3 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup plain flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
185g butter, chopped 1 tbls water1/2 cup honey
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup pure icing sugar
Selection of lollies for decorating
2 eggwhites, lightly beaten
3 cups pure icing sugar
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, ginger and spices) in a large bowl, set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed the butter and brown sugar until fluffy and well blended. Beat in the eggs and water until well combined.
Add the dry ingredients (flour, ginger and spices) to the wet ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon, being careful not to over-mix, which would cause the gluten to develop and make a tough gingerbread.
Once the dough comes together and forms a nice ball, leave it to rest for 15 minutes.
Roll out onto a floured surface to 1/2cm thick.
Add a little flour to the surface of the dough, and check for sticking as you roll it out. If it sticks to either your rolling pin or the rolling surface, dust with more flour.
If the rolled out dough is very soft, you may want to freeze it for an hour before cutting out the patterns.
Baking the pieces
Using cardboard cut-outs as a guide, cut shapes from dough.
Place gingerbread in a single layer on trays. Freeze for 15 minutes or until firm.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Line 4 baking trays with baking paper. Place gingerbread on trays.
Bake for 15 minutes or until firm. Cool on trays.
Making the royal icing
Royal icing is not only used for decorating, but it is the mortar that holds the gingerbread pieces together to form the house.
The following proportions should make enough icing for both the mortaring step and for decorating for one gingerbread house: 2 large egg whites, 3 cups icing sugar.
Using an electric mixer, beat eggwhites until soft peaks form.
Gradually add icing sugar, beating constantly until thick.
Place a dampened clean towel over the bowl of royal icing. Keep this towel over the icing to prevent it from drying out while you work with it.
When you are ready to mortar or decorate, fill a pastry bag with the icing. If you don't have a pastry bag, you can make your own with a re-sealable plastic freezer bag, just cut off the tip (a small cut) of one of the corners of the bag. Plastic or metal piping tips are available in supermarkets which you can also use with a freezer bag, for more controlled piping.
Constructing the house
Pick a solid base for your gingerbread house (we recommend you line the base with aluminium foil or wax paper).
Pipe a thick line of icing along a short end of one of the side pieces. Press the iced side piece against the edge of either the front or back pieces. Hold in place for a few minutes until the icing is partially set.
Repeat with the other side piece. Prop up with cans if necessary.
Repeat with the other short edges of the side pieces and the remaining front/back piece.
Pipe icing along the seams, inside and outside of the house, to fill in any gaps and to add extra stability. Pipe icing along the edges of the house where it meets the base.
Let set for at least an hour before attempting to add the roof pieces.
Once the royal icing has dried enough so that the base structure is solid, you can go to work on the roof.
Pipe icing all along the top edges of the structure, front and back and two sides. The roof pieces are a rectangular shaped. Place the roof pieces so that the long ends of the rectangle are running along the top of the house. It helps if you have two people working together to place the roof pieces on the house at the same time.
Gently hold the roof pieces in place for a few minutes until they are set enough so they don't slide off when you remove your hands.
Pipe the top seam of the house with extra icing. Let the house stand for at least an hour, and preferably 8 hours before decorating.
Finally, you can begin on the chimney. Build the chimney first and let it set and then attach it to the house.
Decorating the house
You can decorate your house with whatever types of lollies and chocolate you like.
Get the kids to help with this part of the process.
Remember, it's Christmas so think of Christmas treats like candy canes.
You can use pipe royal icing to make decorative designs around the walls of the house and roof.