When I was nine or so, I happened upon a booth at our local Fall Festival, one that displayed delicious, artistic Gingerbread houses. I was mesmerized. Miss Paula, the master gingerbread architect, was a familiar face seen at my church, my school, and even taking our softball team pictures in the summer. So, I felt completely comfortable asking (begging) her to puh-lease make a gingerbread house with me some day. And being the generous person she is, she agreed. So, from then on, it was our little inside story, and every time we saw each other, we’d talk about making a house someday. But we never did. The years went past, I got married, had two children, she continued having children, until she finished at nine.
That’s right, this woman has nine children, and she finds time to make gingerbread houses with them every year (and for multitude other local children). Oh, and she homeschools. Did I mention she has more patience in her pinky than I do in my entire body? And as it just so happens, she’s now my neighbor. Well, she lives on the next mile section over, and around here, that’s about as close to a neighbor as you’ll get. So imagine my surprise when she called me up last week to see if we could finally get together to make that gingerbread house. 20 years later. (I believe my husband had something to do with this arrangement.)
And you know, it worked out better this way. Now, not only was I able to enjoy the magic of making a gingerbread house, but my children did, too. Miss Paula is a natural teacher, and seamlessly worked lessons in during the process. She helped the girls measure, take turns using the rolling pin, and managed to stay completely calm and upbeat during the two-hour long process. (Did I mention her patience filled pinky?) Of course, she had a great example set for her at a young age. Her mother had 14 children, and helped them each make a gingerbread houses to take to school. Each of them. I can’t even imagine.
But lucky for me, and for you, her family recipe isn’t a secret. She’s willing to share with you, just like she was willing to share her time with me. Enjoy!
Miss Paula’s Gingerbread House
Preheat oven to 350.
Combine: 5 cups flour
– 1 tsp. salt
– 1 tsp. baking soda
– 1 tsp. nutmeg
– 3 tsp. ginger
Blend dry ingredients together.
On stove top, combine 1 cup shortening, 1 cup molasses and 1 cup of sugar. Heat over medium heat until shortening is melted. Mix into dry ingredients. Mixture will be very thick, you may have to finish mixing by hand. Paula’s Tip: Make sure shortening is completely melted, or it will separate later. Mix frequently while ingredients blend.
Roll cookie dough onto lightly greased baking sheet about 1/4 inch thick. Trace windows and doors but do NOT remove them until after baking…so the openings do not swell shut…plus you will need the door for later, but the window cutouts make delicious snacks right out of the oven! You’ll want to remove “extra” dough on outside of cutout before baking.
Paula’s Tip: Use a wet towel under the cookie sheet so it doesn’t slide around the kitchen counter.
Bake for 10 minutes, and use a sharp knife to retrace the window cutouts while the cookie is hot out of the oven.
The frosting “glue” is made with 3 cups confectioner’s sugar, 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, and 2 egg whites.
Once all pieces are cooled, use a knife to line the edges of the house sides, and stick them together. You’ll need to hold them for a minute or so until they can stand on their own. Continue construction until you’re ready to frost the roof. Add candies while the frosting is still wet, and have fun! Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect, and once you have the recipe down, you can make any shape gingerbread house you want!