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We made some pretty good windows for our gingerbread house this year, by putting crushed boiled sweets (hard candy) in the cut holes for the last few minutes of baking.

But since then they've absorbed enough moisture (at least I assume that's what happened) to run and in some cases collapse.

melting gingerbread house windows

We've had some unusually cold weather recently, followed by a thaw and damp weather, so the humidity indoors has got quite high (especially at night when the heating is off). This probably hasn't helped. I have a dehumidifier, but cooking steam followed by cold nights can get a bit much for it. Currently the relative humidity is about 65%, and the windows feel slightly tacky. The way the windows look like they're crying indicates deliquescence, which requires over 85% RH at 15°C - possible if the temperature fell overnight after steamy cooking.

Gingerbread house Here's the whole house - under-decorated in my opinion, but I'm not in charge of decoration. This is after applying melted coconut oil to the bottom left and top right panes, and all 4 lower right panes (see WillK's answer)

The appearance of these windows was just what we were going for, but is there a way to make them last longer if indoor humidity can get quite high? Ideally this would be a vegetarian (no gelatine) change to the ingredients, or something in the process of making it.

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  • 1
    BTW there are lights inside, but they're LEDs so not a noticeable source of heat
    – Chris H
    Dec 21, 2022 at 16:46
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    That is a brilliant idea! Maybe I'll be able to try that next year. Dec 22, 2022 at 9:55
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    Can we see a picture of the entire house?
    – Some Guy
    Dec 22, 2022 at 22:29

4 Answers 4

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Coconut oil?

Give them a smear. You might need to take them out and bake off the moisture they have absorbed, then let them cool. Coconut oil will be solid at winter room temperature. It will serve as a moisture barrier for your sugar windows.

An alternative to coconut oil would be Chapstick or some similar lip balm. You can get it in minty flavors which would smell nice for people who were closely inspecting the house.

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  • That might be a good plan next year. If I had some (or ghee) I'd try it on one pane now, but only on the outside as I can't get at the inside anyway
    – Chris H
    Dec 21, 2022 at 16:45
  • Outside might be enough to get you thru the season. You must have something. Butter? Vaseline would work great.
    – Willk
    Dec 21, 2022 at 17:27
  • Vaseline might stop any more from collapsing in the next few days. Vegetable suet is mostly palm oil, with some flour but maybe clear enough
    – Chris H
    Dec 21, 2022 at 18:07
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    @ChrisH If you have kids (as seems likely) maybe try to convince them to run some experiments. Cooking up another set of windows seems like a small price to pay (and you can make the rest of the batch into fresh cookies, so there's that). Dec 23, 2022 at 14:45
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    Accepted: it seemed to help applied to the outside, but some I treated still failed. It should be better treating the inside as well. Note also that if you melt it too hot it runs down - I melted a small amount in a bowl in a cooling oven before brushing it on and it flowed a bit too much.
    – Chris H
    Jan 3, 2023 at 10:27
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Do you intend on eating the house?

If not, then any number of clear varnish products exist. A convenient application would be by spray-can on all exterior surfaces, and it would "seal" to the board underneath with overspray.

Clearly, the result will not be edible and should be disposed. It won't even be suitable for composting or bird-feeding.

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    Yes, I do plan on eating it (even if the texture is past its best, gingerbread is good dipped in hot chocolate).
    – Chris H
    Dec 22, 2022 at 9:37
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Isomalt is a sugar substitute commonly used in cake decorating as it responds better to humidity than sugar. It's clear when heated, but you can add food colouring for a stained-glass effect.

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Store it in a case with a bunch of desiccant packets (like this cute kids science fair project on preserving cotton candy). Depending on how much time you want to view your gingerbread house it could be a nice glass display case or just a box set over the top.

You could potentially use (uncooked) rice as a cheap, food-safe desiccant but jury is a bit out on that one.

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  • I've got plenty of desiccant, including some big containers with built-in heaters (otherwise you can refresh it in the oven). Small desiccant packets are used in contact with food (e.g. gummy dietary supplements); it's non-toxic even though inedible and wouldn't need to be in direct contact. A box over it when it's not on show sounds good.
    – Chris H
    Dec 22, 2022 at 9:35
  • I wonder if just leaving the dessicant inside would be sufficient ? Have to close the door too (were you born in a tent?? :)
    – Criggie
    Dec 22, 2022 at 18:01
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    @Criggie I'm pretty sure not, even if the humidity inside the gingerbread house is low they will still melt from the outside. Dec 22, 2022 at 18:40
  • I agree, the outside humidity needs to be managed. The tacky outer faces of intact panes demonstrate that. Still, next year I'll definitely put some inside - a dish of little sachets, dried in the oven. The construction icing will give off some moisture as it hardens.
    – Chris H
    Dec 23, 2022 at 13:40

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