Gingerbread likenesses of items ranging from noblewomen to farm animals have been popular in Europe for more than two centuries. Here in America, we prefer replicas of what may be the witch’s house from “Hansel and Gretel,” packed to the rafters with candy. Every year at Christmas, Joanne Lamb Hayes offers a gingerbread workshop at the Beard House. This recipe is adapted from 365 Great Cookies and Brownies by Hayes and Bonnie Tandy Leblang.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup light molasses
- 1/2 cup margarine, melted
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 recipe Gingerbread Dough (from above)
- 1 pound powdered sugar, sifted
- 3 tablespoons meringue powder
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup water
- 1 pound assorted holiday candy, including candy canes
- Dried fruit and nuts (optional)
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the sugar, molasses, and margarine on medium speed. Turn the mixer off and add 1 3/4 cups flour, the ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Turn on the mixer to a low speed and beat until the ingredients are combined. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand until smooth, adding the remaining 1/4 cup flour if necessary.
To make the patterns using 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper: Draw and cut out a 7 1/2-inch x 5-inch rectangle; fold it in half lengthwise to make a 7 1/2-inch x 2 1/2-inch rectangle. Label one short edge “top” and the other “bottom.” Along the 7 1/2-inch cut edge, measure and mark a point 4 inches up from bottom. From that mark, draw and cut a diagonal line to top folded corner. Open pattern and label it “ends.” Draw and cut out a 6 x 4-inch rectangle. Label it “sides.”
For the cardboard frame, use the patterns to trace and cut out 2 ends and 2 sides from cardboard. Draw and cut out a 6 x 5-inch cardboard rectangle and label it “base.” Draw and cut out two 7 x 4 3/4-inch cardboard rectangles. Tape two 7-inch sides together and label the result “roof.” Working from left to right, tape together an end, a side, an end, a side. Stand up to make a box. Tape securely onto the base.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. On a foil-covered cookie sheet, roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick. Trace around patterns to cut out 2 sides and 2 ends. From scraps, cut out a door and windows. Using a table knife, score the gingerbread pieces to resemble wood shingles, bricks, or stone. Place the door and windows on the gingerbread pieces. Score to decorate.
Place the gingerbread pieces, still side by side, in the preheated oven on foil-covered sheets. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, or until firm and golden brown. While still warm, measure side pieces against patterns and trim off excess caused by expansion during baking. Do not trim ends. Cool gingerbread on a flat surface.
To prepare the frosting, combine the meringue powder, powdered sugar, and 1/3 cup water in a large bowl. With a heavy-duty electric mixer, beat until very fluffy and stiff (about 5 minutes), adding more water, a little at a time, if necessary, to make the frosting manageable. Cover the top of the bowl with a damp cloth towel to prevent the surface of the frosting from drying out while you are working with it.
Spread some frosting in the center of the cardboard cake round; press the cardboard house frame in place on the cake round. Spread some frosting onto the cardboard frame. Press the gingerbread end and side pieces onto the frame. Tie a piece of yarn, string, or ribbon around the house to hold gingerbread in place until secure. Pipe some frosting along the top edges of gingerbread ends and sides to attach the roof. Press the cardboard roof onto house; hold until secure. Frost the roof; decorate with candy and dried fruit and nuts. Frost and decorate the cardboard cake round to make the yard.
When the gingerbread is securely fastened to the frame, remove the yarn. Spoon some frosting into a decorating bag fitted with a 1/4-inch-wide round or star tip. Pipe a border at all corners of the house and under the eaves of the roof. Pipe on icicles, if desired. Set aside to dry for several hours or overnight.