One of my favorite things when I was about 12 was making this gingerbread village for the holidays. It was from the Southern Living cookbook, had two houses and a little church, and I’d make walls and a skating pond and generally took me a full day to construct. Gingerbread houses are generally not the tastiest cookies — in order to be structurally sound, they need to be rather hard and dry, and then you leave them out for a while, so they get stale. But they look so cool! I don’t know if we ever ate the village, given that I wouldn’t let anyone touch it.
Last year, I made gingerbread cookies for the first time in years — gluten-free. They were good, but softer than houses. This year, I was more ambitious, so I tried a few different recipes until I got one that seemed like it might be structurally sound. THIS IS NOT MY RECIPE. I just slightly altered one from Fork and Beans, and then I overbaked the cookies slightly. But I did design the houses, made a “safe” frosting for Denise, and decorate them. Denise made the gumdrops, and we made the marshmallows together. It was an incredible labor of great artistic merit, and we destroyed it all within two days. As an adult, yeah, it’s awesome to build houses out of cookies and candy, but they then need to be enjoyed. Who wastes all that good sugar?
First up, make the candy and stuff you want for decorating. See the posts linked above.
Second, make the cookies. HERE are your designs, or design your own. Or check out Pinterest, as I am willing to bet there are tons.
Vegan, Gluten-free Gingerbread Cookies, altered from Fork and Beans
- 1/2 cup vegan shortening (I used Spectrum)
- 2 1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (again, I point you back to Fork and Beans)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar (choose corn-free if you need to)
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1 chia egg (1 Tablespoon ground chia seeds mixed with 3 Tablespoons water, set aside to gel)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda (again, choose corn-free if you need to)
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Pre-heat the oven to 375ºF
Beat the shortening until soft and fluffy. Add half the flour.
Add the sugar, molasses, chia egg, baking soda, and spices and beat until combined.
Add the rest of the flour and beat well.
Divide the dough in two, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold. I just did it overnight.
Roll out the dough between two sheets of parchment paper until about 1/8-inch thick (or until it looks “thin enough” and you are sick of rolling. I am not patient). Put the rolled out dough on a cookie sheet and re-chill it in the fridge while you roll out the other ball. Then trade them out for cutting.
Using the patterns linked — or using your own — cut out the right number of pieces. Believe me, double-check your count! Try to space these out so that you don’t need to move them again. Peel the excess dough from around them — ball this up and re-chill it. (This is my favorite thing about gluten-free dough — you can’t really overwork it, as there is no gluten to get tough!)
Leaving the cookies on the parchment (and I’d suggest you use the parchment, not silicone sheets, as I don’t really advise cutting on those), on the baking sheet, bake for 15 minutes, or until pretty firm. Remember, these are now architectural building blocks you’re making. Drag the parchment to a wire rack and cool the cookies completely.
- 1/4 cup shortening (butter, lard, Crisco, whatever you want. We used lard that Denise rendered, as that is safe for her)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2-4 cups powdered sugar (again, be safe — Trader Joe’s powdered sugar uses tapioca starch, not corn, so I used that)
Beat shortening until creamy and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat more. Gradually add the powdered sugar. Depending on the temperature and your choice of shortening, you may need more or less powdered sugar. Remember, this is mortar. You want this to be stiff frosting. So I’d suggest more, not less, powdered sugar. (Tip: If you’re using Earth Balance soy-free, add a large pinch of xanthan gum or you will not have a room-temp stable mortar.)
Load this into a pastry bag or frosting gun and assemble your houses.
Tips for assembly — the A-frame is kind of hard to put together! Lay one roof piece down and frost both triangular walls onto it. Then add the other (put the frosting on the wall pieces), and then flip it upright. That seems to work okay.
With the modern shed roof, lay the tall wall flat. Add both end walls to that, then add the shorter “front” wall. Stand up your roofless house, and then add frosting all along the roofline before putting the roof on.
Now? Decorate with whatever you want. Use more frosting.
Share your masterpieces with people you like. And hey, if you make these, share a photo or two with us, too. We’d love to see what you come up with.