My kids actually did the decorating for this house. I just supervised the baking portion. It made a great holiday activity for us to all enjoy together. The recipe I used came from Reader’s Digest, but I have a few tips and tricks for making sure you don’t screw it up and have a gingerbread fail the way I did the first time.
1 cup shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark molasses
1/4 cup water
6 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
Beat the shortening on high with an electric mixer in a large mixing bowl. As an aside, I love my Kitchenaid mixer. It is so fantastic. Add sugar, molasses and water. You CAN’T use brown sugar rather than white sugar and molasses. The molasses adds moisture that you need for the dough. I tried it the other way and experienced massive gingerbread fail. Turn the mixer down to the medium setting and add the flour, ginger, cinnamon and salt. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it for 1 hour.
Divide the dough in half and roll it out on top of a greased cookie sheet or a silpat with a floured rolling pin. If your cookie sheet has sides, it will make it harder to get a thin cookie. This is why I rolled mine out on top of my silpat, cut out the pieces, pulled up the dough in between the pieces and laid the silpat on the cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes (in my oven 18 was just right) and cool on the baking sheet for an additional 10 minutes. Slide the cookies off with a spatula onto a cooling rack. Repeat this process with the rest of the dough. We made not only the pieces for the house, but also a gingerbread man, woman, several trees, a couple of bushes and snowman with cookie cutters. We baked the extra dough into more Christmas trees and cut those in half and glued them to the back of the other cookies with icing so the other trees, snowman and gingerbread man and woman could stand up.
3 large egg whites
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
16 oz confectioner’s sugar (about 4 1/2 cups)
Separate the yolks from the egg whites and put the egg whites into the mixing bowl. Let the egg whites stand for 30 minutes at room temperature. My kids were totally fascinated by the process of separating eggs and were enamored of the egg separator. They asked me repeatedly what “the spoon with the holes in it” was for.
Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and beat them together until they are frothy. Add the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time and keep beating the icing until it is stiff. Cover the icing and refrigerate it until you are ready to use it to assemble and decorate the gingerbread house.
We assembled our gingerbread house on my smallest cookie sheet, which never gets used to bake cookies. We used the first batch of icing to assemble and shore up the support on the house and the characters that went with it. I made a second batch which we separated into 5 sandwich baggies and added food coloring to each. The kids mixed them until the color was the same throughout the bag and we cut a teeny tiny hole in the corner to push the icing through. When I say teeny tiny, I mean the smallest hole you possibly can make in the corner. That way you push it through slowly and a small line of frosting comes out. If you push it through fast, a larger line of icing comes out. It gives you more control.