6 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 roll kitchen parchment (at least 10 yards long — sold at cookware stores and at some supermarkets)
Sift flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and cardamom into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat shortening in large bowl until fluffy. Add sugar and beat to blend. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Add molasses and beat on high speed until well blended. Add dry ingredients in 4 additions, beating at low speed until dough forms. Divide dough into 6 equal pieces. Flatten each piece into rectangle. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, at least 6 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.)
Rolling, Cutting and Baking
Each of the six pieces of dough will be used for one of the large sections of the house (the two side walls, the front and the back walls, and the two roof sections). The scraps will be rerolled to make the roof tiles, trees, stars, figures and other cookies for nibbling.
On one cardboard sheet, draw 14-inch round and cut out, making base for house. On another cardboard sheet, draw one 7- X 10-inch rectangle and cut out. Outline rectangle 3 more times on cardboard sheets and cut out, making 4 foundation rectangles. Draw one 6- X 9-inch rectangle on cardboard sheet and cut out, making roof template. Draw one 7- X 4-inch rectangle on cardboard sheet and cut out, making side wall template. Cut out 2 (1 1/2-inch) squares for windows.
To make the template for the front and back of the house, draw a 4- X 5-inch rectangle on cardboard sheet, then use the 5-inch side of the rectangle as the base for a triangle with the opposite angle 4 inches away from base. To make a door, cut a 1 1/2- X 2 3/4-inch rectangle in the center of the opposite 5-inch side of rectangle.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Roll out 1 dough piece (keep remaining dough refrigerated) between two 15-inch-long sheets of parchment to scant 1/4-inch rectangle, turning over dough and parchment occasionally. If parchment wrinkles, peel off, smooth wrinkle and reposition parchment over dough; continue to roll out dough to required thickness.
To make roof, place cardboard roof template atop parchment. Using small sharp knife, cut around template through top sheet of parchment to make 6×9-inch rectangle. Peel top parchment off dough.
Pull away excess dough from around the rectangle. Slide dough rectangle on its bottom parchment onto heavy large baking sheet. Gather dough scraps; wrap in plastic and refrigerate.
Bake rectangle until dry looking, firm to touch in center and just beginning to darken around edges, about 13 minutes. Slide parchment with rectangle onto rack and cool completely. Rinse baking sheet under cold water to cool; wipe dry.
Repeat rolling, cutting and baking of each remaining 5 large dough pieces, 1 piece at a time, to make second roof section, 2 side walls, front wall and back wall (cut out windows on side walls and door on
front wall but not door on back wall). Gather and refrigerate dough scraps for use later and rinse baking sheet to cool each time.
Roll out some of reserved dough scraps between sheets of parchment to 1/8-inch thickness. Peel off top parchment. Using floured 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter, cut out rounds for roof tiles. Using small knife as aid, cut and pull away dough from between rounds.
Slide parchment with cookie rounds onto cooled baking sheet. Bake cookies until dry looking and firm to touch, about 9 minutes. Slide parchment with cookies onto rack and cool cookies. Working in batches, repeat with more reserved dough to roll, cut and bake a total of 50 round cookies, gathering, wrapping and chilling any dough scraps each time.
Door and other cutouts:
Roll out some of reserved dough between sheets of parchment to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out 2 1/2×1 1/2-inch rectangle for front door. Using floured cookie cutters, cut out several stars, gingerbread
figures, Christmas trees and other decorative shapes as desired. Using small knife as aid, pull or cut away dough from around door and between shapes. Slide parchment with cookies onto cooled baking sheet. Bake cookies until dry looking and firm to touch, about 9 minutes. Slide parchment with cookies onto rack and cool cookies completely. Remove all baked gingerbread from parchment. (All gingerbread can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)
You will prepare this recipe twice: once for assembling the gingerbread house, and again for decorating it.
4 large egg whites
7 to 7 1/2 cups powdered white sugar
Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in medium bowl until very foamy, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Beat until well blended. Add remaining cups sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating until
well blended after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl occasionally.
Beat icing at high speed until very thick and stiff, about 5 minutes. (Second batch of icing will be made later.)
Assembly of Foundation and Walls
2 pastry bags
1 1/4- to 3/8-inch diameter plain round pastry tip
Place 14-inch round cardboard base on work surface. Spoon some icing into pastry bag fitted with 1/4- to 3/8-inch diameter tip; cover icing in bowl tightly to prevent drying. Pipe a small dab of icing
in center of round. Place one 7×10-inch cardboard foundation rectangle on icing; press to adhere.
Pipe small mound of icing in center of rectangle. Place second 7×10-inch cardboard rectangle over; press to adhere. Repeat with more icing and remaining two 7×10-inch rectangles, forming the
foundation for house in center of round cardboard base.
Pipe thick line of icing on bottom edge of 1 side wall. Stand wall on cardboard foundation, icing side down, 1 inch in from and parallel to one long side and 2 inches in from one short side; hold for 5minutes.
Pipe thick line of icing onto front edge of wall. Press back edge of front wall (with door cutout) into icing on front edge of side wall. Hold pieces together for 5 minutes.
Pipe thick line of icing on bottom edge and up front edge of second side wall. Press icing on front edge of side wall into the back edge of front wall, positioning wall parallel to first side wall. Hold for 5 minutes.
Pipe line of icing up back edge of each side wall. Press edges of back wall (without door) into icing, forming the back of the house. Hold 5 minutes to set.
Pipe lines of icing inside house at 4 intersections of walls, along the base and on outside at all vertical joints to reinforce.
Pipe a thick line of icing along 1 long edge of front-door cookie. Attach cookie to left side of door opening in front wall, creating an opened front door.
Pipe any icing left in pastry bag back into bowl of icing. Cover tightly; store at room temperature to use for decorating later. Let house stand until icing is completely dry and very hard — about 12
Assembly of Roof and Tiles
1 1/8-inch diameter plain round pastry tip
1 1/4- to 3/8-inch diameter plain round pastry tip
2 pastry bags
Prepare a second batch of icing.
Beat in any remaining icing from the first batch. Spoon 1 cup icing into pastry bag fitted with 1/8-inch diameter tip. Outline windows and front door decoratively. Pipe decorations on front andback walls.
Spoon icing into a new pastry bag fitted with 1/4- to 3/8-inch diameter plain tip. Pipe thick line of icing down 1 diagonal edge of front wall; continue piping icing along top edge of adjoining side wall and up diagonal edge of back wall.
Press 1 roof rectangle into icing, positioning so that top edge aligns with tops of front and back walls and lower edge overhangs side wall by about 1 1/4 inches. Hold in position for 5 minutes to set.
Pipe additional lines of icing along roof joints inside house to reinforce.
Pipe thick line of icing down second diagonal edge of front wall; continue piping icing along top edge of adjoining side wall and up diagonal edge of back wall. Press second roof rectangle into icing,
positioning so that top edge aligns with edge of first roof rectangle and lower edge overhangs side wall by about 1 1/4 inches. Hold in position for 5 minutes to set.
Let house stand until icing hardens, at least 3 hours.
Cover bowl of icing and let stand at room temperature.
Spoon more icing into pastry bag fitted with 1/4- to 3/8-inch diameter plain tip. Pipe small mound of icing in center of underside of 1 round cookie. Align cookie edges flush with one bottom corner of roof; press to adhere. Repeat with about 5 more cookies to form bottom row of roof tiles, cutting end cookie to align with edge of roof.
Pipe generous mound of icing on upper half of underside of 1 round cookie. Position cookie halfway between 2 first row cookies and overlapping them by about 3/4-inch. Press icing portion gently onto
roof. Repeat with more cookies to form second row; cutting cookies to fit at each end.
Repeat with more cookies to cover first side of roof. Attach cookies in same way on second roof rectangle.
Using first pastry bag fitted with 1/8-inch-diameter tip, outline the bottom halves and cut edges of roof tiles with icing.
12 hard red-and-white striped peppermint candies, cut in half with serrated knife
4 striped candy canes, cut to fit corners of house under roof
Other assorted candies
Spoon icing into pastry bag fitted with 1/4- to 3/8-inch-diameter tip. Pipe 1 or more thick lines of frosting between roof sections at top of house, filling opening completely. Gently press cut side of peppermint candies in row into icing.
Pipe 1 thick vertical line of icing at each corner of house; press 1 trimmed candy cane into each.
Pipe small rounds of icing onto both sides of door for doorknobs and in center of each roof tile. Press cinnamon imperials into each round of icing.
Using pastry bag fitted with 1/8-inch-diameter tip, pipe small mound of icing onto edge of roof.
Slowly pull bag downward while squeezing out icing so that about 3/4- to 1-inch section of icing hangs freely. Pull bag away, leaving “icicle” hanging. Repeat at 1/4-inch intervals around roof edge.
Pipe decorative line of icing along front and back eaves of roof sections.
Outline and decorate gingerbread figures, trees, stars and other cookies. (Icing may be colored, if desired.) Using back of spoon or flexible spatula, spread icing around base of house and on cardboard
base, creating “snow-covered” landscape.
Press chocolate nonpareils into icing, making path to front door. Stand decorated cookies in icing.Editor’s notes:
• If concerned about salmonella, use egg white poweder instead of egg whites.
• For best results, bake gingerbread on very flat baking sheets.
• Let gingerbread cool and stiffen on baking sheet before transferring to rack to cool completely.