Gingerbread cookie dough is very versatile and very forgiving, so you can use it in a variety of winter time treats. Gingerbread houses are always fun to make and display, and children love it. The decoration is up to you, you can be as elaborate or as minimalistic as you wish.
Few things are important to know when making a gingerbread house, especially for the first time. When you roll out the cookie dough, do not roll it out too thinly, because it will crumble and break. The dough will expand as it bakes and it will probably lose some of its shape, so make sure you have a sharp knife ready when it comes out of the oven, to tidy up the edges.
Have patience with your gingerbread house, and let pieces cool down completely before assembling it. Also, if you choose to do the decoration on some of the pieces before assembling the house, let the decorations dry up completely, because if not, it will smudge as soon as you press in to glue the piece. And finally, since the house is made out of cookie dough, it will be edible for a limited amount of time, so if you plan on serving it as a dessert, make sure you serve it within a week from making it. As a display piece, it will keep much longer.
For the gingerbread house
100 grams butter
100 grams brown sugar
4 tablespoons honey
250 grams all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
For the royal icing
2 medium egg whites
500 grams icing sugar
Melt the butter, sugar and honey in a pan over medium heat. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and spices, then make a little well in the centre, pour in the melted mixture and mix with a wooden spoon at first, then with your hands, until you form a stiff dough. If the dough is too crumbly, add a tablespoon of hot water to help it come together. The dough will be warm and pliable, so you need to flour your surface very lightly. Roll the dough out to under 5 millimetres thick (under ¼-inch), place the prepared template (click here to download the template) on the dough, cut out the sections and gently transfer them to a baking sheet lined with baking paper.
Repeat this with the remaining dough, by kneading together and rolling the scraps. There is enough dough to make two small houses (following the template). You need to have two front and back walls, four side walls and four roof panels. If you have any leftover dough, you can cut out a few extra house pieces, just in case some of them break, or cut it into Christmas trees or decorations for the house of your liking. Bake the house sections in a preheated oven, at 160˚C (320˚F), for 10-12 minutes, until firm and a little darker at the edges. Be careful not to overbake them. Let them cool for a minute, just to firm up, then place the template again on top of the sections and trim around the templates to make the edges sharp and easier glue together later. Let the baked sections cool completely on a wire rack, for at least few hours.
To make the royal icing, put the egg white in a large bowl, sift in about a third of the icing sugar and whisk it for about 10-15 seconds with a wire whisk. Sift in more of the icing sugar, and whisk in. At one point, it will get too difficult to stir with a wire whisk, so switch to a wooden spoon. Continue adding icing sugar through a sieve, and mixing it in. Repeat this until you have used up all of the icing sugar and the icing has become thick and smooth. Keep the bowl with the icing covered with a damp kitchen towel, because it will dry out very quickly. Spoon the icing into a piping bag with a medium tip or in a sturdy freezer bag (with one of the corners cut off). There is enough icing to glue together and decorate both houses.
Take a large cake board and pipe the icing generously along the wall edges, and carefully join the front and the back side with the side walls and with the cake board. Use cans or jars to support the walls from the inside and outside, and let them dry for a few hours. Once they have dried, remove the support and very carefully pipe the icing along the top edges of the front side and back side and put the roof panels on. You may need to hold them on firmly for a few minutes, until the icing starts to dry and they remain glued on. Place the cans (jars) again, underneath the roof panels; to help them stay in place, then let the whole house dry completely, undisturbed, overnight. Using the icing (make more the next day if you need it), stick candy on the house, dust the roof with icing sugar for a snowy effect and decorate the whole house to your liking. The gingerbread house will be edible for a week, but it will last longer as a display piece.