AKRON, Ohio — If you think you’d like to make your own gingerbread house, here are a few tips:
Remember to make a plan beforehand. Plenty of house plans can be found online or at the library.
Leave yourself plenty of time for baking and constructing. Royal icing needs time to dry and harden, so be patient. It also takes a lot of icing to hold everything together. (See the recipe on B6.)
If you plan ahead, you can decorate your walls before erecting them.
1 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups old-fashioned molasses
½ cup warm water
7 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
Combine dry ingredients. Melt shortening, and add molasses and ½ cup warm water. Mix in dry ingredients until smooth. If necessary, knead last of flour into dough until smooth and flexible. Chill, then roll dough to about 1/8-inch thickness on cookie sheets. Cut out patterns, remove excess dough from cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes.
Makes a medium-size house with 8-by-6-inch sides, 9 ½-by-8-inch front and back, and two 10-by-7-inch roof pieces.
Source: “The Gingerbread Book,” Allen D. Bragdon (1984, Arco Publishing Inc.)
1 pound confectioners’ sugar, or more as needed
½ cup pasteurized egg whites (about 3 large egg whites)
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and combine, scraping sides down. Turn the mixer to high and beat until thick and very white. Mixture will hold a peak. This should take at least 7 to 10 minutes.
When finished, cover with plastic wrap, making sure it touches the royal icing so a crust doesn’t form. Royal icing dries out quickly, so make sure it is covered all of the time. Otherwise, there will be lumps in the icing and they will never pass through an icing tip.
You may tint the icing any color by using a small amount of paste food color. For ¼ cup of tinted icing, dip the tip of a toothpick into desired color, then into the icing, and stir well. Repeat until desired color is achieved. For strong colors, such as red, royal blue and dark purple, use 1/8 teaspoon color to ¼ cup icing.
Makes enough to decorate 1 small house.
Note: Be careful not to over-whip icing, or it will crack as it dries and your house will collapse.