I like a gingerbread that has a crunch at the edge but is still a little bit chewy and soft in the centre and I think this recipe achieves that. Everyone has their own preference for how spicy they like their gingerbread - do adjust the amount of ground ginger and other spices accordingly, the all-spice is responsible for most of the heat - you have been warned!
Sides of house: 3 inches high x 5 inches wide
Front and back of house: 5 and 1/2 inches wide x 6 and 1/2 inches high (at highest point - then cut diagonally down to 3 inches high)
Roof pieces: 6 inches wide x 6 inches high
Extra pieces for the Christmas trees
- Chill the dough well before and after rolling out. Chilling the dough for so long may seem excessive but it really does help in preventing the gingerbread spreading too much once it hits the heat of the oven, and the better it keeps its shape the easier it will be to construct your house later on.
- Make sure you don't roll the gingerbread out too thinly, it will be too fragile when you come to construct it. Using wooden cake dowels (about 1/4 of an inch works well) as you roll out the dough helps keep the pieces even.
- A pizza wheel is a really handy tool for getting straight edges when cutting out your gingerbread pieces.
- Once you have baked the gingerbread pieces, trim them as soon as they are out of the oven - they will have spread a little so lay your templates on top of each piece and use a sharp knife to get your straight edges back.
- Try to give yourself time to leave the gingerbread to harden overnight, it will be less fragile if it hardens up before you put it all together.
- Royal icing is the best 'glue'. I use meri-white (dried egg white powder) mixed with icing sugar, but you can buy royal icing powder from most supermarkets that you simply mix with water. You need a stiff consistency to ensure it fixes the pieces together well.
- Decorate each piece of the house before you contruct it, and give any piped decorative icing time to dry first.
- Your house will need a solid base - a cake card or drum works well, and these can now be found in most supermarkets. You can leave it as it is (often gold or silver coloured), or you can use 300g of sugar paste to cover it first - white gives the effect of snow.
(The quantities here will give you enough gingerbread to make a house and a couple of trees. If you want to make more trees or extra gingerbread characters, increase the quantities accordingly)
400g plain flour
3 tspns ground ginger
2 tspns ground cinnamon
1 tspn ground all-spice
1/2 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn salt
140g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g light muscavado sugar
100g dark muscavado sugar
100g golden syrup
1 tspn vanilla extract
Boiled sweets (for windows)
200g royal icing
Sweets to decorate
300g sugar paste icing (if using) to cover cake drum
1) Combine the flour, spices, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.
2) Beat the butter until soft, then add the sugars and beat again. Keep mixing until light and fluffy then add the egg and briefly mix again..
3) Add the golden syrup and vanilla extract and mix on a low speed until combined.
4) Sift all the dry ingredients you weighed out earlier and fold into the wet ingredients.
5) Your dough should be soft but not sticky, if it is sticky add a bit more flour until the consistency is right.
6) Wrap the dough in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 2 hours (or if you want to cheat, the freezer for 30 minutes then the fridge for 30 minutes).
7) Cover your worksurface with one sheet of baking paper and dust lightly with flour. Unwrap the dough from the clingfilm and place on the baking paper with another sheet of baking paper on top.
8) Roll out the dough between the two sheets of baking paper (using cake dowels if you have them as described above) to about 1/4 inch thick then remove the top layer of baking paper and cut out your pieces using your templates.
9) Lift the gingerbread pieces on the baking paper onto baking sheets and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
10) Take your boiled sweets and using a pestle and mortar crush until they are a coarse dust, set aside.
11) Take your baking sheets from the fridge and bake the gingerbread in the oven at 180 degrees celcius for 7-8 minutes. Take out of oven and fill the holes where you have created windows with the crushed boiled sweets. Return the trays to the oven for a further 3-4 minutes until the gingerbread is firm and just beginning to go golden at the edges.
12) Remove from the oven and leave the gingerbread on the baking sheets for 20 minutes before transferring to cooling racks to cool completely. Store overnight in an air tight container.
1) If you are planning any piped royal icing, do this first and allow to dry flat. If you are attaching any sweets to the roof as tiles do this now too - I used chocolate buttons but any sweets of the right size will do, or you could even use flaked almonds.
2) Using a piping bag with the end snipped off (or use a piping nozzle) pipe the royal icing along the base of the back and front of the house and the two sides. Also pipe icing along the edges of the sides of the house where they will join the front and back pieces.
3) At this point you may need to recruit someone to give you a hand as you place the front, back and side pieces together to form the base of the house. Once they are all in the right place hold them together firmly for a few minutes to allow the royal icing to begin to set. You then want to leave it well alone for an hour for the icing to dry before fixing the roof in place. It can be useful to place something against each wall as it is drying to keep it in place.
4) Pipe icing along the sloping sides of the front and back pieces and secure the roof pieces in place. Again hold them for a few minutes then place something the right height under each roof piece to hold in place.
5) Meanwhile use icing to decorate and secure in place your Christmas trees and any other decorations you have made.
6) A dusting of icing sugar will complete your snowy scene, and a ribbon around the edge of your cake board will really finish your work of art off.
7) Now, can you bring yourself to break up your creation and eat it?!
Do post below any of your own hints and tips, and share photos of your gingerbread houses on our facebook or twitter pages.