Make a Gingerbread House Advent Calendar

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You guys already know I am into Advent calendars big time! And you also know that I can't get through the holidays without making at least one gingerbread house!

This year I invited Diane over for a day to help me make a Gingerbread House Advent Calendar - a wild idea I got into my head last January and have been very excited to make ever since. And with a few tricks - easier than you think!

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Before I go any further however, I want to speak a moment to those readers who do not have the time or inclination to make a Gingerbread House from scratch.

Don't! Buy one of those fabulous pre-formed kits that will be showing up in markets and stores any old day now.

Last year I did something wrong while mixing up my dough - don't know what - probably never will. But those house pieces stuck so completely to the cookie trays I nearly needed a hack saw to remove them!

This happened the night before I was to take my lovely finished little gingerbread houses over to Sophia and Antonio to decorate. My sweetie, seeing the wildly desperate look in my eyes, immediately began a series of mental gymnastics to figure out how to save the day!

And he succeeded! We went to a neighborhood grocery and purchased two gingerbread kits. And you know what? Sophia and Antonio had just as much fun decorating as they always have - maybe more because this time they got to make the whole house.

So I am just sayin' if you don't want to do the whole baking thing - kits are good! The whole point is - have fun and keep it as easy as possible.

There are lots of tips below for doing just that - keeping it easy - so read on!

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After last year's fiasco, I have abandoned my 40 year old recipe in favor of the recipe King Arthur Flour shares on their site. Everything you need is right here in a PDF -  the recipe and step by step instructions for cutting, baking and assembly. Just click the link and then click on "Build a Gingerbread House with Susan Reid".

So while I could create a tutorial for making a gingerbread house - why would I with this excellent resource available! The whole process from beginning to end was MUCH easier than what I have been used to all these years.

If you are looking for a good gingerbread recipe and how-to - I highly recommend this one.

And FYI King Arthur also sells kits!

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Diane got in on the fun parts - assembly and decorating!

BTW - she wanted to be sure I mentioned how easy it is to get the walls straight taking King Arthur's advice to use a cereal or cracker box as a guide to make them square up! Something her mother never figured out in all those years because - well - it wasn't in the directions! Sigh.

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Once all the sides are in place and "glued" together, we always get out the 'fancy' tip and pip frosting over all the seams and joints. But not a necessary step at all.

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We then had a few hours to kill while waiting for the sides to harden enough to support the roof. Plenty of time to bake and decorate Advent Sugar Cookies.

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We used a really good sugar cookie mix that I also discovered last year. It takes all of five minutes to mix up the dough and it doesn't even need to be refrigerated before rolling. It is so easy to handle too. Perfect for baking cookies with kids.

How do they taste? Well just let me say that we told my sweetie that the snowflakes were for him. They evaporated in seconds. Check out the Betty Crocker site for an overwhelming number of ideas for making every kind of cookie imaginable using the Sugar Cookie Mix.

However, if you simply don't want to be bothered with baking cookies, there are lots of great "store bought" cookies available that will work great. Vanilla Wafers or Animal Cookies come to mind.

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And I also discovered, quite by accident, Cake Mate Writing Icing! Icing that comes right out of a tube and when dry is nice and firm.

These magic little icing tubes make creating 25 little numeral cookies very quick and easy.

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Once Diane finished numbering her half of the advent cookies, she started playing with some little hearts and people we had cut out. When we began cutting cookies, we really had no clear idea what we were going to do - but we were having way too much fun cutting out cookies to stop until all the dough was used up!

As you can see in the first two pictures at the top of the post, following our muse was a good choice.

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Another option for making numerals on little cookies would be to use writing pens made for writing on cookies - Fooddoodlers  by Wilton. However, since I was not able to locate them in local markets, I decided to give the Cake Mate product a try. If you have Fooddoodlers available, by all means use them. Fun and easy for very young children to use.

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Ok - time to put on the roof!

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And now to let it sit overnight so the frosting can set up nice and hard. Diane didn't stay the night, but we just had to attach a few cookies before she returned home.

I was really stumped about how to attach the little cookies . Making royal frosting every day was not the answer. Saving it for 25 days - also not a solution.

I turned to pastry chef extraordinaire Kathy of Gelatin Sheets for professional advice. And her brilliant answer - chocolate! (You might remember Kathy shared a fun day with us at the Chocolate Crafting Studio last spring. She is on the far right of the first image.)

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Melt a couple chocolate chips in a small glass container - a jigger works great! I melt mine in the microwave on hi - ten second intervals. You will most likely need about 20 seconds, but set at 10 and check and set at 10 again. Your chocolate should be smooth and evenly melted - no firm chunks.

Use a small paint brush to paint the chocolate onto the back of your cookie and then place it firmly against the gingerbread house. It sticks immediately! Clean up takes just a minute. 

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You can place the cookies in sequence as Diane did here, or...

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they can be placed completely at random! Kids would most likely prefer this method!

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Since we decorated the house with all our little heart and people cookies, we placed our advent cookies on the roof, but your little advent cookies can be placed anywhere on the house you like!

Start with a completely bare house and let the kids decorate any way they like. If you have more than one child, consider having extra cookies or candies on hand so everyone gets to add a decoration every day.

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Cookies can be stored in a pretty cookie tin or other air tight container decorated to look festive.

Consider making extra cookies so that the children get to put a numbered cookie on the house and eat one too!

Or you could add another layer to the fun by hiding the cookies and leaving clues as to where to find them!

Of course, if you prefer, by all means use candy instead of cookies. We just don't like the way candy behaves on our gingerbread houses here in the PNW so we have resorted to cookies.

So! There you are! Lots of ways - traditional to easy peasy - to make a Gingerbread Advent Calendar to share the Advent season with your family.

How did I miss this post? I

How did I miss this post? I will have to agree with everyone else that this idea is brilliant!
Rebecca@RootsAndWingsCo

This is brilliant! One year,

This is brilliant! One year, when we were teenagers, my sister decided to bake and decorate a gingerbread sub-division. They were beautiful but so much work that she never did it again. I've never seen the kits. They may not have been available in Canada when I lived there.

What do you do with the calendar after Advent? Can you preserve it for another year or do you eat it during the Christmas holidays?

Avital,
typing sideways in my hospital bed (they're probably going to let me go home today)

What an amazing Gingerbread

What an amazing Gingerbread House. I really want to make one with my kids this year but I am not sure if they will be willing to participate, my tween is no longer interested. I think I will just make one on my own, or think of something crazy (as usual). I just got an idea.

This is awesome!! I wish I

This is awesome!! I wish I were there to participate. :D

Pam! What a brilliant post

Pam! What a brilliant post thank you! This will save me googling for a recipe when I come to do my gingerbread houses this year. They're not traditional for us here, but under the influence of blogs I've been enjoying making them the past few years.

Thanks again!
Genny
Xxxoooxxx

Thanks to this post, this may

Thanks to this post, this may be the year I let go of some of my "make it all from scratch because I can" issues. I know it doesn't make much difference to my kids as long as they get to help. Which means projects like this one might actually get from the day-dreaming stage to the Make.Do. stage.
Thank you for sharing. Yay!

Another fun-filled,

Another fun-filled, informative post Pam. Your little helpers are just the cutest (Diane included). I love your tips for easy options and I have to admit I know already I'd be opting for the store bought pre-fab version. That chocolate glue is the best, wish I could use it for all my crafting!

What a great idea! My 7 year

What a great idea! My 7 year old and I are always arguing about how much of the ginger-bread house he can eat and when, this would settle that argument!

Great idea! It is adorable

Great idea! It is adorable and such a great way to celebrate Advent.

I love this idea! A friend

I love this idea! A friend and I made 6 houses last year to give to other friends..those were a hit. But, I think these would be better. If I can find them cheap enough, that is. I know my lil kids will love tghe idea of eating a cookie a day! Cute! Thanks!! ;)

How fun! And thanks for all

How fun! And thanks for all the shortcut ideas! :) Sometimes those are such a lifesaver! I linked to your project on the Dollar Store Crafts facebook page. (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dollar-Store-Crafts/161233564682)

I remember years ago making a

I remember years ago making a gingerbread house with my step-mom at Christmas time. She baked all of the house parts ahead of time in California and we got to assemble and decorate once they arrived here. It was quite elaborate! But I think it was so much work that we have never made another. Now with the grandkids starting to appear, I'm sure it will be in our futures again soon.

I love the cereal box idea for helping to make it square - such a simple, but great idea!

I just bought my first bag of King Aurthur flour last time and it was great - who knew flour could make that much of a difference in cooking.

What a really fab idea, Pam.

What a really fab idea, Pam.

I have my eye on a gingerbread house kit and think that it will now end up transformed as an advent calendar (this will probably keep it intact for far longer than it might have survived otherwise!)

I really like your little people too. They remind me of the people who would come out of the weather vane barometer that my grandparents owned. My version may need a little man in a sou'wester and a lady in a scarf and mittens for rain and snow.

These are all great tips!

These are all great tips! You're right, the Kind Arthur site is a great resource. One tip from someone who has had parties where 10 houses are made in one night - HOT GLUE! Yup, we assemble the house with hot glue first, it hardens in like 1 minute, and then cover the seams with royal icing! Decorating starts right away, without any pesky waiting for the house to set up. Of course, this is only if you're not going to eat the house...which we never do! :-) Having enough decorating candy around for people to snack while decorating usually cures them of wanting to eat the house!

Your house is adorable! I

Your house is adorable! I love the little people. Makes it look more homey. We use the cake writing gel tubes for all kinds of things. The kids like to write on their cakes and make doodles on cookies. Of course they also like to squeeze the gel out on their tongues too.

I think for us we would need to completely decorate the house. Then the kids could eat a cookie each day until Christmas Eve. Robbie loves to get up each morning and eat a chocolate from the advent calendar so I know a cookie would go over real well also. It's a special treat to be allowed to eat a piece of chocolate even before breakfast :)

Hi :) 1000 Thanks for this

Hi :)
1000 Thanks for this great how to and the links!
I just bought a gingerbread house kit a few days ago - my 1st ever. And back at home I wasn´t sure anymore, if I should use it at all or not. But, I was searching for a selfmade advent calendar as well, and I think, your article gave the answer :).

My hubby is a real sweet tooth, and so I think, a calendar like this plus some sweet goodies will make him happy till christmas eve :).

Thanks again and Greetings from Berlin, Mone

What a SWEET idea!

What a SWEET idea!

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