Whimsical Haunted Gingerbread House
Throughout the Santa Ynez Valley there’s a strong sense of harvest during the month of October. Our local apple orchards host hundreds of school children who pile out of their yellow busses to snag a juicy gem straight from the tree. Exhausted vintners can be spied around town, marked by their crimson stained hands and tired eyes. A drive along Alamo Pintado Road is accented by flaming orange pumpkins set against rich green corn stalks. If you venture into town, you’ll be greeted by creative scarecrows guarding local shops. Solvang and Los Olivos feature a Scarecrow building contests and proprietors fiercely compete for the blue ribbon. It’s a glorious time to visit. The days are warm, and nights are crisp and cool.
Halloween is the Santa Ynez Valley is likely strikingly similar to when you were a child. Little ghouls, Luke Skywalkers, princesses, and firefighters stream through neighborhoods squeaking out, “Trick-or-treat!” Most of our neighborhoods are still small and friendly. Parents are often invited in for a quick respite…a respite that might include a quaff of one of our lovely local wines. Invariably, someone hosts a family Halloween party…and thank goodness…we’re able to get a bowl of chili into a costumed tummy before the onslaught of sugary goodies start pouring in.
Halloween decorating is always fun…boundless thematic options allow creativity to run wild…
We love to assemble our Halloween Haunted Gingerbread Houses. They’re colorful and kooky; adorned with pumpkins and bug-eyed bats, and ghosts, and crooked windows. Our greatest challenge is to stop. It’s too much fun to keep playing with them!
Another fun family activity is decorating cookies with the kids. We’ve put together a Halloween Cookie Decorating Kit that’s perfect for shipping to faraway grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or for school or at-home Halloween parties.
We found a fabulous little cookie cutter for making GingerDEAD Men. It cuts out a conventional gingerbread man shape, but the back side is for imprinting a skeleton onto the dough. Whip up some royal icing, and voila, a GingerDead man is born (…not sure a dead man is born…). We are selling and shipping these devilish little guys, but we’re also selling the cookie cutter for your own Do-It-Yourself (DIY) fun. Find GingerDead Cookie Cutters here.
Of course you can always just use your own traditional gingerbread man cookie cutter at home and create your own anatomy. Susan shows you how to do both in our video How to Decorate Halloween GingerDead Men – click here. You can find this cookie cutter and others on Amazon (click on the photo).
Oh, and here’s our recipe for gingerbread cookies in case you need one. Chef Maili (Melissa’s sister and Susan’s daughter, wrote this up…you can find the original post and lots of other great recipes and cooking tips here.) Remember, you’ll need to roll your dough a little extra thick if you’re using the GingerDead Cookie Cutter (it’s deep), and you’ll want to set the temperature a little lower so that you can cook them a little longer.
The Solvang Bakery Gingerbread Cookies Recipe
Use royal icing to decorate them. We have a simple video on how to make and use royal icing – click here. You can buy powdered egg whites if you are concerned with using raw egg whites. Be aware that royal icing will harden when exposed to air so be sure to keep it in piping bags in plastic or in some kind of airtight container until you use it.
Unbleached Flour, 5 cups
Baking Soda, 1/2 teaspoon
Ground Ginger, 6 teaspoons
Ground Cinnamon, 4 teaspoons
Ground Cloves, 3/4 teaspoon, optional
Freshly Grated Nutmeg, 1 teaspoon, optional
Ground Allspice, 1 teaspoon
Salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons
Unsalted Butter, 2 sticks (1 cup)
Dark Brown Sugar, 1/2 cup firmly packed (light brown sugar can be substituted)
Granulated Sugar, 1/2 cup
Unsulfured Molasses, 1 cup
1. Have butter softened and at room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a bowl combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until fluffy and pale yellow. (About five minutes at medium-high speed.) Add the dark brown and granulated sugar and beat for 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low and add the molasses, beating until well combined. Add the egg and beat until well combined.
4. Add the flour and spice mixture about 1 cup at a time. Beat in each addition before you add more. Scrape down sides of bowl with spatula if necessary.
5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into four sections and mold them into thick disks (flatted ball of dough.) Wrap each disk of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to 3 days.
6. Roll cookies out with a rolling pin to desired thickness. Dip cookie cutter in flour and cut out the cookies. Use a spatula to transfer cookies to the baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake in a 350 oven for 8-10 minutes. (Check your oven. You may want to bake for 12 minutes but they truly taste better when not overbaked.) Transfer to cooling racks. Decorate after cookies have cooled.