Halloween House 2014 – Process

 

This is a little Halloween house with a lot of interesting character. If you’d like to give it a try, feel free to download the templateI should give you a quick warning though: I had some trouble with the side walls that attach to the front door piece, and the tower side pieces don’t fit as snug as I would have liked to the house, so some cover-up will be needed. I would suggest printing off the template and then re-creating it in cardboard as you will have an easier time keeping your sides sharp.

Some tools I use

  • silicone baking mats
  • pizza roller
  • rolling pin (with spacers)
  • large, flat silicone spatula
  • Wilton aluminum cookie sheet
  • Kitchen Aid mixer
  • silicone oven mitts
  • oven thermometer

  • parchment paper
  • Xacto knife
  • piping bags and tips
  • cobblestone texture mat
  • clay extruder

Step 1: the Template

Print off the template and cut it out. Replicate it in cardboard for best results.

Step 2: Gingerbread

To build a gingerbread house, you’re going to need some gingerbread. Use a recipe that you like, but keep in mind that you want something that won’t go all puffy on you or change shape in the oven. Find something without baking powder or soda in it – it will keep from rising – but it will also dry hard. You can use any type of gingerbread recipe, but something that doesn’t rise will be easier to assemble.

Most recipes tell you to refrigerate your dough  – it does help the flavour, but I find it really hard to roll out. I let my dough sit for a little while, but I roll it out while its still soft and a bit warm. This prevents cracking and flaking even though it does tend to stick to the rolling pin.

Step 3: Baking

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I roll my dough right out on the silicone baking mats and cut out the pieces using the pizza cutter and template. I cut out the shape of the windows, but do not remove them.

Once you’ve cut out the pieces, you can slide the cookie sheet right underneath.

I bake the pieces with no windows according to the recipe. I bake the pieces with windows about 5 minutes less.

After the first bake, I remove the pieces from the oven. I remove the window pieces – sometimes they need a bit of re-cutting. Once the window pieces are ready, put in some solid or crushed hard candy into the spaces and re-bake.

Keep an eye on them in the oven. You want the candies to melt and to spread but try and take them out before it bubbles over. Its not a major problem, but you might get bubbles in your windows and they are often cloudy if it boils.

Make sure to allow them to cool completely flat. Another reason I use the silicone mats- its really easy to remove the walls once the candy windows have dried. Sometimes they get a bit sticky with parchment paper and there’s no way you can move a piece off the cookie sheet with a spatula if you have candy windows.

Step 4: Decorating

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You have your gingerbread pieces and you have your windows. Now its time to decorate.

I really should have started with the windows on this house first, but I jumped right into the siding. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Its easier to pipe when there’s nothing else around the window, but its also harder to get the fondant on – unless you wait for the windows to dry first. Even then, the royal icing could break while putting on the fondant siding. Its a play-by-ear thing for me.

I chose a combination of brick and stone siding on this project.

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I wasn’t sure if I should use trim on these windows or not. Either would have worked ok but I wanted the darker look without the trim.

Step 5: Assemble

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Your first couple of walls are very important. You want to get a good amount of royal icing on the bottom to give it a good foundation of stickiness. I coloured my royal icing black so it would blend better with the walls and show the joints less.

As you can see, I’m using a soup box to support the wall.

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The first two walls are up and glued together. You’ll notice I still have the soup box. If your walls are trying to fall outwards, you may need another support on the outside to keep the walls vertical while the royal icing dries. Let these first two pieces dry well before moving forward. They will stand on their own and make it a lot easier to join the rest of the walls. After the first two, you don’t need to wait as long with the other walls.

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I was in a bit of a hurry, so I joined the back wall and just kept my soup box in place to keep the others where they should be. 3 walls right away can be ok, but you really should wait before the forth one goes up.

I use the clay extruder for making shapes to fill or cover the caps between wall joins. On this house I used the square shape for nice sharp edges. Sometimes I’ll use the club shape with two colours and twist them for more of a candy cane look.

You’ll also notice in this image that I have the whole board on a turntable. I find this really helpful when decorating, as long as its on a level surface.

I also have cut a small hole in the board – this is for a battery operated LED light for inside the house. Remember to cut this out while you can still get inside the house.

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Once you have the walls up and stable you can add on the roof pieces. Use a generous amount of royal icing, especially on a design like this where the angle is quite steep for the roof – it needs good support to keep from sliding down. You will have to hold the roof piece in place while the icing dries. You want it to be hard enough so that the piece stays up on its own. Be careful not to leave it too soon, or it will just slide down.

When the roof is dry, add the next roof piece. Make sure to pipe enough at the top to help hold them together. You will need to hold this piece in place as well.

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Next comes the tower pieces. The template has them flipped – they really are the same piece, but this is just a reminder to decorate the right side of the tower. Each piece needs the opposite side decorated (the side facing outwards). You want to put the sides up first before the rest of the tower. Again, use a generous amount of royal icing. You’ll need it of there are any gaps between the pieces.

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It is a good idea to do the roof pieces before trying to put them on the house. You have better control getting them to keep their shape when working on a counter or flat space instead of up in the air at the top of the tower.

Let the roof pieces dry a good long time before trying to add them on as its tricky to get them to line up properly where the bottoms make a nice square. I suggest letting them dry over night.

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You can see, there are some gaps between pieces. Pipe them to stability and then you can always cover them up if need be.

Step 6: Roofing & Landscaping

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Once the roof is on, you can put the covering on. I decided to play with diamond shaped ‘shingles’ made from fondant. You could also use Shreddies or Golden Graham cereal – they look pretty good on a haunted house. Again, I’ve kept the royal icing black so it doesn’t show as much. We’re not covering this roof with snow like a Christmas house, so the black helps it look cleaner.

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Prepare more iron work than you need. They will break when trying to put them up as they are very delicate. Again, with the royal icing decorations, allow them a good drying time. These pieces I let dry for 2 days before trying to use them. I just attached them with black royal icing so you don’t see the joins so much.

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Then its a matter of landscaping. Chocolate cookie crumbs work well for dirt for pumpkin patches and pretzels of all kinds always make good fences. I chose some yogurt covered pretzels. You can’t tell from the picture, but these were actually a bit grey-purple. I piped in some royal icing and dropped in some white dragee for eyes.

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I added some fondant spikes to the design here and there, and a few fondant birds.

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Mini Kit Kat bars make great steps up to the door and Smarties or M&Ms make good walkways. I wasn’t sure what to do with the ground. Usually, I can just cover in a white layer of icing for snow, but I decided to go with a flat black. It almost looks like concrete. I almost went with the chocolate cookie crumbs for dirt, but I thought that would be a little too much dirt.

And there you have it. A Halloween gingerbread house. Check out the project page for more images of this house.