one of the more popular search strings in my referrer logs is gingerbread houses. i figure the least i can do is provide you with the recipe i've used before. this makes one house, about 6 by 8 inches. (note: this does not mean i'll be writing up entries for the other search strings. like peanut butter porn. what is up with *that*?) have fun with this recipe - it's easy to make, and lots of fun to decorate.
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 cup molasses
2 eggs, beaten
6 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 egg whites
2/3 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 pound box confectioner's sugar
In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add the molasses; then blend in the beaten eggs, one at a time. Add spices and salt to half the flour; blend and combine with butter mixture. Add baking soda to remainder of flour; blend and add to butter mixture. Knead lightly. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes up to one day before shaping. Chilled dough is less sticky, so easier to work with. If the dough becomes too soft while you're working with it, pop it back in the fridge for 10 or 15 minutes.You'll need to create templates to cut out the pieces. Use light cardboard and cover them in plastic wrap. For the side walls, cut out a 5 by 8 inch rectangle. For the roof sections, cut out a 7 by 11 inch rectangle. For the gable ends, cut a template with a 5 inch base, 5 inch sides, and a peak that adds 4 inches, so the center line measures 9 inches tall.
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 12 by 18 inch jelly roll pan or line with parchment paper. Flour a cutting board. Turn out dough onto board and roll dough very evenly to 1/4 inch thick. Lay pattern pieces on dough and cut out shapes; a paring knife or pizza cutter works well. Make sure to cut out two of each piece. Lift carefully with spatula and place on pan, leaving space between pieces. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces, or until firm to the touch. If you have any left over dough, roll it out and cut cookies (little gingerboys or gingergirls to go with the house, maybe?). These will only need to bake 8 minutes or so. Let the pieces cool several hours or overnight. You'll most likely need to trim the edges of the pieces to even them up a bit once they're cool. A serrated knife works well for this. Use the templates as a guideline, and work gently.
Optional: To create stained glass windows, crush several hard candies and place into paper cupcake cups. Bake in 350° oven until candy melts; watch carefully. Set aside to harden. When hard, pop window out of cup and glue inside of window opening with icing before adding the roof sections.
For icing: Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and powdered sugar until mixture is smooth and very stiff, about 7 minutes. Keep covered with plastic wrap at all times. A little water can be added to make the proper consistency. If desired, divide icing into small batches and tint with food coloring.
Now for the assembly. For the base, cover a thick piece of cardboard with foil. Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip, pipe icing down one short side and along the bottom of a side wall. Place it on the base and use a can or jar to prop the wall in position. Apply icing in the same manner to a gabled end, and attach that short end to the inside edge of the side wall. Reposition the cans or jars for support. Repeat with the other wall and gable end, and let the house sit for 15 to 30 minutes to let icing partially dry.
Try out the roof pieces to see how they fit, and trim if necessary. Pipe icing along the top edges of the house on one side and position a roof piece. Hold in place for a few minutes to start to set. Repeat with other roof piece.
At this point, you can pipe additional icing along the seams of the house, and use icing to create snow around the base. Let the house sit for an hour or so to harden before decorating - and save some icing for that.
Anything can be used for decorations. Marshmallows, cookies, hard candies, gumdrops, gummy bears, ribbon candy along the peak of the roof - stick them in place with plenty of icing. An upside down ice cream cone can be used to create a 'tree' in the yard. Pretzels are useful for making fences or outlining windows. Necco Wafers make nifty roof tiles. Use your imagination! When you're done, you can dust your completed creation with confectioner's sugar or sugar crystals for sparkle.