When I was small I used to love making things for my family at Christmas (homemade gifts and yummy sweets). One of the festive creations I remember making was a Christmas candle made from half a polly waffle (a cylindrical Australian chocolate bar filled with marshmallow) stuck into a pastry tart filled with more marshmallow and a licorice handle, and a red and orange painted blanched almond stuck in the top for a flame. I was very proud of them!
I often imagined being a mum and having so much fun being creative with my kids at Christmas, so I’m absolutely loving that this Christmas Nicholas is old enough to really get involved and for us to start some family Christmas traditions. And his enthusiasm for all things ‘Christmassy’ is very catching!
Making a gingerbread house is a lovely traditional activity for the whole family. You can make a big one all together or a village of smaller ones with everyone decorating their own.
We decided to make one small one, that we could decorate easily and also eat before we go to Italy for our Christmas holidays. I used the template from this gingerbread house recipe from the BCC’s Good Food site which was the perfect size (the finished house is about 16cm high, 11cm wide and 12cm long). The extended roof is very cute although it did make it extremely difficult to decorate the sides of the house. Using my gingerbread recipe, we had enough dough to make the house as well as about a dozen Christmas tree biscuits.
I like to roll the dough on a piece of baking paper to avoid sticking to my kitchen work top and a piece of plastic wrap on the top (less cleaning and washing up!). We rolled the dough to a thickness of about 5mm. Keeping the plastic wrap on top, we laid the template pieces on top and used the back of a knife to lightly score around them. Taking away the plastic wrap, we then used a sharp knife and a small cutting board to cut out the pieces. We baked our pieces immediately which meant they did puff a little and the edges weren’t completely straight anymore. If you want your pieces to be as precise as possible, put them in the fridge for about 15 minutes and then trim away any bits that have expanded before baking.
Sticking the pieces together can be a bit tricky. You can stick them together with a stiff icing, but you often have to patiently hold the pieces together for quite some time while the icing sets. Some people also use melted sugar as it sets quickly, but it’s very very hot so not the safest option for children. We used melted white chocolate. I melted about 40g of it in the microwave in a small bowl then left it for a few minutes to cool and get tacky rather than runny. You can then spread it on with a knife similar to spreading cement on bricks!
We let the house ‘settle’ overnight so it was completely stable before we decorated it. Then we let Nicholas go to town! And I had fun making a snowman and Christmas tree.
If you’re munchkins are small, put the sweets in individual bowls beforehand so they can easily see and choose the sweets they want. We used small tubes of ready-made icing to stick the sweets on with; they’re easy for little hands to use on their own. Nicholas loved choosing each sweet, adding the “glue” and attaching, then got papà to hold them while the icing dried.
We admired our creation for a day, then demolished it! When I asked Nicholas what the best bit of making the gingerbread house was, he replied, ‘Eating it, mummy!’
What are your family Christmas traditions?