5 Things to Know Before Tackling That Gingerbread House

Food Network Kitchen's Dan Langan breaks down the basics in his new Gingerbread 101 course.

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With Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday madness coming to a close, it’s time to get excited for the merriest time of year. ‘Tis the season for decorating, gifting, caroling and best of all: baking. Gingerbread houses are synonymous with the holiday season and tackling a house of your own is almost a rite of passage in the weeks leading up to Christmas. However, if you’re like me, the project is always trickier (and messier) than I remembered it to be. Fortunately, this year, pro baker Dan Langan has created a much-needed Gingerbread 101 course available on the Food Network Kitchen app — where he shares some of his tried-and-true tricks for creating the perfect gingerbread house. It’s great for beginners and expert builders alike.

Make Sturdy, Smooth Dough

Dan says that this step is vital to making a gingerbread house that will hold up over time. His pro tip? Use vegetable shortening instead of butter. Dan says that vegetable shortening is essential for helping the dough keep its shape, which is important whether you’re making a basic house or mansion. Before popping it in the oven, use a fondant smoother to flatten any air bubbles and inconsistencies.

Make Clean Cuts

The secret to getting straight edges for gingerbread windows: Press the cookie cutter into the dough before baking to create an indent, but don’t push the cutter through completely. If your dough feels too soft or sticky, pop it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to firm up. Then use the cookie cutter again (or a paring knife) on the dough to actually remove the piece as soon as it gets out of the oven.

Use Brown Icing for a More Polished Look

For a more professional finish, tint your royal icing brown before using it to assemble your house. This will help the edges of the house come together in a really seamless way and will help draw your eye to the house itself rather than to the glue that’s holding it together. If you find you have a bit of extra icing peeping out the sides, use the back edge of a teaspoon to scrape it away.

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Create a Scene

As you’re assembling your house, the more details you can add, the better. Dan recommends making extra dough or using any leftover dough to bake up additional elements like window boxes or trees. “When you take the time to create a gingerbread house, you’re really telling a little holiday story and that story extends beyond the house, and it’s all those details that make it so magical,” says Dan.

Shop the Fridge for Decorations

When it comes time to decorate your house, look for ways to accessorize your house with something edible, like herbs. Dan says that fresh thyme and rosemary both make for great flowers, leaves or trees to decorate the windows of the house or the walkway.

Dan’s Gingerbread 101 course covers all things gingerbread: from making your own dough and baking up the most basic house to building a gingerbread mansion, plus decorating ideas, making gingerbread people and everything in between. Tune into the Food Network Kitchen App for more of his foolproof baking techniques.

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