When Christmas is just around the corner, there is no better way to spend quality time with family and friends than getting together and creating a homemade gingerbread house to display during the holidays. Although many gingerbread house kits are available for purchase in specialty shops and grocery stores throughout the holiday season, gathering the ingredients and coming together to make your own gingerbread house from scratch is an excellent way to get into the holiday spirit.
To make the dough for your homemade gingerbread house, you will need six cups of all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, four teaspoons of ground cinnamon, four teaspoons of ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of allspice or ground cloves, 1 1/2 sticks of softened butter, 1 1/2 cups of packed brown sugar, two large eggs, one tablespoon of water and one cup of dark molasses.
Making the dough
Take the dry ingredients and whisk them together in a large bowl. Next, beat the butter and brown sugar on a medium speed using an electric mixer until the mixture is fluffy. Then, beat in the eggs, water and molasses until all of the ingredients are combined. Now, add half of the flour mixture to the molasses mixture, beating the ingredients together until they are smooth. Stir in the rest of the flour mixture and, using your hands or your mixer's dough hook, knead the dough until everything is well blended. Then, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least two hours.
Cutting out the pieces
When you are ready to roll out your dough and start creating your homemade gingerbread house, let the dough sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before rolling it flat. Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Then roll the dough onto a large piece of wax paper dusted with flour until the dough is approximately a quarter of an inch thick. Once your dough is rolled out to the appropriate thickness, sprinkle a little bit of flour onto the top and lightly spread it over the surface. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut out the pieces of dough that will form the sides and roof of your homemade gingerbread house. A variety of patterns are available online and can be printed and laid over the dough for easy cutting and to ensure the pieces are all uniform.
Baking the pieces
Transfer the cut-out pieces onto a greased cookie sheet using a wide spatula. Bake the gingerbread pieces until the edges have begun to darken, which is typically 11-15 minutes for large pieces and 6-8 minutes for smaller ones. For more even baking, rotate the cookie sheets halfway through the baking process. After removing the cookie sheets from the oven, place the pieces onto a cooling rack and let them cool for 15 minutes.
Making the icing
In order to make enough icing to use as mortar for your homemade gingerbread house as well as the decorations, you will need two large egg whites and 2 2/3 cups of powdered sugar, divided. Take the egg whites and 1 1/3 cups of powdered sugar and whisk them together until smooth. Then add the remaining powdered sugar to the mixture and beat the ingredients all together with an electric mixer on a high speed until the icing begins to form stiff peaks. If the icing doesn't hold stiff peaks, add more powdered sugar to the mixture.
Putting it all together
When your gingerbread pieces are baked and cooled properly and you are ready to begin assembling your homemade gingerbread house, place your icing into a pastry bag or create a makeshift pastry bag by cutting the tip off one corner of a Ziploc bag and filling it with the frosting. Begin the piping process by building your gingerbread house on a clean and cool cookie sheet so it can easily be moved once it is complete. Using your pastry bag, pipe a thick line of icing along the edges of the gingerbread pieces that will serve as the sides and base of the house and lightly press them against each other until they begin to hold together on their own when the icing is set. Be sure to pipe some extra icing along the outside of the seams for decoration and to add to the stability of the structure. Wait approximately one hour for the icing to set completely on the sides of the structure before adding the roof.
Decorating the gingerbread house
Once your homemade gingerbread house is able to stand on its own and the icing is set, use the remaining icing to create decorative designs on the structure. Then, dab bits of icing onto the roof and sides of the house. These will serve as a sort of glue to hold pieces of candy such as gum drops, red hots and candy canes onto the gingerbread house for decoration. Lightly press each piece of candy onto the house until the icing is set and the candy sticks without sliding down. Enjoy your homemade gingerbread house throughout the holiday season, and, once it's over, break it into bite size pieces and eat the tasty treat with family and friends!