Thank you everyone who has commented and emailed about the gingerbread houses. I have a recipe that I have used for years, for both gingerbread biscuits and the houses (below). I leave my gingerbread in the oven a little longer to dry out, giving a crisper biscuit. I also cook the gingerbread in advance and store in an airtight container, it does really last a long time this way.
My GINGERBREAD RECIPE is:
- 115g (4oz butter)
- 175g (6oz) brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons golden syrup
- 340g (12oz) plain flour
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 beaten egg
Put the butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan and stir them together over a low heat until they have melted.
Sift the flour, ground ginger and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl. Add the syrup/butter mixture and the beaten egg.
Mix everything together then knead it into a ball. Chill the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes.
If making biscuits: Roll the dough out on a floured board until it is about 1/2 cm thick. Cut shapes with biscuit cutters and lift the biscuits onto a baking tray. Bake for 10-15 minutes until they are golden brown. Lift them onto a wire rack to cool.
If making the gingerbread house: I use a cast aluminum mold to bake the side and roof pieces of the house. The mold can be seen HERE. Makes it very easy. If you don't have a mold, you bake large sheets of the gingerbread and cut to size.
ROYAL ICING (very important for sticking the house together, I've heard of people using melted marshmallows with not so good results, if you know what I mean ;-))
- 3 egg whites (at room temperature)
- 4 1/2 cups icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- pinch of salt
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar and salt. Beat on medium-high speed until mixture forms stiff peaks and is nearly triple the volume, about 7-8 minutes. (Fiona's note, we mixed as directed and did not increase the volume as mentioned, blame it on the weather - a humid Sydney day, whatever. This did not effect the performance of the royal icing at all.) Cover tightly with plastic wrap and store at room temperature. Before using, beat in water (medium speed) by tablespoons, until desired consistency is reached. This recipe gave enough icing to hold two houses together AND for all the decorating as well.
When assembling the houses, take your time. The icing did take a while to set hard and it is worth leaving it to set hard BEFORE starting the decorate. Assemble the sides first and leave to set, then add the roof pieces and leave to set. Adding the roof pieces too early will cause a house collapse (yes, personal experience, but we live and learn!)
Decorating is the fun part. Add the icing to areas of the house where you would like it to look like snow. Dip the lollies into the icing and add to the house.
AND HAVE FUN!!!