Gingerbread houses are a classic Christmas tradition. Our Chocolate Gingerbread House starts with Chocolate Springerle Cookie dough and features Nestlé candies.
My daughter, Becky, has a December birthday. When she was little, we always tried to have a craft as part of her party. Sometimes it was just a little girl theme but often we did something for the holidays. We made gingerbread cookies one year. Each child got a small rolling pin and cookie cutter to take home along with their cookies.
One of my more crazy ideas was making gingerbread houses from graham crackers. What could go wrong with single mom helping a bunch of elementary-aged kids assemble houses out of graham crackers, candy and copious amounts of frosting? There were a few that actually looked like houses and the kids had fun.
I was thinking of doing a chocolate twist on the traditional gingerbread house when Nestlé contacted me about doing a gingerbread house post. They have some great new candies that work so well with chocolate! Nestlé sent me Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups Minis, SweeTARTS soft and chewy ropes, SweeTARTS mini chewy, frosty nerds and Pixy Stix candy canes to decorate my chocolate gingerbread house.
Of course I had to sample. The filling in the Butterfinger peanut butter cups minis is a mixture of peanut butter and crunchy Butterfinger bits. These festive red and green foil-wrapped goodies are ideal for gingerbread houses, stocking stuffers, candy dishes and baking. I used these for the path and Christmas tree. If you made a sleigh out of the candy canes, the Butterfinger peanut butter cups minis would be great presents. There’s a recipe for truffles on the back of the package that I’m definitely making if there are any left. I think they’d be great in muddy buddies too!
SweeTARTS Soft & Chewy Ropes treat candy lovers to a soft, chewy, cherry-flavored licorice rope packed with a tart punch-flavored center. If you cut them in half lengthwise, you get a two-toned effect which is absolutely lovely. I twisted mine together to make the garland for my Christmas tree. SweeTARTS Soft & Chewy Ropes have a gift tag printed directly on the package. I don’t know about your kids, but writing names on candy packages sure cut down on conflicts in our house. Even better, both SweeTARTS Soft & Chewy Ropes and Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups Minis contain no artificial flavors and colors.
The SweeTARTS mini chewy candies taste like SweeTARTS from my childhood but they’re chewy and round – perfect for making and decorating trees on my house. I also used them for my roof.
My kids’ favorite are the frosty nerds. I had to hide them – seriously. I love how you can use the different sizes for different parts of the gingerbread house. I surrounded my windows with larger ones and used the tiny ones for reindeer eyes, Rudolf’s nose and decorations on the back door. They’d also make fun sugar cookie decorations.
Lastly, there are the pixy stix candy canes. These are tart candy canes filled with pixy stix powder. Genius if you ask me. The powder does not leak out when you break the candy canes but it adds great flavor and brings back memories and sharing with my grade school friends.
I started with our chocolate Springerle cookie dough. One batch makes “just” enough dough for the chocolate gingerbread house pieces so if you want to be on the safe side, made an extra half batch. You can use the extra to make some cookies. I used Martha Stewart’s Swedish Gingerbread House template. In addition to the template pieces, you also need two 6.5 x 7.5 inch pieces for the roof.
I put pan-sized sheets of parchment on my work surface and rolled my dough to 3/8″ thick. I cut my pieces out on the parchment leaving enough space between them for baking. Then I put the whole parchment sheet in my baking pan and baked at 375°F for 15 minutes. I also cooled them on the pan to dry them out a little. Drier cookies are more sturdy for gingerbread houses.
I decorated my chocolate gingerbread house sides before putting the house together. It’s so much easier to decorate on a flat surface. I know a lot of people have issues with raw eggs so I opted for store bought gel, buttercream, and chocolate ganache to hold things together.
Now here’s where I have issues with Martha Stewart. Her caramel directions are way off and reheating caramel is likely to burn it. I made mine in two batches to minimize “reheating.” I made my first batch in a small pan and poured “windows” on a silpat mat. I made a second batch in a large stainless frying pan with a flat bottom and used that for assembling the chocolate gingerbread house.
If you make caramel in a large pan so you can dip pieces in (that works well), then you REALLY have to watch it because it darkens (burns) quickly. As soon as it turns light amber watch carefully. I turned my heat off when mine was light caramel colored and let the heat in my pan darken it a little more. I dipped the house sides into the caramel and held them together to construct the bottom of my house. I did the same with the chimney. I used a pastry brush to paint caramel in two strips on back of my roof pieces before placing them on top of the house (Martha’s roof method does not work). I brushed more on the roof ridge to further stabilize the roof. If you need to reheat your caramel, use the LOWEST setting and watch it carefully.
The rest of the decorations on my chocolate gingerbread house are made with chocolate ganache and candy. I spooned white chocolate ganache on the roof and let it slide down to get a snowy look. The ganache stays soft for quite a while and it’s very forgiving so even young children can decorate the roof. I used chocolate ganache to hold my trees together. I made a cone shape with the cooled ganache and then pressed the candies into it.
Dark Chocolate Ganache
White Chocolate Ganache
Small Sweetart Mini Chewy tree
Large Butterfinger peanut butter cup minis tree