Gingerbread: It's not just for houses anymore

gbcrafts

I realize that you know that I love a good gingerbread house. I like traditional houses, I like whimsical houses, and I especially like outrageous houses. Inevitably, though, even the best architects need a break from designing houses and want to try something different. What do you say to a host of gingerbread crafts such as…

…placecards, stained glass, ornaments, and even an edible gift box? Imagine the delighted looks you’ll receive when your family comes to the holiday table to find their places marked with heavenly scented gingerbread inscribed with their names.

For you romantic men out there, that diamond necklace (or RING) you’ve purchased for your lady would really have her in tears if it were presented in a gingerbread box you’ve made yourself.  Big time points for you, Romeo!

I think any Grammy, Noni, Oma, Nana, Meme or TwoMoms would love to have a string of gingerbread cut-outs strung on a colorful ribbon decorating her front window for the neighbors to see. By the way, TwoMoms was our  friend Jack’s nickname for his grandmother years ago. He had his mother as one Mom, so decided her mother must be TwoMoms. What a card, that boy.

In my former career as a pre-school teacher I used just about every kind of recipe for construction gingerbread or ornament dough out there. While none of it would ever have been classified as bad, none of it would really have been classified as good, either. It wasn’t meant to be eaten, just looked at and discarded at the end of the season.

Wish I had known about King Arthur Flour gingerbread cookie recipe back then; it would have been a classroom staple. Sweet and spicy it features the right amount of spices to be fragrant, but not so spicy as to be offensive to younger palates. You can definitely taste the cinnamon and ginger, but don’t end up with a scorched tongue, like some recipes. All in all, it’s practically perfect in every way.

Let’s get started on our Gingerbread Cookie crafts.

Combine the molasses and brown sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer along with the salt and spices.

Melt the butter and add it to the sugar/molasses; stir until the butter is incorporated. Let the mixture cool to lukewarm.

Once the mixture has cooled, add the egg. In my case, I noticed I had left the cinnamon out, so I added it here; no harm done, as long as I scraped the bowl well.

Add the baking powder and baking soda to the flour, and add this dry mix to the wet ingredients in the bowl.

Beat for about 1 minute, or until the dough is cohesive and no lumps and streaks of flour remain. As you can see, the dough is quite sticky at this point.

Using a wet dough scraper or your wet hands, pat the dough out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. If your fridge won’t hold a half-sheet pan, divide the dough into smaller portions and pans, but be sure to use the parchment as a liner.

Cover the dough with a second piece of parchment and place it in the fridge to chill well. The VERY minimum would be an hour; several hours or overnight is truly best, for flavor and for ease of working with the dough. (Shout out to Cabot Cheese: you guys rock and are always present in the test kitchen fridge).

When the dough is well chilled it will be much less sticky, and very easy to work with. Turn it out onto a well-floured surface and dust well with additional flour.

Roll the dough out to an even thickness of about 1/4”. Avoid rolling over and squishing the edges of the dough by lifting your rolling pin as you reach the edge of the dough.

Use a pastry brush to remove any excess flour on the top of the dough. I couldn’t find my favorite pastry brush, so I used my next favorite paintbrush. It worked like a charm.

While you do want the benefits of the flour during the rolling process, you need to remove the excess flour before baking for better texture and flavor, and a better cookie surface for decorating.

Ah, the possibilities are endless at this point. Let’s make some ornaments first.

Cut your shapes out of the dough and transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets. For hanging holes, use a plastic straw to cut a nice round hole. If the straw gets clogged with dough, just snip off that section and keep going with a clean section of straw.

How about a nice cut-out for stringing or hanging? Use a small cutter to cut the center out of your cookie. Two holes for ribbon will allow you to string several cookies in a row.

By the way, don’t throw out the little centers you’ve cut out. Place the small pieces on a separate baking sheet so they won’t burn on the same sheet as larger cookies.

Also, check out the triangles. Those are simply square shapes cut in half; use them to make the stained glass votive cookies, essentially providing the braces to stand up the front of the votive.

Say, how do you get those vein lines on the leaves, MJ?

A good sharp knife is all you need to “draw” on your shapes. Be sure to cut a fairly deep line that won’t get lost during baking.

You can use some water to act like glue on the back of a small shape too. Just brush it on and smear it around a bit, then adhere the small piece of dough to a larger piece and bake them together.

You may need additional baking time; as the shape will be thicker; so keep an eye on these.

Now that you have a tray of cookies with cut-outs, let’s make a few into stained glass votives.

For the “glass” you’ll need hard candies in assorted colors. We’ve found that Lifesavers and Jolly Ranchers work best, and have the clearest colors.

These little individually wrapped candies are great…

…as the candy doesn’t fly every which way when you smash ‘em! A few taps with a hammer does the trick. You aren’t looking for powder or dust, just small chunks the size of peppercorns or so.

Fill the cut-outs with candy, slightly mounded in the center. The candy will spread out as it melts, so don’t worry about each tiny little corner too much.

You can combine more than one color in the same cut-out. Just try to match the flavors somewhat. Cherry and green apple are used above.

Bake the cookies at 350°F for 9 to 13 minutes. Baking time will depend upon the thickness of your particular cookies, so don’t stray too far from the oven. These cookies will puff as they bake, but do flatten back out as they cool.

By the way, if you’re making stained glass cookies and don’t put parchment paper under them you’ll beeee soorryyy. Go ahead, ask me how I know.

When the stained glass cookies are done, this is what you’ll want to see. No un-melted chunks of candy; even surface with only a few bubbles.

**WARNING** Do NOT move or touch the cookies at this point. The candy is still very hot and will stick and burn if you get it on you. Leave the tray to cool for several minutes before attempting to remove the cookies from the parchment.

While the cookies are still warm, though, you can re-open the hole in the top you made with the straw.

There, easy as pie.

Hey, look! The stained glass cookie votives are cooled. Use a little Royal Icing to add decorations and trim. Now that’s looking GOOD.

Remember the triangle braces we baked earlier? You’ll need two of those for each votive.

A few quick passes over the microplane smoothes any rough edges, and make the braces straight and true. If the kids are helping, leave this particular job to the grownups.

Again, use some Royal Icing as mortar to adhere the braces to the back of the stained glass votive.

Unless you want to stand and hold the votive for a couple of hours, using a jar or can to support it as it dries is your best bet. If perhaps you put together the votive and realize the jar is still over on the table several feet away…

A superhero, or your test kitchen buddy Susan will come to your rescue and bring the jar to you. Thanks, Super Susan!

I think these placecards are just right for Susan and the rest of my super baking buddies. You can leave them flat to place on plates at the table, or make more braces and have stand-up 3-D placecards. (3-D glasses not included, but how cool would THAT be!)

And now for the MacDaddy, the edible gift box. You’ll need 5 squares of the same size, and a 6th slightly larger square for the lid. I made my lid ruffled so I could more easily keep track of it.

Use your microplane to even out the edges as best you can.

Using Royal Icing, piping bags, and decorations such as sugar pearls, decorate 4 of the squares, plus the lid. The 5th square will be the base and doesn’t need decoration.

Ahhh, pretty pretty snowflakes.

Place two of the “walls” on the base, and use plenty of Royal Icing on the inside seams. Hold with your fingers for a few minutes to set, and then add the last two sides. Place a can in the center of the box so that it touches  and supports all sides; set aside to dry.

Once the box has dried for several hours, you can pipe in the seams on the outside of the box to hide them. Again, let dry before moving the box.

Add your special gift and finish off with the lid. Looking back, I’d have made the lid a tiny bit bigger, to hide the top edges a bit more. Next time…

Hmmm, do you think this would be too fancy for the fishing lures I’m giving to my hubby?

I hope these gingerbread crafts will bring holiday light to your family this year.  It’s a delicious tradition just waiting to start!

Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Gingerbread Cookies.

MaryJane Robbins
About

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...

comments

  1. Sandra

    I’m so gutted that I was not born near you! I would have had my ideal job in your test kitchen. I wouldn’t have even called it work, it would have been like going out to play every day! Severe case of envy going on here!
    I promise I’ll post a photo of the mountains of dishes we work up and have to CLEAN up sometimes. That helps us keep it real. :) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  2. erinhibshman

    What a beautiful sight on this Wednesday before Thanksgiving! Mary Jane you are truly a talent in cookie decorating!! Black Friday at my house is cookie baking day – my mom, my sister, my 4 yr. old daughter and I spend all day baking, laughing, and listening to holiday music. We don’t normally make gingerbread cookies or houses on that day, but I am going to keep this in mind for closer to the holidays – I think stained glass cookies would be a great project for my daughter and me to do together!

    Happy Holidays to everyone at King Arthur!!!
    Thanks so much Erin. I don’t do Black Friday shopping any more, so it’s going to be cookie day at our house too. Have a great time, and I’d love to see pictures! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  3. supermoth

    I absolutely love this idea! I’m definitely going to try making these this year. Do you know how long the cookies will last after baking? Will they start to go bad or crumble, or will they just harden and last almost indefinitely? And thanks for providing lots of pictures for us uncreative types, so we have some ideas of decorations to start with!

    Hello – The cookies will become very hard and stiff. They won’t crumb unless you smash them up! – kelsey

    Reply
  4. cakelady52

    I LOVE these- especially the gift box! They could be personalized with a monogram, too- so many great ideas- thanks!
    Great idea! I never thought to monogram it. Should we get together and send a few over to the Royal Couple? :)
    ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  5. Miss Char

    Sure wish I lived closer too. I have been to visit a couple of times when out your way on business, loved it! I see a few of these boxes in my future. Last month I had a few friends and family in to learn to make scones and they were so tickled when they left with their packages of fresh scones. I now see another baking lesson on making gingerbread boxes. Thanks and Happy Thanksgiving.
    That sounds like a lovely idea. You can bake the leftover dough for nibbles, too. :). ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  6. fran16250

    WOW, YOU SO INSPIRE ME! I’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR SOMETHING HOMEMADE TO GIVE CO-WORKERS. THIS JUST MIGHT DO IT!
    HAVE A GREAT THANKSGIVING!
    Oh will they love you! Have a happy and safe holiday with your loved ones. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  7. kayakintortoise

    Thank you so much for a great idea. I plan on making the boxes large enough to put hard candies and peppermint bark inside for gift giving.
    Happy Holidays!
    Fantastic idea for gifting bark and chocolates. I’m still hoping someone will say they are going to make one to propose on Christmas Eve. Anyone? Please???? ~ MaryJane

    Maybe The Dude or Bulldog? Perhaps you should call and suggest that to them… :) PJH

    Reply
  8. biobaker

    If you dear folks ever have a contest, I give this 100% of my vote for best KAF blog post. The recipe is great. The ideas are great. The photos are great. The story is sweet, has a happy ending, has a great leading female role and a superhero to boot. What more can a baker want?

    I’m snowed in right now and the next thing on my “to-do” list is scrummage through my pantry. If I have enough flour for gingerbread, I’ll be baking the day away!

    Reply
  9. mariacc2

    Good morning and Happy Thanksgiving!
    This is amazing! I want to post about it on my blog! These are beautiful uses of gingerbread and so beautifully done! The snowflakes in frosting are the best ever!
    Your details in the creating process are so thorough. Thank you~
    Have a wonderful day ~ Veggie casseroles are waiting to be prepared {Pies with KAF are all done and wonderful!}
    Happy Day* Many Blessings to you and yours!
    ~Maria

    Reply
  10. ebmozo

    It’s all so pretty!!! How long before the seams of the box dry? My concern is that the whole thing might fall apart before the giftee gets to see it. Has that ever happened to you?HI there,
    The box in the blog actually dried fairly quickly in our hot test kitchen, and it lasted for well over a month before too many moves started to chip off the piping. The box stayed together though, in spite of losing some of it’s decorations. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  11. argentyne

    I have never done gingerbread stained glass cookies.

    I’ve been making stained glass cookies for about a billion years. But I use a very not so sweet butter cookie dough, and a chocolate butter cookie dough. I then buy the candies bulk and run them through a coffee grinder that is set aside specifically for candies.

    I get far fewer bubbles if I am using the candies powdered, but they are troublesome sometimes because the sugar is so hydroscopic that it will pull moisture from the air and turn into huge clumps. I get around this by putting all the ground up candies in zip top bags, and snipping a corner off just like a piping bag style. :) I can then use clips or twist ties to keep the end shut and I store left over ground candies in the freezer for next time.

    I make my cookies about 1 inch in size with about 1/2 inch cut outs so they are bite sized. But 1 batch of dough will make about 10 dozen cookies. That’s a lot of cookies. :D

    I will have to try your version, just to see if I like them. :)

    Reply
  12. KimberlyD

    One year at a cookie exchange party we made gingerbread houses. I like the box idea very cute, I think I would use the stain glass window one for the lid.
    I miss my aunts home made rock candy, have you done a blog about making it?

    Hmmm, sounds interesting, Kimberly. I’ve never tried it – no blog yet. It would be an interesting one, though… PJH

    Reply
  13. Paul from Ohio

    MJ you are one of the most creative and imaginative bakers on the planet. How wonderful, such great ideas. I love the how to to create the “stain glass” – a real gem!

    Now let’s see, maybe I could bake some of these as ornaments and give one to each of my watercolor classmates! Pretty neat! Thanks for your hard work.
    I think that’s a great idea Paul. Who wouldn’t love a handmade ornament for the tree or window? Let us know how they turn out. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  14. cwolfpack3

    I love these ideas and your results are just beautiful! The detail on the box and the ornaments reminds me of dark Wedgewood porcelain. Your post has inspired me to think about making these for gifts this year, since our budget is so limited.

    I have a few questions, though:
    I see the instructions to wet the leaves to add them on top of other pieces, but in the final photos, you only show them attached with icing. Was there a reason for this: meaning, did the double layer ones not bake properly?
    Also, are there instructions for using fresh ginger? What would be the ratio of (grated) fresh to ground? I love the smell and aroma of fresh ginger and usually keep a root or two of it around in the kitchen. (Fresh ginger and/or garlic often goes into my dishes, including a yummy pork chop entree that I created, using apples, onions, cider vinegar, and your boiled cider.) I wonder why most GINGERbread recipes only use dried ground ginger, when fresh is readily available in the stores these days. Is fresh ginger too moist?

    Please keep all the inspiration coming, KAF! Thanks!!
    ~Cindy

    Aren’t you observant! The “glued” one were spur of the moment creations. MaryJane just wanted to use up the left overs. I would try doubling the amount of ginger if you are using freshly grated. This will be an experiment; Give it a try. Dried ginger is traditional, as the ginger roots had to be transported from “the Orient” to northern Europe. Frank @ KAF.

    Reply
  15. Liz

    Thanks for the great blog. Lot of good ideas here. My swedish mother-in-law had a different technique for gluing the pieces together and I’m a bit afraid to try it on my own. Rather than using royal icing she would simply melt sugar in a pan and quickly dip the piece edges in it to glue them together. I must admit I thought she’d ruin my pan the first time she showed me this technique. I need to know how much sugar to use, what level heat, how long, etc. Any advice? (By the way, it worked beautifully! No micro-planing of edges necessary) Thanks!
    I highly recommend that you use a hot glue gun because using hot sugar to glue a house can be both daunting and dangerous. If you need the house to be edible, then I recommend a royal icing. Here is a link to our recipe: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/royal-icing-recipe. Best wishes for a beautiful, sturdy gingerbread house! – Amy

    Reply
  16. Marisa

    What beautiful creations! I was easily sucked into this post by the photos and fantastic ideas, and I had to comment because I had no idea there was another TwoMama out there.
    When my son was about 18 months old, we were getting ready to go to visit his grandma. I explained which grandma we were going to see, and to be sure that I knew that he understood, he said “one mama, two mamas,”his grandma being the first and great grandma being the second. Three additional grandkids later, and the name has stuck and spread throughout the family!
    You make the stained glass look so approachable. I think I might go for it.
    Thanks for sharing about TwoMama Marisa. Jack is now 15, and I don’t see him as often, but I’m definitely going to send an email to his mom to share with her mom. As for the stained glass, TRY IT! It really is as easy as bashing up some candy and baking it in the holes of the cookies. KISS baking at it’s best :) ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  17. Aeshon

    Cant wait to try the recipe, but I must ask if i can substitute Molasses Sugar cos that’s the only thing available here where I am. Can seem to find the liquid molasses. So do i melt the brown sugar n molasses sugar together with the butter? Advice please.
    The molasses sugar should be fine, if not a bit sweeter than regular molasses. Melt the butter first, then stir the sugars in with it. Let us know how it goes. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  18. ktday5

    Quick question…..your post says not to use parchment paper or you will be sorry, for the stained glass cookies. Then it says leave on tray to cool before removing from the parchment. Can you tell me if parchment paper is a good idea? Or a bad idea? What should we use?

    Thanks!! (really want to make these for gift tags this year!)
    After reviewing the blog post, it looks like the statement was “By the way, if you’re making stained glass cookies and don’t put parchment paper under them you’ll beeee soorryyy.” You definitely want to use parchment paper or the candy part of the stained glass will stick terribly to the baking sheet. If you have any other questions, please give us a call on the Baker’s Hotline. ~Mel

    Reply
  19. Venta Gorras

    Laura,?Aló!
    para que es un de buenos modelos ,Gingerbread | Flourish – King Arthur Flour’s blog,Benita gracias , buen día

    Reply

Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *