We’ve had an Ikea Pepparkaka Hus Kit around the house for more than a few months, now. It’s one of those things that we got out around Christmas time, thinking, oh yeah, well, sure, we’ll get to that. And, of course, we never did…..So Bea and I decided that this January, we were going to make it into a bird feeder using peanut buter and bird seed.
A week or so ago, when the kids were taking a recovery day after some dental work, Bea and I tried to build the thing. It turned out to be a gong show. Instead of building our structure with something solid like sugar or royal icing, we tried to construct the whole thing with the peanut butter we were going to use to stick the birdseed to the house. It was a huge “crash and burn!” And, yet, it was one of our most delightful mornings EVER!!!! Bea got her fill of peanut butter. We started singing, “Pepparkaka, Pepparkaka Hus!” like a couple of crazies….Not to mention how much fun it was to watch squirrels dragging whole pieces of peanut butter and seed slathered gingerbread around the back yard in the snow….
Since then, of course, we’ve made improvements. With the Christmas season over, it’s been easy to find gingerbread house kits on sale at the grocery and other discount shops for just a dollar or so. [And I found an identical Ikea package in a bag of stocking stuffers that never made it out on Christmas day!] The only real difference between what Bea and I did the first time around and the “better way” is that one constructs the house using hot sugar [as the Ikea instructions call for] or royal icing BEFORE decorating it with peanut butter and seeds. We prefer the boiling sugar approach, in theory, as we think it’s likely just a bit safer for the birds. But royal icing is certainly more friendly for the smaller assistants….Just use fresh egg whites!
So, then, the better way….
1 Gingerbread House Kit
1 Batch Royal Icing [2 eggs, 2.5 c icing sugar, see below] or 3 cups white sugar for Boiled Sugar method [see below]
2-3 c natural smooth peanut butter
3-4 c birdseed appropriate for outdoor feeders/birds in your area
1. On a sheet of cardboard covered in foil or on the plastic tray that comes with the kit, construct your gingerbread bird house using either boiling sugar or royal icing.
For the boiling sugar method click here to see this great online tutorial.
Smaller Batch Royal Icing
2 oz fresh pasteurized egg whites [about 2 eggs’ worth]
2.5 c icing sugar
In large bowl of stand mixer beat egg whites until bubbly.
Add icing sugar gradually and mix on low until it is shiny.
Beat shiny mixture on high until it forms stiff, glossy peaks.
Place in piping bag and use immediately.
2. Allow the house to sit until the sugar cools or the icing firms up.
3. Heat the peanut butter just slightly in the microwave or in a pot on the stove so that it’s a bit thinner and easy to spread.
4. With an icing spatula or butter knife, spread a thin coat of peanut butter on the house, one section at a time.
5. Spoon or sprikle the birdseeds on the peanut-buttered house parts.
6. Use the back of a spoon, a butter knife, or a piece of cardboard to press the seeds into the peanut butter.
7. Set the finished feeder on a high perch outside and allow the birds to enjoy!!!