From Mrs. WSL:
I’ve been making gingerbread houses for the holiday season for the past ten years. It’s something that I plan all year long, anticipating the marathon push of decorating my gingerbread house sometime in late October. I leave it up on display until mid-January and then unceremoniously dump it into the garbage can. Then I start planning the house for the next year.
When people ask me about making their own gingerbread houses, this is a simple list of essential ingredients I pass along.
An easy gingerbread recipe
You need to have a no-fail gingerbread recipe. I love this one.
Frosting for Gingerbread houses.
It has to be royal icing. There’s no substitute. Royal icing is not hard to make. Check out this tutorial.
My favorite gingerbread house candy is the starlight mint. You can’t go wrong with that adorable red and white swirly candy. It looks cute on a roof, made into a fence, piled up to make a column, or stationed as a wheel on a train. I can’t think of another candy that says Christmas like the starlight mint. Watch for them at the store and compare before you buy. There are cheap brands that don’t look nearly as good. I was surprised to find the most precisely swirled candy I found was in the bulk area of my supermarket. They were available all year long. They were vastly superior to the bag that was on the Christmas candy aisle. Oh, and the most important thing about starlight mints—they last forever. You can use the same bag of mints year after year after year. I think they could survive in a bomb shelter or something. I try to buy them during after the season sales to use for the next year.
Next, you need some gumdrops. These, sadly enough, are not great to save from year to year unless you don’t intend to eat your house, in which case, they can be used when the center has turned cementy. I love to use them on roofs, to line the base of a house, and glued onto sugar cones to make a whimsical tree. You can glue a gum drop to the wide base of a rolo chocolate then pipe green icing over the gumdrop, and voila! You have a gumdrop topiary. They also make great streetlights, bird houses, and large ones can be the perfect base for holding up a sign or a tree.
Red and Green M&Ms usually make it into my gingerbread scene. They make an adorable roof. I’ve used the mini multi-colored ones (find them on the baking aisle with the chocolate chips) along the seams of my roof to look like colored lights, too. I mostly have the M&Ms around to snack on while I do the rest of the decorating.
Finally, having an assortment of nonpareils is essential. Today, you can find these tiny sugary decorations in amazing shapes. I’ve used snowflakes, hearts (buy these in bulk—they are adorable in a Christmas display), gingerbread men, red, green, and white balls, candy canes, and even mini lights. I like to use the nonpareils as decorations on my frosting trees.
Next year, I’m making a house in a blue, silver, and white theme. I am watching out for blue candy all year long in preparation. Do you have a favorite gingerbread candy?