How To Prep Melted Sugar For Mess-Free Gingerbread Houses

Making gingerbread houses around the holidays is a time-honored tradition. When successful, they are fun to put together, beautiful to look at, and tasty to nibble on. When unsuccessful, you end up with nothing more than a pile of Christmas cookie rubble. A big part of the issue revolves around the glue that holds your gingerbread walls together.

Royal icing — a mixture of powdered sugar, water, and egg whites or meringue powder — is the go-to gingerbread house mortar. The problem is that it does not harden quickly enough, so even when you have attempted to shore up the walls of the gingerbread house, sometimes the whole thing comes crashing down. Melted sugar on the other hand hardens nearly instantly and essentially creates a hard candy bind between the pieces of the house. It rapidly solidifies, and you don't have to deal with the mess of icing oozing out of every seam.

How to prep the melted sugar is as simple as turning on the stove. You will need granulated sugar and a heavy-bottomed pan. Turn the burner on very low and stir regularly with a heat-resistant spatula or spoon as the sugar begins to melt and darken in color. It should take five to 10 minutes to completely liquify, depending on the amount of sugar and surface area of the pan. Then, dip whichever piece you want to glue into the melted sugar and hold firmly against the other. It should be solidly stuck within a matter of seconds.

Tips for using melted sugar in the construction

While making gingerbread houses is a great activity for the whole family, dipping the gingerbread pieces into the melted sugar should be reserved for an adult. Melted sugar is very hot, and if it gets onto your skin, it can stick and cause a potentially severe burn. To be on the extra safe side, wear a pair of cotton gloves followed by a pair of nitrile gloves.

When using melted sugar to attach two gingerbread pieces, it's better to have a less is more approach. The edge of the cookie should be evenly coated, but not have so much on it so that it squishes out when you press the two pieces together. It's also a good idea to trim the sides of your building pieces so they fit together and are flush, which helps to create structural integrity in your construction project. Use a sharp knife or microplane tool to do so. Finally, save icings and frostings for decorating, and opt for melted sugar when it comes to building and affixing.