house-making! :)

  13. Hi, I love your tips and recipe for a gingerbread castle but you've barely begun...where's the rest of the instructions and finished product? I'm writing from Scotland; my son Finn has to build a 3D Scottish castle for his school project....Help! Jane Cox, Perth, Scotland, UK.

  14. @Anonymous, Thanks for coming by :) You can see pictures of the finished sandcastle here, but there aren't any instructions on how to construct it. There are way too many steps, and much of it I made up as I went, and some of it I had to re-do, and several things I would do differently if there was going to be a "next time". Thanks again, and good luck with your project :)

  15. Do you have a template you used to make this castle? My sister and I do gingerbread constructing at Christmas, and yours is my favorite castle I've seen. I'd love to recreate it, even at a smaller scale. :)

  16. @Lizzy, I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to reply to this! I have a template I made out of poster board. If you'd really like to have it I can try to scale it down and scan it to a pdf. You can email me at tiffinyfelix[at]yahoo[dot]com.

  17. wat does it look like when it is finshed???

  18. @Anonymous--here is the post with the finished pictures. Thanks for visiting :)

  19. This castle is amazing! I love the idea of using soup cans to stabalize the walls while the "glue" sets. My daughters and I will be entering a contest at the end of the year and I'm looking now for ideas and inspiration. You've offered much of both. Thanks for having this site up for us to look through.

  20. How did you make the sugar windows? I looked at your finished castle post and I still couldn't figure it out.

    1. Sorry I'm slow getting back to you. I made poured sugar for the windows, but you can also use butterscotch candies. To use the candies: leave your cooked piece on the foil. Unwrap a candy and put it in the center. Put it back in the oven until it melts and fills the space; it doesn't take very long, so be sure to watch it. You have a few precious moments after it comes out of the oven to use a toothpick to coax the melted candy into corner if you need to. To make the poured sugar, I used this: If you're not comfortable working with the melted sugar (it is *so* hot), for sure the butterscotch will work great.


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