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Easy, inexpensive candy house project

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Kitchen Adventures food column by Becca Owsley

By Becca Owsley

Gingerbread houses are a staple in Christmas baking and decorating.

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The house does not always have to be made out of gingerbread though. They also can be built with graham crackers, a trick I learned in a home economics food class, back in the day.

First thing you need in making the house is construction materials. Graham crackers should be first on your list and next is a variety of candies to decorate the house. The candy part can be whatever you like. Finding colorful candies in different shapes makes a pretty house. Christmas colors can work, too.

I used gum drops, peppermints, candy canes, Mike and Ikes and Twizzlers.

Before constructing the house, I made a candy tray to put it on. This is my new favorite trick.

On a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, arrange peppermints in the shape and size of the tray you want to create. Bake in the oven for about eight minutes. When you take it out of the oven, it will be a solid sheet of candy. Let it cool before using.

Next, you have to make “caulking” to keep everything in place on the house. For this I made royal icing because it holds well and dries hard, making the gingerbread house stay together for a while.

Then you start constructing the house in any shape you desire. When I do it, I don’t just form the outside walls but I also put supporting walls on the inside so I know a second layer or roof will stay on well.

After putting the walls together, using the icing to connect the pieces, it’s time to decorate.

Decorating is only limited by your own imagination and creativity. It’s also the part of the process children can help with the most. They could grow frustrated with the building process if the walls start falling. But with decorating, they can go wild.

To attach candy to the house, use the royal icing as glue. As the icing hardens, the candy pieces stay put.

You also can sneak a few pieces of candy to taste while you’re putting the house together. Yum, Mike and Ikes are my favorite.

For an added touch, use a candy cane tree, which I found at the grocery story for $1, to create a bit of landscaping.

It takes a little while to construct, but is a fun Christmas activity for the family.

It’s also pretty inexpensive. All the materials together cost less than $10 and, really, there’s enough to make a couple houses if you want.

Mint Serving Tray

Mints

Cookie sheet

Parchment paper

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Place parchment paper on cookie sheet.

Arrange mints in any design you wish on top of the parchment paper on a cookie sheet, allowing extra room on the sides.

Bake for approximately 8-10 minutes.

Take out and allow to cool on cookie sheet (cools in approximately 5 minutes).

Carefully remove parchment paper from bottom because the tray is fragile and breaks easily.

SOURCE: www.tuttobellablog.com

ROYAL ICING

1 pound sifted confectioners' sugar or more as needed

1/2 cup egg whites (3 large egg whites)

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and combine. Scrape down sides. Turn the mixer to high and beat until thick and very white. The mixture will hold a peak. This should take at least 7-10 minutes.

When finished, cover with plastic wrap, making sure it touches the icing so a crust doesn't form. Royal icing dries out quickly, so make sure it is covered all the time, otherwise there will be lumps that won’t pass through an icing tip.

If you want something other than white, royal icing may be tinted by using a small amount of paste food color. For 1/4 cup tinted icing, dip the tip of a toothpick into desired color, then into the icing and stir well. Repeat until desired color is achieved. For strong colors, such as red, royal blue and dark purple, use 1/8 teaspoon color to 1/4 cup icing.

 Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com.