Making a Low Protein Gingerbread House
By Peggy Lunt, New Castle, Delaware
Here is the recipe I use for making gingerbread houses for my two grandchildren with PKU, Rebecca and Stephen, and the instructions for putting them together. These are not really hard to make at all, but it will feel very awkward the first time you try to put one together. I make multiple houses each year, and usually put all the finished houses on my dining room table to dry overnight. Sure makes for a pretty sight and the children love them!
I have been making gingerbread houses for quite awhile, but this year, I decided to make one for each of my grandchildren. I have 5 grandchildren, and my two with PKU had never had gingerbread. I wasn't sure if they would like the flavor, but I knew they liked Virginia Schuett's recipe for Fudge Circles (from Low Protein Cookery for PKU) because I had made ice cream sandwiches for them using that recipe. So I decided to make their houses out of the dough for the Fudge Circles found in the cookbook on page 354-55. They turned out great. If you wish, you can also use Virginia Schuett's recipe for gingerbread instead of the chocolate that I used. To make the gingerbread recipe delete the water and vanilla and add 1/4 Cup Dark Molasses, 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon and 3/4 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of Ginger.
I do not know how much phe is in each house as it would depend on how much dough you used and the candies that you use. Truthfully, the children don't eat that much at any given time for us to worry about it.
Fudge Circles1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/3 cup softened margarine or butter
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 pkg. (4 oz serving size) Vanilla Jell-O Instant Pudding and Pie Filling Mix
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup water
2 cups (220 gm) Wel-Plan Baking Mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon Hershey's Unsweetened cocoa (not instant)
In a medium mixing bowl, cream shortening and margarine with sugars. Add pudding mix and vanilla and mix well. Gradually add water, mixing well. Stir together the Baking Mix and salt; add to the creamed mixture, mixing until thoroughly combined. Dough will be quite stiff. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or put in the freezer for 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
I think I made 2 batches of the dough for each house, but I made so many that day, I am not positive. Grease (Pam spray will do) a cookie sheet and your hands also. I used a 14 X 12 inch cookie sheet. Gently roll or press the dough to fill the cookie sheet. It can be any thickness but I make mine about 1/4 inch thick. My rolling pin doesn't work well in a cookie sheet, so I sprayed a plastic glass (to prevent sticking) and used that to roll the dough evenly on the cookie sheet.
My husband is a school teacher, so we have plenty of manila folders in the house. He draws the pieces for the house on the folders and cuts them out for me. You can make the pieces any size you want so you can have a very small house our a very large one (see the diagram). We only need 3 pieces for our design. You will need a front and a back, 2 sides and 2 pieces for the roof.
I just cut out each piece twice for one complete house. After you have placed the pattern on the dough, use a sharp knife to outline the pattern onto the dough. On the piece that is the front/back. cut a small doorway in one of the two pieces. On the ends, you may cut a design for a window. Do not remove any of the dough from the cookie sheet. The indentation will remain when it is finished baking, and you can cut it out while the dough is still warm. If you cut it out in advance, the edges sometimes burn. DO NOT let the dough totally cool before you remove the excess dough or doors and windows or you will not be able to remove it without breaking the piece. It usually takes two trays to make one house, depending on the size of your house.
I found that I had to bake the dough longer than when I make the recipe as cookies. It took about 12 minutes instead of the 6 to 8 minutes for the cookies. Keep an eye on it after 8 minutes have passed and if it appears to be overbaking, remove from the oven. These chocolate pieces turned out to be the same color as the ones that were real gingerbread and even I could not tell which one was which, so I had to be sure and keep them in separate areas of the table where I laid them.
Now you need to make your icing or "glue" as we call it. We use the recipe for Royal Icing which gets very hard when dry and works just great. It does contain egg whites. For our grandkids, when they wanted to eat some of the gingerbread house, we would just break off any significant chunks of icing before giving it to them. For pieces with just a small amount of icing, the phe content will be insignificant and we didn't count it.
3 egg whites (room temperature)
With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy, then add the cream of tartar. Slowly add the powdered sugar until well mixed. Beat at high speed after well mixed for about 8 to 10 minutes. The icing should be very stiff and leave peaks when you pull the beaters out of the mixture.
Put the mixture in a decorating bag with a large star shaped tip (or any tip you prefer). Put the remaining mixture in the fridge to keep it cold while you are using the mixture in the bag. Refill the bag as needed, then return any leftover icing to the fridge.
Ideas for the Base of the House
You can use any kind of a base you like. We usually cut the sides off a case of soda box. Any cardboard base will do, but you do need a material that is sturdy. You can also buy cardboard bases for cakes at any cake decorating supply store. You want to be sure and try and center your house on the base. Sometimes I cover my base for the house with aluminum foil (before adding the house) but this time, I spread the royal icing over the base after I put the house together and sprinkled a little granulated sugar on it. After I assemble the house on the base, I usually make a fence around the house. Sometimes I attach gumdrops to the base with the icing to form the fence or small pretzels can be used to make the fence, but these are harder to keep in place than the gumdrops. This year I bought some of the gumdrops that looked like green trees and used them on each corner of the base. This year I found some pre-made decorations for cakes or cupcakes that I used. I had small Christmas wreaths for each window and a few other different Christmas type decorations. I even found small Santas to put on each one.
To assemble the house
1. Take a side of the house, and run a line of icing along the bottom and on one side. Place this on your base and hold it in place while you icing the bottom and one side of the back of the house. It helps if you have someone hold the piece for you, but sometimes, I put it in place and then put a heavy glass in back of it so it doesn't fall over while I am icing the next piece.
2. Put the two pieces together and press lightly. Continue to do this until the front, back, and two sides are assembled together. Then, run a line of icing inside the house at each seam and along the base. Allow this to harden slightly before you add the pieces for the roof. Add icing in a line along the top of all the pieces and gently press the pieces for the roof on top.
3. After the basic house is assembled, add a seam of icing to the sides (use a slight waving motion to make it prettier) and across the seam in the roof. I add the icing one seam at a time and decorate each seam with candy before I go on to the next seam. You may use any candy you like to decorate. I usually stand up life savers on the seam on the roof and put M & M's on the seams on the side and base of the house. To decorate the roof, I put a dot of icing wherever I want to add a candy. Place your candy on the dot of icing and press gently. I like to use Necco Wafers to make the tiles on the roof, but you can use many things including mini shredded wheat pieces. I also add M & M's pieces to all sides of the house, but again, any candy you want may be used.
Once your house is decorated, do not move it until the icing is totally hardened (overnight is best).
Last update: 11/03
National PKU News: www.pkunews.org