Although gingerbread houses have become associated with Christmas, they actually originated in the Grimm brothers’ tale of Hansel and Gretel so they’re entirely secular (they don’t even have pagan roots) and can be enjoyed by all.
If you’d like to make one in the festive season, here are some pointers:
- If you’re new to this particular construction industry, start with a very simple house design.
- Make a paper pattern before you begin cooking.
- Mix up a big batch of my favourite gingerbread dough (recipe 3 June), roll it out to a thickness of 3mm, cut out the shapes and bake them hard.
- You must use royal icing as the glue because it’s as strong as concrete. And you must use pure icing sugar to make royal icing: it doesn’t work with soft icing mixture.
- It’s easier to decorate the walls and roof before you assemble the pieces – and do let the icing dry overnight.
- Putting the walls together is difficult. It’s good if you can get lots of helpers to hold it all in place while you mortar the joints. I’ve also had success with resting the walls against food cans. Then leave it to set overnight.
- Add the roof the next day. (Again, helpers and cans are handy.)
My colleague Gemma mentioned that she’ll be playing indoor cricket tonight and it seems it’s not because she’s particularly interested in hitting balls in sheds but because she and her husband thought they might meet some fun people there. I refrained from remarking that the one thing you know for sure about their teammates is that they like indoor cricket and that doesn’t bode well but I’m glad I didn’t because Gemma went on to say that she’s looking forward to the team barbecue on the weekend. (I will continue to like Gemma even though I don’t like indoor cricket.)
 My cousin Linda made an out-of-season gingerbread replica of her newly built house for the housewarming party and she said it was a joy to be able to put it together without having to wait for plumbers and electricians.
 I had some left after I built my last gingerbread house and I was tempted to put it in the pothole at the top of my road.
 How many lollies will you need? This depends more on how many the cooks will eat as they go, rather than on the area of gingerbread you have to cover.
 If possible, position the cans so that you can get them out once the icing dries.