Tell me if you’ve ever heard this one: “Mommy, Mommy, I need a Christmas present for my teacher and tomorrow’s the last day before vacation!” Or another good one, “Hey, Dad, I need to bring something Christmasy for Pack Meeting tonight and it needs to rock!” Oh, oh, my favorite, “Sweetie, I drew the office manager’s name in our gift drawing at work and it’s tomorrow; any ideas?”
“How did I become activities director?!,” I sometimes want to shout. Look, ya’ll, I’m just trying to shower and brush my teeth every day; I’d love to help you out with really crafty, fabo ideas but you’ll need to do a mom swap for that. I’m a bare essentials kinda gal. Besides, we do as much of our Christmas as we can homemade so I’m always a bit overwhelmed by it all by around, where are we?, six days before Christmas. Enter the Gingerbread Christmas Tree.
Every year, the first week of December we host our annual Gingerbread House Making Party where we invite friends over with their assembled gingerbread houses and some bags of candy to share; I make the frosting glue and we all share our candy decorations around and have a blast. Some years our house is more of a shack (like made from graham crackers and it’s not pretty), other years we make a soft gingerbread in our gingerbread house mold. Most years, though, my engineering husband builds really nice, sturdy houses that the kids decorate to their hearts content. Time was we used commercial powdered sugar and conventional candy; these days we powder our own organic cane sugar and buy our loot from the Natural Candy Store (FYI, the rock candy totally rocks!). You may not be able to see it but we also used hazelnut, pistachios and dried apples. I don’t have much to do with these endeavors except to facilitate them because I don’t measure, I’m not precise and I’m not too concerned if my gingerbread house leans a bit.
I’d much rather make a gingerbread tree if I need something fun for a Christmas gift, treat or decoration. I need to warn you type two/blue people out there; this post will most likely irritate you. I like this project because I can wing it, bang it out fast because I don’t have to measure much and I can slap it together quickly. Feel free to make a plan, get out your ruler and be exact (and I think that’s awesome and I’m glad you’re in the world), but that just ain’t my style.
First, find a gingerbread recipe that you like; it needs to be one that will harden. If you like to eat it (and I do) try this recipe; if you really aren’t interested in eating it yourself but want a nice gingerbread for your backyard chickens, this one will do. Plan to make your dough a good six hours before you need to assemble the tree because it needs to fully cool.
Visualize two rectangles within the one you’ve just rolled out, the length of which should reflect however tall you want your tree to be. Cut out the rectangles, try to make them the same length and width, with a pizza cutter. Then, cut a diagonal line from one corner to the other in each rectangle; move all excess dough out of the way and place your now 4 triangles on a baking sheet.
If you roll out your dough onto a silicone baking sheet, then you can just slide the sheet and it’s contents onto your cookie pan; just be sure to put a 1/2″ spacing between each triangle so they don’t stick together. If they do, you can separate them with your pizza cutter when they come out of the oven without too much effort but why borrow trouble? If you do your cutting on a baking sheet, be sure not to press too hard because you can cut through the silicone.
Bake and remove from the oven to cool. Right when it comes out of the oven, use that pizza cutter to trim up any ragged edges. They don’t have to be perfect, just mostly straight. You’ll need to let the gingerbread completely cool – do NOT try to put this together when it’s warm or it will just crumble. I usually bake the gingerbread the night before I need to assemble the structure; mostly so I don’t have to worry about it all at once! (FYI, this dough was kind of dry but it was still sturdy.)
Now it’s time to make a tree. Use a hot glue gun for best results. Don’t freak out; if you are going to eat the thing, just don’t eat anything that isn’t edible. You’re a highly intelligent person and I trust you not to eat glue. If you don’t want to use the glue, you can use the royal icing that you will use to affix the candy decorations.
Put glue on the bottom and sides of a triangle and then do the same to another triangle; stand them together to form one large triangle. Hold them a moment or two while the glue cools down and hardens.
Once the glue has cooled and hardened, make the royal icing. Follow the instructions for your recipe precisely (even I measure for this one) because you don’t want the icing either too wet or too dry. Remember, if you want a healthier option than commercial powdered sugar, just use organic cane sugar, powdered in your high powered blender or food processor – you’ll need the high speed and sharp blades of something like a Viatmix. If you don’t own one, ask your neighbor who does.Decorate it any way you please – the internet has oodles of ideas.
The tree we made this year was for our violin teacher of nearly four years who is going off to college and we’re all so sad. I let the kids have free reign decorating this and we bought conventional candy because we did this last minute and I was out of our healthier stuff.
We also ended up making a one dimensional train for my nephew who has a birthday in December. I hadn’t planned on it when I made baked the tree parts but we managed to create a sweet little train out of the remnants.
There’s something Christmas magical about these gingerbread structures. I don’t know what it is, but building them and enjoying them during the season is like visiting the Kingdom of the Sugar Plum Queen. I love them all. BUT, if you need faster, easier and simpler, try the Christmas tree.
For instructions on building a Gingerbread House go visit Mom Prepare’s post on them – groovy. If you’d like another House recipe, this one with a natural sweetener, here’s this one from My Humble Kitchen. If you just want yummy, soft, warm gingerbread cookies go visit Wilderness Wife for this recipe.
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