Bake

Gingerbread Dough for Houses

December  2, 2016
4.3 Stars
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

This gingerbread dough is great for making houses. Be sure to roll it on the thicker side to keep it sturdy, and err on the side of overbaking so it stays firm and is less likely to break. While normally not a fan of shortening (team butter!) - I use it in this recipe because it's higher melting point makes the dough easier to handle—plus, most gingerbread houses I make aren't for eating, just for fun! For a yummier house, replace half or all of the shortening with unsalted butter instead - just remember, this will make the dough a little bit softer and more difficult to work with. —Erin Jeanne McDowell

Watch This Recipe
Gingerbread Dough for Houses
  • Prep time 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • makes about 4 pounds (1.80 kg) dough (enough for one medium house - make two batches for larger projects)
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups shortening, at room temperature (see headnote) (340 g)
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (250 g)
  • 2/3 cup molasses (not blackstrap) (226 g)
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature (170 g)
  • 7 cups all purpose flour (840 g)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon (9 g)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (4 ½ teaspoons) ground ginger (13 g)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (6 g)
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt (3 g)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the shortening and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes.
  2. With the mixer running on low speed, gradually add the molasses and mix well to combine, about 2 minutes more. Scrape the bowl well.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing on medium speed until well incorporated, then scraping the bowl well before continuing with the next addition.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt to combine. Gradually add the flour mixture to the mixer, and mix on low speed to combine.
  5. Scrape the bowl well a few times as the dough mixes to help ensure it’s evenly combined. Divide the dough into several disks (I usually do 2-3 pieces, then cut multiple shapes out of the larger pieces of dough that I roll - but you can also divide it into pieces based on the different sections you need to cut, if you prefer). Wrap the disks tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours (or up to overnight).
  6. When you’re ready to use the dough, roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper to about ⅓ in thick (you don’t want to roll it quite as thin as traditional cookies or pastry, this will make it sturdier for building)! Peel the parchment away occasionally while you work to make sure it’s not sticking to the dough (you can use a little flour, but only if needed).
  7. When the dough has reached the right thickness, peel the top piece of parchment away, and transfer the bottom piece of parchment (wit the rolled out dough on it) to a baking sheet. Use a template to cut the dough into the appropriate shapes for the house design you’re making.
  8. Bake the gingerbread at 375°F/190°C - exact baking times will vary based on the size and shape of your gingerbread, but look for the edges to be noticeably brown, and the surface to appear dry and set. It’s best to err on the side of overbaking when it comes to houses. Underbaked gingerbread can be softer and flimsier, and may not stand up as well when you build.
  9. Let your pieces cool completely before you begin to construct your house.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Nia Judelson
    Nia Judelson
  • Michelle Bui
    Michelle Bui
  • Erin Jeanne McDowell
    Erin Jeanne McDowell
  • mintmood
    mintmood
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, The Book on Pie, came out on November 10th, 2020, and my pie merch collaboration with Food52 is out now too: https://food52.com/shop/merchants/manifest-food52/food52-x-erin-mcdowell

9 Reviews

mintmood January 2, 2021
This recipe of Erins is perfect! I think those who wrote that the dough was so dry and crumbly just overfilled it with flour, because its always tricky to measure a flour by cups... Depends on how you do it - via spoon and level you will achieve around 125 g of flour and also if you will just deep measuring cup into bag with flour you can get around 150 g of it. In another articles of Erin i saw that she uses 125 g of flour per cup ( for 7 cups it will be 875 g of flour) - i tried it and the dough turned out great! It was soft (but not too soft), pliable and finale result was delish! I hope this note will be helpful for others =)
 
cupofpoodles December 8, 2020
So I definitely think this dough needs some more testing! I made it work, but with quick thinking!

At first, the dough was incredibly, incredibly crumbly and dry. I wrapped it up and chilled it and hoped for the best. When I took it out to roll it, it was very dry. I did come up with a few fixes that helped a ton and made this dough very easy to work with!

- You HAVE to roll the dough between parchment paper. There's no way around it. If you try to roll it on your countertop it will just crumble and eventually become a greasy mess. Do NOT use a non-stick mat to roll it with or bake it on! The best way for the dough to dry out and harden in the oven if it's on parchment directly on a metal sheet tray. A non-stick mat diffuses the heat too much and the dough won't be as sturdy.

- I spritzed the dough with water to moisten it. This helped a lot with its texture. If I make the dough again I might just up the molasses or add another egg and skip this. But this is a good trick for any dry dough.

- It's important that the dough is chilled, yes, but let it warm up a bit. Letting the shortening warm up is the only way that this dough becomes malleable enough to roll.
 
cupofpoodles December 8, 2020
So I definitely think this dough needs some more testing! I made it work, but with quick thinking!

At first, the dough was incredibly, incredibly crumbly and dry. I wrapped it up and chilled it and hoped for the best. When I took it out to roll it, it was very dry. I did come up with a few fixes that helped a ton and made this dough very easy to work with!

- You HAVE to roll the dough between parchment paper. There's no way around it. If you try to roll it on your countertop it will just crumble and eventually become a greasy mess. Do NOT use a non-stick mat to roll it with or bake it on! The best way for the dough to dry out and harden in the oven if it's on parchment directly on a metal sheet tray. A non-stick mat diffuses the heat too much and the dough won't be as sturdy.

- I spritzed the dough with water to moisten it. This helped a lot with its texture. If I make the dough again I might just up the molasses or add another egg and skip this. But this is a good trick for any dry dough.

- It's important that the dough is chilled, yes, but let it warm up a bit. Letting the shortening warm up is the only way that this dough becomes malleable enough to roll.
 
Michelle B. December 8, 2020
thank you so much for sharing! i just started making this, and the dough is so dry! :) i will try using water or molasses / egg to see if it gets better.
 
ctommerup November 22, 2020
This was a terrible recipe. My dough was super super crumbly. I googled a fix and added a bit of milk which made it come together in the mixing bowl but after chilled and rolled it just fell apart. I’ve searched other recipes and they use less flour and more molasses. Not sure why this was a fault but I haven’t ever had to throw something out and start again until this one.
 
AmyD November 14, 2020
This is the absolute best gingerbread house making recipe I have ever tried and I make one every year. If you ended up with a “dry mess” you didn’t follow the directions or left out an ingredient. I never leave reviews but this recipe worked so well I had to. Just something that helped me.. I pulled the house piece out of the oven one at a time. Threw them on the counter fast and I put the template back over them and trimmed the pieces again with a bread knife so my edges were very straight. You can’t do your whole tray at once or it’ll get cold and they’ll crack. Just real quick with a spatula grab them piece by piece. Also, I was in a hurry and I let my dough cool for just an hour in the fridge (still split it in 3 parts and covered with plastic wrap). Dough rolled out perfect. Couldn’t have been better!
 
Nia J. November 3, 2018
How long will the gingerbread house hold up, typically?
 
Lisa G. December 6, 2016
I love the fact that you have made a multi-family gingerbread house, and not the traditional single-family house. Way to go Food52!
BTW: how do you get the brick pattern on the dough? I want to replicate that.
 
Author Comment
Erin J. December 7, 2016
Stay tuned for an article later today that will talk about everything, including how to get that brick pattern!