Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to live in a city as beautiful as San Francisco. Then a cable car full of happy tourists flies by and I remember that people come here on vacation. It’s a bit like living in Disneyland. I guess you’d get used to it after awhile. Well, ok, not as cool as living in Disneyland but it’s a close second. My love for San Francisco is the inspiration behind today’s project. Gingerbread houses are always fun but giving them unexpected shapes is a sure way to turn some heads. Here is how to make San Francisco Gingerbread Houses:
- For the gingerbread:
- 1 stick butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup molasses
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tbsp ground cloves
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 2 cups flour
- 2 tbsp water
- For Royal Icing:
- One 2lb pack of confectioner sugar
- ⅓ cup meringue powder
- ¾ cup water
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix together butter, brown sugar and molasses. Add spices, flour and baking soda and start mixing again on low. With the mixer on, add 2 tbsp of water and continue mixing until the dough comes together.
- Bake for 12 minutes or until set.
- To make royal icing, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix sugar and meringue powder on low and gradually add water. Once all ingredients are combined, crank up to high speed and mix for 8 minutes.
Let’s start with our Gingerbread. Start by mixing butter, brown sugar and molasses:
Add spices, flour, baking soda and water:
Roll out your dough between 2 pieces of plastic wrap to 1/4″ thick. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
For this project I am using a paper template to give each gingerbread house its overall shape but also some of its details. To get the most accurate proportions, I went to the famous “painted ladies”, the iconic raw of Victorian houses, and drew one of the houses. I wanted to get it right =)
Here is my doodle:
To shape the gingerbread house, roll out the dough to 1/4″ thick, cut a piece and place it on a piece of parchment paper. Lay your template on top of the dough:
Cut around the edges of the house:
You’ll notice I am using a marble board for this project but any stone counter will do. Here is why: Gingerbread dough is very soft and it gets to room temperature really fast when left out of the fridge. Cold dough makes for easier cuts so to keep my working surface cold, I fill a plastic bag with ice cubes and place in on the right side of my working space.
This will chill the right side while I am working on the left. Every couple of minutes, I switch sides and my dough stays cooler a lot longer. Having your gingerbread on a piece of parchment paper helps to move it around freely.
Now that the house has its general shape, we need to cut out windows. To cut them in the right spot, I am scoring the dough with a pin. To do that, I place the paper template back on the dough and I prick the 4 corners of each window. Then I peel off the template and I know exactly where to cut:
Once you have cut out all your details, bake your houses at 375°F for 12 minutes. The dough will puff up a bit so as soon as you take it out, go back over the edges the window cut-outs with a pairing knife. Then let your cookies cool for a few hours.
To decorate the cookies, I am using plain white royal icing and a #1 tip. I start from the top…:
…and work my way down: