Carla Hall Shares Her Top Tips For Making Gingerbread At Home

We’re just a few short weeks from the holiday season, and celebrity chef Carla Hall is already getting into the spirit by sharing her top tips for making gingerbread. 

Before you head to the store to buy a pre-made kit, consider making your own gingerbread this year. “I feel like everyone is getting really into cooking and if you’re a person who likes cooking and crafts, this is the perfect outlet,” Hall said. “With the pandemic, things are slowing down a little bit and I feel such joy when I make something with my hands. A gingerbread house is like a jigsaw puzzle, but edible!”

Her top tip is giving your dough ample time to rest. This ensures your lines will be straight and precise, which is crucial in getting your pieces to fit together nicely. “There’s a lot of downtime in making gingerbread, and you can’t rush it,” Hall said. “It goes back to that idea of slowing down and letting things happen.” After making your dough, she recommends letting it rest in the fridge before rolling it out. 

After rolling out the chilled dough and cutting out your pieces, put them back in the fridge to rest once more before baking them in the oven. “The reason I know all this is because I rushed it and did not do it this way,” Hall said. “When you take the time to make a template, it’s only going to work if you actually rest the dough and let it get cold before going into the oven.”

Using guides on your rolling pin helps you achieve an even thickness on your pieces. They’re relatively inexpensive to buy if you don’t already have them on hand, and Hall notes that you can also use rubber bands as an alternative. “Just get rubber bands and try to make them even on both sides of the rolling pin,” she said.

In the oven, bake the dough between two sheet pans to keep your pieces flat. Placing a sheet of parchment paper on top of the cookies (below the top sheet pan) will prevent sticking. The goal here is not only to bake the cookies, but to dry them out. “Remember that this is a structure,” Hall said. “Yes, you can nibble on it, but you also need it to be strong.” To accomplish this, she recommends taking off the top sheet pan in the last few minutes of baking so that the cookies can dry out.

For even more baking tips from Hall, and to watch her actually make some gingerbread, check out Baking Spirits Bright, a three part gingerbread making series by The Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. She appears in the first episode along with fellow National Gingerbread House Competition judge and chef Geoff Blount. Their gingerbread basics class focuses on planning, baking and assembling the structure. The series costs $29 and a portion of the proceeds goes to the ACFEF Chef & Child Initiative.

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