Just like last year, this year I again had the chance to team up with the Santa Loves STEM campaign by The Institution of Engineering and Technology. We made white clay Christmas tree decorations last year. And this year we chose the gingerbread house making activity – but of course, we made it vegan!
About Santa Loves STEM
The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has a webpage dedicated to festive STEM activities for children. It is part of the IET Education’s Santa Loves STEM Workshop that seeks to help inspire the next generation to pursue science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) careers. This free online hub is packed full of inspiring ideas for families to do with children in the lead up to and over the festive holiday season. Children can join Santa and his helpers to make, create, imagine, and discover this Christmas. Activities include fun craft ideas, recipes, hands-on experiments, and resources, which provide STEM inspired learning through play.
The range of activities are extensive: from festive baking with marshmallow snowballs, to writing a poem to Santa. There are even experiments designed with climate change in mind, like helping Santa examine how heat passes through animals who need to insulate. The page also offers ideas on affordable and recycled STEM toys. From electric dough experiments to snow globe making, there is an array of ideas to suit 4–13-year-olds.
Vegan Gingerbread House Recipe and Tutorial
Now, to be transparent, we had to have two goes with this activity as the first batch didn’t turn out quite well. But it was still edible, so hey-ho – we just ate all the first batch. The second, we didn’t use as much spices so it became lighter in colour and we didn’t burn it.
We used the recipe from the IET’s site but we added 50% more of all of them (and we swapped the butter for Flora vegan butter and for the second batch we used light muscovado):
- 525g plain flour
- 263g margarine or vegan butter
- 225g dark muscovado sugar
- 6 tbs of golden syrup
- 1.5 tsp ground ginger
- 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- Pinch of salt
- 1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
For the sugar paste to glue the parts together, you will need icing sugar (about 500g). Make sure you mix it quite thick to hold the house together. Sift the sugar into a bowl and keep adding a very small amount of water until you get the right consistency.
For the decoration you can use anything sweet and small, use the sugar paste to stick them on:
- sugar sprinkles
- mini star shapes made with the leftover dough (this bakes VERY quickly!)
- jelly beans
- chocolate buttons
- mini shortbread biscuits
Here’s the template for the house: gingerbread-house-template
- sift dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl
- melt the margarine and mix together with the sugar and golden syrup in a pan over low heat until they are fully combined into a smooth mixture
- add it to your mixing bowl and start kneading until your dough ball is formed
- place the dough into the fridge for at least 40-60 minutes (use an airtight container and avoid single use cling film
- meanwhile, cut the house wall and roof parts out of paper
- pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius
- take the dough ball out of the fridge, and with a rolling pin, roll it out into 0.5mm tick so you can cut the shapes using the paper template, use a sharp knife to make the edges straight
- place them into the oven for 10 minutes – keep checking so they don’t burn. When they are ready, let them cool and start having fun with the assembling: use a spatula or an icing bag to spread the icing down the edge of each wall to stick them together
My tips when making gingerbread house
- If you are wondering do the biscuits look ready or not – they are! They need to be soft to the touch when coming out of the over, as they will firm up after cooling
- Cutting the shape needs to be done precisely, otherwise the sides won’t join properly, and there aren’t enough sugar paste in the world to hold even the slightly misshaped parts together
- Make them thin. Under a centimetre thick, because if they are too heavy, they will not hold together (like the roof will slide off)
- You can double up the spice quantities (ginger, mixed spice and cinnamon) – the biscuits are tastier in my view and the colour of them will be darker