There are few better ways of embracing the Christmas spirit than by decorating a gingerbread house, so I now present you with a basic gingerbread recipe perfect for constructing your walls and roof. I am purposefully not including a plan or pattern for these, as half the fun comes from creating your own, but I do warn you against starting this project with less than an afternoon and evening free. If you choose to complete this project (as we did) over two sittings, I suggest baking and constructing the house in the first and decorating in the second, as this will give your icing mortar a chance to set and your house to solidify before the candy goes on.
Preheat your oven to 165ºC/325ºF.
What you’ll need
For the gingerbread
2/3 cup treacle (molasses for all North Americans present)
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into tbsp pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups all purpose flour
For the icing
2 egg whites
500g icing sugar
What to do
To begin, find a large saucepan and bring your treacle/molasses, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and cloves to a boil. Remove from the heat, stir in your baking soda and add the pieces of butter 3 at a time. Mix in the egg, salt and finally 3 3/4 cup flour.
After dusting the countertop, your hands and the rolling pin with your remaining 1/4 cup flour, knead the dough and roll out a manageable amount.
For your pattern, I suggest creating one on some paper and tracing the final product onto your rolled dough with a knife.
Transfer your building blocks to a greased baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. This is one recipe where I would err on the side of overdone as opposed to underdone, as otherwise you risk the possibility of structural instability (and, quite possibly, the fatalities of innocent gingerbread men, women and children). Allow a few minutes to cool on the sheet and transfer to a rack to complete the process.
Using electric beaters, mix your icing sugar and egg whites together until you’ve achieved a thick, smooth consistency. If you have a piping bag, this will be the perfect opportunity to break it out, but if not, a ziplock bag with a snipped corner is an ideal substitute.
Be sure to add a generous layer where your walls join the ground and each other, and don’t be afraid to support either the walls or the roof with whatever is to hand while the icing sets.
There are no rules. Full stop. So go crazy!