A bit of project cookery for kids, their overgrown counterparts, and anyone who fancies themselves handy with the old DIY. And, if it all goes tits-up, it’s both less dangerous and more delicious to eat your way out of than a more ‘industrial’ undertaking.
Cakeadoodledoo‘s Gingerbread House
- 675g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2 tbsp ground ginger
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 175g unsalted butter
- 225g soft light brown sugar
- 6 tbsp golden syrup
- 1 large free-range egg
- assorted colourful sweets, to decorate
For the royal icing:
- 250g icing sugar, sifted
- 1 large free-range egg white
- 2 tsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
For the dough:
- Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it in until you have a texture resembling fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and mix well.
- Put the syrup and egg into a warmed bowl and mix together.
- In a mixer with a dough hook or by hand, combine the wet and dry mixtures to form a soft, smooth dough.
- Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for at least 1 hour (overnight if possible).
For the royal icing:
- Tip the sifted icing sugar into a very large bowl or freestanding mixer with a paddle attachment.
- Add the egg white and lemon juice and beat for at least 5 minutes. If the mixture is too dry and crumbly, gradually add a little cold water. If it becomes too wet, add more icing sugar.
- After about 5 minutes of beating you should have a thick, very white meringue-type mixture that holds its peak.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until needed.
To assemble the gingerbread biscuits for baking:
- Line baking sheets with silicone paper.
- Using paper, card or parchment, cut out the following templates for the house: 2 side walls, 16 x 13 cm, 2 gable end walls, 16 x 13cm rising to a point in the centre of 23 cm and 2 roof pieces, 20.5 x 15.5 cm.
- Roll the chilled dough out on a floured work surface to a thickness of a pound coin about 5 mm/1/4 in and cut round the templates. Reserve the templates.
- Use the remaining dough to make shaped cookies, or freeze to use at a later date.
- Lay the pieces onto the prepared baking sheets and chill in the fridge or freezer for another hour.
To cook the gingerbread biscuits:
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
- Bake the gingerbread for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.
- As soon as the pieces are out of the oven, put the templates on top of the corresponding biscuit and cut round the outline to make sure the edges are really sharp.
- Leave the trimmed biscuits to firm up and cool completely on wire racks.
To assemble the gingerbread house:
- If piping intricate designs with icing, decorate the biscuits before the final assembly. If you’re sticking on a multitude of sweets, assemble the structure first.
- Fill a piping bag fitted with a fine nozzle (or with a small hole cut) with royal icing and pipe details such as windows, roof tiles and doors onto the outsides of the house.
- Leave to dry thoroughly overnight.
- For the ‘big assemble’, fill a piping bag with royal icing, fitted with a wider nozzle (or with a wider hole cut) than previously.
- Pipe a thick line of royal icing down the edges of the back of the house and stick on the sides. A spare pair of hands will ease proceedings.
- In the same way, add the front wall, and finally the roof panels, using royal icing as ‘cement’.
- Use remaining icing to stick on sweets and decorations.