The Scandinavian tradition

One of my favorite Christmas traditions brought with me from Norway is making gingerbread cookies and a gingerbread house. We have been doing this every year since my oldest son was born (he is now almost 20, so feel free to do the math of how many houses I’ve made through the years:) On my sons birthday (just before Christmas) he and the other kids get to crush the house and eat it. It’s a very popular birthday tradition and his parties are locally famous for this one thing.

This recipe is my favorite because not only are the cookies super delicious, the dough is LARGE and you’ll have enough dough to make both a house AND cookies. Be warned! This food has ALL of the calories, lots of sugar, and fat and kids LOVE them!

My daughter, Lotte, is the perfect assistant for making these cookies and it’s a lovely tradition with the added benefit of being creative while spending some valuable time together.

If you feel like baking, but would rather try something easier, check out this fantastic recipe for German Cinnamon stars. You only need 5 ingredients and they’re super easy to make (and eat;))

Also, check out my recipe for Scandinavian St. Lucia saffron buns that are traditionally made on Dec. 13th. You can read all about the tradition and its origin in the blog post.

The recipe

Ingredients

3 dl light syrup or molasses
450 g sugar
450 g butter
3 dl cream
1,5 ts ground cloves
1,5 ts ground ginger
1,5 ts ground pepper
6 ts ground cinnamon
3 ts baking powder
1-1,2 kg flour

Instructions

1) Melt molasses, sugar, and butter in a saucepan over low heat. Mix until sugar is melted. Let it cool down for a few minutes. Add cream and spices and mix well.

2) Add flour (including the baking powder) bit by bit. I prefer using a food processor for this as the dough is big. If your saucepan is big enough to take all the ingredients and you feel strong enough to do it by hand, that’s fine too. Stop adding flour when the dough feels like it slips the bowl (or saucepan if you’re mixing it all in the saucepan). Divide the dough into smaller portions (3 or 4), and wrap the dough portions in plastic wrap. Leave it in the fridge for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

3) Roll out dough and cut shapes with cookie cutters. If you’ve left the dough in the fridge overnight, leave the dough at room temperature for about 10-15 min. or it will be too hard to work with. If you’re making a gingerbread house, start with cutting out the biggest pieces. All the leftover dough can be used for cookies. See my favorite easy gingerbread house shapes (cut-outs) below. I draw them on paper first, cut them out, and use them as a template (cut around the template with a knife. You can make the house as big or as small as you like, but if it’s your first time making a gingerbread house, keep it simple.

4) Bake at 200 degrees c (about 350 F), 6 – 8 min. Cookies should be light brown.

 

How to assemble the gingerbread house

1) When the cookies are fully cooled and hard, you can assemble the house with melted sugar. Add sugar to a pan on medium to high heat and melt sugar until it’s liquid and light brown. Don’t walk away from it, it burns easily. Once it’s melted, set the heat on a low temperature and get ready to assemble. Be careful! The sugar is super hot and will turn hard very fast, so you have to work fast. Don’t let kids do this part, it’s so easy to get burned. Assemble one piece at a time, let it stick properly before moving on to the next piece. Don’t worry though, sugar glues and sticks within seconds, so no need to wait long. If you have never done this before, I advise you to watch this video about how to melt sugar.

2) Once all the pieces are glued and you have a house, you can start decorating with icing (4 dl confectioner’s sugar and 1 egg white) and sweets. You add the icing with a piping bag and use it as glue for the sweets.

 

Tip 1: you could decorate the sides (not the roof) of the house before assembling the pieces with sugar as it’s a bit complicated to decorate vertically. If you prefer to do this, you’ll have to plan for an extra day. You’ll decorate the sides first and let them dry overnight (the icing has to be fully dried and hard before you can start to work with them, otherwise all the decorating effort will have been in vain. Be extra careful when working with the hot and melted sugar, so your design doesn’t get ruined.

Tip 2: You can use icing to glue the house together instead of melted sugar, but keep in mind that icing takes much longer to dry and stick properly, so you’d have to assembly the house and let dry overnight before continuing the decorating.

 

Here is some inspiration to get you going

I hope you try this recipe out and have some fun with it. Please let me know how it goes. Good luck and “God appetitt!”