Now we get down to the nuts and bolts of a gingerbread house. And speaking of nuts, used as walkway or a chimney, many look really neat--especially walnuts and pecans.
The Recipe I use:
6 cups all-purpose flour 1 cup shortening, melted and slightly cooled
1 tbs baking soda 1 cup molasses (black strap or baking is fine)
1 tbs ground ginger 1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp ground cloves 1/2 cup water
1 tbs ground cinnamon 1 large egg
1 tsp nutmeg 1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
Mix flour, baking soda, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together. Set aside. In separate bowl, beat shortening, molasses, sugar, water, egg, and vanilla with an electric mixer until well blended. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Dough will be soft. Divide into fourths. Pat each section into a round 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours or up to one week, or freeze for up to one month. Preheat oven to 350° F. Have cookie sheets ready. On lightly floured surface, with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out 1 section of dough at a time to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut with gingerbread house cutters you have purchased, or make paper patterns and use them as guides. Transfer to ungreased cookie sheets. Place 1 inch apart and bake 10-15 minutes until fingertip no longer leaves an indentation in cookie. Remove sheet from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Remove cookies from sheet to cool on wire rack.
*if you are making individual cookies (good recipe) the baking time is shorter and you should remove them from the oven while the centers are still somewhat soft to touch.
The "glue" you use to hold the house parts together is called "Royal Icing". It dries like concrete...well, almost like concrete. You should allow the houses to stand for at least two hours after assembly for the icing to dry. After that, they can be moved, decorated, and carried home by their owners, without breaking.
There is a meringue powder on the market, available at cake and candy making stores. Or you can order it from Wilton. I think that some Wal-Marts carry Wilton products too. There is also a Pasteurized Egg White product that grocery stores (and Sam's Club) sell in their dairy case--in cardboard cartons. And, last I will share what I have used in the past. Egg whites. Here is the disclaimer: There is a risk when using raw egg products.
If you choose to use the pasteurized whites in a carton, it has been my experience that a scant half cup of whites will equal the 3 egg whites called for in the recipe. If you use the meringue powder, there is quite likely a recipe for royal icing included. If there is not, just mix the powder with water to equal 3 egg whites--following package directions.
Equivalent of 3 egg whites from large eggs
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 lb confectioners sugar
In large bowl beat egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy. Gradually add sugar. Beat 5-7 minutes until glossy and stiff peaks form when lifting beaters. Makes 2 1/2 cups of icing. When not actually working with the icing, keep covered with a tight fitting lid or a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out. Icing may be stored, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. If separation occurs, beat with a spoon to blend again. If icing is too thin, add water, 1/2 teaspoon at atime and blend to check for consitency.
Remember, you want a stiff icing to hold the house parts together.
I will post in the near future, a series of photos showing how best to assemble the houses. One person can do it--no one needed to prop up walls or roof :-)
Cookie cutter sources:
The Kitchen Conservancy sells a couple different three piece sets. The sizes are very similar to what I use. The three pieces are: roof, sides, ends. There is not a floor--and it is really not necessary. I glue my houses right to the small disposable foam trays or plates they will be decorated on. There is enough room for a small yard for a snowman and a tree or two.
The Fox Run set is pretty popular and very nice--10 pieces. But, if you are doing many houses, keep in mind that it makes a BIG house.
And Amazon is usually a good place to search "gingerbread house cookie cutters".