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From: VSAUER@delphi.com Virginia B. Sauer Grahmam Cracker Cottages Here are very simple directions for miniature gingerbread houses made from graham crackers. They can easily be adapted to "witches cottages" for Halloween, and are very popular Christmas gifts (either completed or as kits), and adapt well for projects to make with children. Directions for the latter are included at the end. These are also useful for anyone aspiring to make "standard" gingerbread houses, since they provide the opportunity to see which types of materials you, yourself, prefer for the roof, shutters, et cetera. (Should you eventually graduate to making standard houses, it is particularly nice to make your own patterns replicating your own home or that of the recipients, including their names on the mailbox, a penlight flashlight for lighting, et cetera.) I hope that this helps, and that the directions are clear despite the obvious limitations of straight Ascii characters. GRAHAM CRACKER COTTAGES With respect to materials, "anything goes", and your selection depends upon your budget, personal preferences, and availability. The following list is merely an example, so that the cottages can easily be made by anyone (including children). Nevertheless, many of these can be omitted if you pipe your own icing figures with a decorating tube, or mold them from marzipan, fondant, gum paste, and/or mashed potato candy. (Likewise, rathe than purchasing everything suggested, soft candies can also be reshaped into other creations.) Although some people add plastic decorations, purists concur that all segments of a gingerbread house must be edible. INGREDIENTS NEEDED: 4 1/2 Nabisco cinnamon coated honey graham cracker "doubled squares" (The sugar adds glitter, but other brands have so much that the icing does not always adhere) 1 (1 pound) box powdered sugar, unsifted * 3 tablespoons meringue powder (Wilton makes this; you can buy it at Walmarts, etc.) * 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar * 1/2 cup hot tap water Clear edible glitter (if available) * This amount will yield enough icing to make at least 4 graham cracker cottages ***************************************************** **** The next ingredients are optional; select **** **** according to availability/preference/budget **** ***************************************************** Roof: e. g., overlapping Necco wafers, chocolate nonpareils, mini frosted shredded wheat wafers, Pastel mint lentils, etc. Chimney: e. g., Hershey's kiss (in wrapper), with the little paper tag for smoke. -or- Red licorice Nibs, sliced to look like bricks (Coat the chimney sides with white icing, and "brick" the chimney.) Windows: e. g., Chex or Quaker Lite cereal, or a tan sugar wafer scored and cut to size Shutters: e. g., Andes mints or colored sticks of gum, cut to size Door: e. g., brown sugar wafers Doorknob: e. g., silver dragees or cinnamon red hots Wreath: ring-shaped green gumdrop (or, regular gumdrop sliced in half, with a hole poked through, molded into a wreath shape) trimmed with silver dragees, red hots, etc. -or- disc-shaped rock candy or licorice with attractive picture/ design in the center Bushes: e. g., Mini gumdrops -and/or- If using a pastry bag, use a star tip with green icing, and simply make little piles of icing. If desired, decorate with green sugar & Red Hots. Path: e. g., M&Ms, rock candy (that resembles stones), foil-covered chocolate coins, etc. Trees: e. g., Spearmint leaves, and/or Mini lollipops (especially tree-shaped), with the sticks clipped Pillars: place a mini candy cane, curved end up, at each corner of the house (both for decoration and to add support) Snowman: 3 mini marshmallows, 1 thin pretzel stick, and 1 black gumdrop (one marshmallow placed over the other, pretzel stick "arms" above that, the third marshmallow on top, and a black gumdrop molded into a hat on the top of the head Gingerbread Family: e. g., male and female gingerbread people (e. g., Nabisco's gingerbread grahams) -or- Pepperidge Farm Ginger Man cookies (a little too big, or nonetheless cute) or homemade gingerbread cookies cut with very tiny cutters Santa Foil-wrapped mini chocolate Santa (optional) Characters: e. g., Teddy grahams, Chocolate babies, and/or Gummi bears Decorations: e. g., silver dragees, multi- colored sprinkles, and cinnamon red hots (preferably heart shaped) for top of roof and, if desired, between roof tiles Decorator Icing: If not tinting the frosting, purchase one tube of red decorator gel and one of green from the supermarket's baking section PROCEDURE: The crackers come packaged two together. For each cottage, leave one that way for the base. --------------- | | | Base | | | --------------- Cut each of the others in half, leaving two squares. -------- -------- -------- | | | | | | | | | | | | 3 crackers, -------- -------- -------- each cut in half to make 4 -------- -------- -------- house sides and | | | | | | 2 roof sides | | | | | | -------- -------- -------- Using a small serrated knife, cut one cracker in half diagonally, leaving two equalateral triangles: ------- | / | | / | ------- Pour sugar, meringue powder, and cream of tartar into glass or metal (_NOT_ plastic_) mixing bowl. Stir with fork until combined. Using electric mixer set at low speed, beat until all lumps are gone (3 - 4 minutes). Set speed at very high and continue beating until very stiff peaks form when beaters are lifted (8 minutes). Note: If you do not have an electric mixer, it is advisable to have help mixing this as it will be very stiff. This icing is preferable to royal icing because it is very strong and will help preserve any gingerbread house for many years. Cover bowl with plastic to protect the icing not in use. (Leftover icing can be refrigerated and rebeaten before using.) Make a box out of four graham cracker halves "glued" together with icing: Using a cake decorating tube, knife, or spatula, spread some icing on one side of a cracker. Stand upright, iced-side-down, sugared side outward, about 1/3 from the end of one sugared side of the "double" cracker: --------------- | : | | | : | | --------------- Spread icing on three sides of a second cracker. Stand adjacent to the first cracker, sugared side out, with one icing-coated side on the bottom double cracker, one icing-coated side against the first cracker, and one icing-coated side exposed (i. e., two sides of the house, touching each other): ---====-------- | : | | | : | | ---====-------- Spread icing on one side of a third cracker. Place, sugared side out, icing side down, with one un-iced side against the icing on the second cracker, forming three sides of a square. Spread icing on three sides of the fourth cracker. Place, sugared side outward, icing side down, with one iced side against the sides of the two exposed crackers, forming a square. Let dry. (The "exposed" parts of the bottom cracker are the front and back yards.) Using either tinted frosting or tubes of red and green decorating gel, decorate the gingerbread characters (e. g., green eyes and cuffs, and a red mouth and buttons). Let dry. Spread icing on the base of one of the two cracker triangles you cut: press firmly, sugared side out, iced side down, onto the top of the cracker on either the front or the back of the "house" to form the attic or peaks of the roof --------- / \ \ / \ \ ------------- | | | ------------- Repeat with the other triangle, pressing it firmly onto the cracker on the other side of the house. Let dry. Spread icing on the tops of each gable in order to hold the roof. Spread icing on three sides of a cracker; press, sugared side out, over one side of the triangle, forming one side of the roof. / // \ // \ // \ / ------------- | | | | ------------- If the house is to be a tree ornament, attach a hanger, letting the ends hang just beneath where the roof will meet in the middle. Repeat with another cracker on the other side of the triangle, so that the complete roof is in place (Although the roof should meet in the middle, small gaps can later be filled in with frosting and decorated.) /\ // \\ // \\ // \\ / ------------- \ | | | | ------------- This should form the cottage. Set it aside to dry overnight to ensure that the frosting has set. If available, use decorator tube to pipe icing neatly around all "seams" where crackers are joined. (If you do not have a decorator tube, a knife can be used.) Let dry. Spread icing onto exposed front and back "yards". Swirl it with a spatula to simulate snow. (If desired, use spatula to make some overhanging icicles.) Sprinkle with edible glitter to make the snow appear to be shining in the in the sunshine. Use icing to attach all desired materials (unless creating your own by piping colored icing from decorator tubes). Attach windows (such as Quaker Lite, Chex cereal, or tan sugar wafer cut to size) on each side of house. Place a shutter (such as Andes mints) at each side of each window. Place a door (such as a chocolate sugar wafer) at the front of the house. Spread icing across bottom edge of roof. Using either 3 Necco wafers (alternating colors), 3 chocolate nonpareils, or 3 mini frosted shredded wheat, place row across bottom edge of roof, overlapping to hide bottom edge -UUU- Let dry, then spread icing across roof above (and on tops of the roof material you just placed) and repeat with another layer, overlapping the slices over those in the first layer. Let dry. Keep repeating this until the entire roof is covered with your chosen roofing material. Stand cinnamon red hot hearts across the very center top of the roof, where the two crackers are joined. Let dry. Glue a silver dragee to the door for a doorknob. If making a wreath, slice a green mini gumdrop in half. Poke a hole through it (to simulate a wreath) and attach above the door. Add a cinnamon red hot and let dry. (Otherwise, substitute a piece of disc-shaped rock candy or licorice with attractive picture/ design in the center.) Attach spearmint leaf "trees", mini gumdrop "bushes", mini lollipop "trees" around the front, back, and sides of the house for landscaping. Attach a gingerbread character to the front door of the house. (If making as a gift, dip a toothpick into icing to write the recipients' names on them.) If using a foil-wrapped mini Santa, attach it alongside the back door of the house. Attach a foil-wrapped Hershey's kiss to the top of the roof for the chimney (with the paper "smoke" blowing out). Attach gummi bears, chocolate babies, Teddy grahams, etc. around the house. Spread icing on one marshmallow. Place another on top. Spread with icing; place a small piece of a chocolate reception stick across it to simulate arms. Spread with icing and top with last marshmallow. Spread with icing and top with piece of black mini gumdrop. Place in yard for snowman. Add any other touches, decorations, or materials desired. ****************** FINISHING TOUCHES ****************** Particularly if this is intended for a gift, it is especially nice to incorporate the recipients' names - e. g., by dipping a toothpick in icing and writing their names on the gingerbread characters, or writing a personal greeting on a heart-shaped lollipop "bush" ********* VARIATIONS (INCORPORATING MUSIC BOX) ********* To "gild the lily", incorporate an electronic touchtone music box. To avoid risking having the crackers crushed by overzealous music lovers, this should be used as a pedestal. Spread icing on the sides of the music box. Spread icing across the base of the music box. Attach to the center of the double cracker beneath the graham cracker house. Let dry. Invert graham cracker house and spread frosting all over graham cracker base (so that cracker is entirely hidden and music box appears to be surrounded by "snow"). Let dry. (This will simultaneously strengthen the graham cracker base and protect the music box.) ********************** GIFT KITS ********************** These can also be made into gift kits, which could be further enhanced by including a few inexpensive cake decorating pastry bags and tips ********************** PRESERVING ********************** Since many family traditions allow children to eat gingerbread houses after the holidays, do _NOT_ preserve it unless absolutely certain that it will not be eaten. If the house is to be preserved from one year to the next: * If possible, spray candies with clear polyurethane varnish before using them (to test whether or not they will become discolored after spraying, which may occur with some types of candies.) * Spray the cottage with clear polyurethane varnish. * If giving as a gift, _MAKE_ _SURE_ to mark that it cannot be eaten. * Tightly seal in plastic bags * Store in a cool, dry place (but do not freeze or refrigerate ************** MAKING WITH SMALL CHILDREN ************** This can also be a project for young children. In this instance, it is advisable to use small (8-ounce) milk cartons: * Wash out; set aside to dry. * Cut off the top edge, leaving a slanted "roof" without the extra projection. * Tape the top closed. * Beginning at the bottom, cut the carton's sides until it is the same size as a whole graham cracker. * Spread one side of the carton with icing. Gently press a graham cracker into the icing. Repeat with the other three graham crackers, covering the other three sides of the carton. * In the same manner, spread the carton's "roof" with icing, then cover with graham crackers, leaving a small overhang. ***************** MAKING WITH GROUPS ***************** This can be great fun to make with groups, whether adults, scouts, or children's parties. If possible (and, especially with children), have everything cut, measured out and on paper plates alongside the person's place. Copyright 1994 Virginia B. Sauer ---