Wednesday, January 13, 2021

COVID for Christmas Part 5: A Gingerbread Village

At some point in the Christmas season, I had seen a super fun idea for a gingerbread village using a Styrofoam cake form and a bunch of gingerbread cookies in the shape of buildings.
I thought it looked SO fun, and more manageable with kids than giving everyone their own house to decorate! And the end result was so beautiful.
I filed it away in my brain for an idea to try another year, but then, when we ended up not going to Utah, I decided to go for it this year! I ordered a cake form off Amazon, and on Wednesday the 23rd I whipped up a couple of big batches of gingerbread cookie dough.
I used 2 batches of this recipe:

Gingerbread House Recipe

12 T unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 c molasses
1/2 t baking soda
4 t ginger
4 t cinnamon
1 t allspice
1/2 t salt
6 c flour

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and molasses. Add baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, and salt and stir to combine. Add flour and mix. Roll into sheets 1/4 inch thick between two pieces of parchment paper and freeze until firm. Cut into desired shapes and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.

Later that afternoon, after chilling the dough in the freezer, it was ready to be cut into shapes.
The boys loved doing this and coming up with unique building designs, but it was pretty tricky to manage the dough. We learned a lot about what works best this year so hopefully next time will go more smoothly!

It kind of took forever to make all the 4 or 5 hours.
After all that work, it was nearly dinner time so I threw together one of my favorite yummy and it only takes about 15 minutes to make!

Tortellini Soup

1 lb sausage
2 cans Italian style diced tomatoes
6 c chicken broth
1 pkg frozen tortellini cheese noodles
1/2 bag spinach
1 c cream or evaporated milk

Brown and drain sausage. Add tomatoes and chicken broth and heat through. Add tortellini, chopped spinach, and cream or milk and heat until noodles rise to the top and are cooked through.

The next day was Christmas Eve and before our evening festivities we decorated all the houses and put the village together! Everyone loved this part--it was so much fun for all of us and I loved that everyone could work according to their skill level. And there were dozens of houses, trees, and snowmen to decorate so we all got to do plenty!

We thought it looked so magical as our table centerpiece throughout our Christmas festivities!!
And the boys actually enjoyed nibbling on it over the course of the next few days, too.
I eventually washed off the cake forms and will re-use them next time. They should last at least 4 or 5 years so I think they were worth the investment (about $25).

Things to remember (for my own reference):
-The dough was much easier to manage if we left out the water.
-Roll dough out between two sheets of parchment paper sprayed with cooking spray and then freeze it before cutting out shapes.
-Make sure the body of every building is at least 4 inches high before the roofline starts so the cake form isn't peeking through.
-Make the cookies fairly thick and bake for about 15 minutes, adding hard candies during the last 5-7 minutes to melt.
-I just snipped the corner off of ziploc bags for the icing this year--I definitely need to use icing bags with tips next year, as it was really difficult to control.
-Do more big stained glass shapes--the color makes a big difference!
-Make sure we get a good variety of colors of hard candy--the bag of jolly ranchers I got only had red, pink, purple, and blue in it.
-Make the building on the top proportionately taller than I would if it was standing alone so it can be seen well above all the buildings.
-I should probably make 3 batches of dough, or at least 2 1/2 batches, so I can make the buildings a bit bigger and hide all the cake form.

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