My kids like the Gingerbread House tradition at Christmas time, but, along with my husband, most of them don’t really like the taste of gingerbread. This puts a damper on the project, since we traditionally destroy and eat the house on New Year’s Eve. So my most enthusiastic and capable building child suggested that we try leaving out the ginger and putting in chocolate.
I had to adapt the recipe a bit to account for the cocoa powder, but it worked out quite well, and my husband loves the chocolate smell when he comes in the kitchen where the house is.
Chocolate “Ginger” Bread
1 1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 3/4 cups flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small pan, warm corn syrup, brown sugar, shortening, and cocoa powder over medium heat, stirring until smooth.
In a large bowl, combine flour and mixture from pan. I added a tablespoon or two of water to my later batches which made it much easier to mix and roll out on the pan, but required a minute more cooking and a longer time to harden (which was fine, but scared me at first!) Mix well until a still dough forms. Spray a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan generously with cooking spray and sprinkle with flour. Roll dough out evenly to cover the entire pan.
Bake about 11 minutes. I found much more time made it harden too quickly, and I didn’t have time to cut the house pattern out. After removing from oven, turn bread out on a cutting surface. I just put a roll cloth on the counter, and after allowing the bread to cool briefly, I placed the pattern on the bread and cut out the pieces. Then I let them cool and harden over night (though they didn’t need that long.)
We got our free pattern from ultimategingerbread.com, but I would recommend a smaller, simpler pattern than the town houses we did unless you’re experienced or have a lot of time. I made several batches to make all the pieces. In case you need a recipe for the frosting, which hardens into cement (so make sure you keep your frosting tips under a wet rag when you set them down), here is the one I use:
3 eggs whites
1 pound powdered sugar
1 tsp. cream of tartar
Whip all ingredients together for about 10 minutes (you need stiff peaks).
This is a fun project to do with kids that are eager to create it, but it is not quick. We enjoyed decorating the house throughout the week. I put the frosting bag with the frosting still in it with the tip tucked in a wet rag all in a sealed container in the fridge and got it out when we had a moment and another inspiration. The little ones can hardly believe we have to wait until New Year’s Eve to eat anything off of it, but I’m sure the wait will only make it sweeter! And dipping that crunchy chocolate “bread” in milk will be an extra treat this year.