Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Last year I heard a speaker talk about traditions and how they keep a family joined together. It was an interesting topic and the more I thought about it the more I could see that it is true. I have great memories of one time events as a kid, but it's the things we did every year that keep me wanting to continue to connect with my family still. I miss those Thanksgivings that we all spent at my grandparents farm, the Christmas eve parties, and decorating gingerbread houses among others.

One of the points this speaker made was that kids will look for ways to connect with family as they grow up. If we give them those traditions then, as they develop into teenagers, there will still be a link back to their family. And, as parents we will covet those precious few connections we have with our kids. 

It's hard to believe now, when my kids are 9 and (almost) 4, that there will ever be a time that they don't want to talk my ear off. But, I hope when that day comes we will have instituted enough traditions to keep them still wanting to take part in family life.

So, this last year I put in an effort to restarting some old traditions and also to come up with some new ones too. 

Gingerbread houses are one of those old traditions that I chose to keep around. I have pictures of me as a small child (age 5 or so) decorating them. And now, I have pictures of my kids too.

I want to share our family's recipe that we use for gingerbread houses. This is the recipe that my mom used when I was little. I hope you can start some wonderful traditions too!

Taking a break from playing outside, my kids were excited for the gingerbread houses to come out of the oven.

Here you can see the pattern cut, but not out of the pan yet.

All set up to decorate!

The houses all done and ready to start munching on.

Yields two gingerbread houses

1 1/2 C butter at room temperature
1 1/2 C brown sugar
1 T ground cloves
1/2 C water
2 T cinnamon
4 t ginger
1 T baking soda
5 C flour

I use a KitchenAid mixer, it makes it so much easier. Cream butter and brown sugar add water. Mix dry ingredients together. Add dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture.

Divide into 2 equal portions. With a well floured rolling pin roll each portion evenly over a greased (or parchment paper lined) 12 x 15 baking sheet. 

Bake at 300 for 15 minutes. Remove and cut house pattern. Remove pattern and return sheet to the oven, continue baking for another 12 minutes. Cool in the pan to allow the pieces to harden. Remove to wire racks. Store in an airtight container.

To build house: "glue" house together with Royal Icing

2 large egg whites
2 2/3 C powdered sugar

Whisk together egg whites and sugar. Beat on high until icing holds stiff peaks. *use quickly as it hardens to something akin to a diamond. You can store it covered with a wet towel or in a sealed ziplock bag. 

You can easily make a house pattern or find them on the web. The house pattern shown is our basic one that I grew up with. Over the years we have done several different ones. A castle, an airplane hanger, even a pub one year!

Here is a great site. They have free patterns or some that are a bit more detailed for a small cost.

As a note, my son is highly sensitive to artificial color and flavor. So the candy we use is all natural. As is the icing. Though, we have never had a problem, if you are concerned about the raw egg in the icing you can use Wilton's Meringue Powder. Easily found at cake decorating stores and many craft stores as well.

I wish you luck in starting your own traditions!