A gingerbread house is truly a labor of love. Allow plenty of time to complete this project -- it can be done in 2 to 3 days with concentrated work, but some decorators might require a week from start to finish. Your efforts will be worth it when you see the delight in your family and holiday guests.
Print and cut out pattern templates. <a href="http://www.mccormick.com/-/media/Recipe%20Photos/McCormick/Dessert/1007x545/ManorHouse.pdf" target="_blank"><b>Click here to download a PDF of the templates for this house.</b></a> Trace templates on foam board, heavy card stock or file folders. Cut out and label pattern pieces. If desired, cover pattern pieces with plastic wrap to keep them grease-free. (It is recommended that you “build” the gingerbread house first with pattern pieces to become familiar with how the house is constructed.)
Prepare Gingerbread recipe 4 times. (If using hand mixer, prepare 4 single batch recipes. If using stand mixer, prepare 2 double batch recipes.) Mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, allspice, nutmeg and salt in large bowl; set aside.
Beat shortening and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add molasses and egg; beat well. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as possible with mixer. Stir in any remaining mixture with spoon. Dough will be stiff. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
Dust rolling pin lightly with flour. Trim parchment paper to size of baking sheet. Roll out 1/4 of the chilled dough to about 3/8-inch thickness on parchment paper. Occasionally wipe rolling pin clean and dust with additional flour if dough begins to stick to rolling pin. Keep remaining dough refrigerated.
Arrange pattern templates on dough, leaving 1 inch between templates. Cut around templates with pizza wheel. (Using a pizza wheel instead of a knife is faster and causes less drag on the dough.) Use small sharp knife to cut out smaller areas of templates. Repeat rolling and cutting process until all of the templates have been cut out. (Dough scraps can be refrigerated and added to next batch of dough for rolling and cutting.) Gently slide parchment paper with dough onto baking sheets. To minimize distortion during baking, let cut-out dough stand at room temperature for 4 hours to overnight.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake each baking sheet 35 to 40 minutes or until gingerbread pieces are hard to the touch. Cool baking sheets on wire racks until gingerbread pieces are cool enough to handle. Place gingerbread pieces on cutting board. Place pattern templates on gingerbread. Trim with pizza wheel or small knife to template size. (Sandpaper may be used if house is not going to be eaten.) Cool gingerbread completely before assembling gingerbread house with royal icing.
Prepare Royal Icing recipe 2 times. (If using hand mixer, prepare 2 single batch recipes. If using stand mixer, prepare 1 double batch recipe.) Beat all ingredients in large bowl with electric mixer until stiff peaks form. For stand mixer, beat on low speed 7 to 10 minutes. For hand mixer, beat on high speed 10 to 12 minutes. (If using stand mixer or for stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water per recipe.) Each single recipe yields 3 cups icing. (To keep prepared royal icing moist, cover bowl with damp towel.)
<b>Assembling Gingerbread Manor House:</b><BR> Chimney: Sandwich the chimney pieces together with royal icing. Set aside on waxed paper.<BR><BR> Large Room: Place large side wall pieces and large end pieces on waxed paper. Add windows to an end piece. (See Tips on adding and decorating windows.) Sandwich 1 end piece between side wall pieces and attach with a line of icing where walls meet. Sandwich remaining end piece inside opposite end of room and attach with a line of icing, creating an open-topped box. Prop with cans, mugs, etc., to hold walls up until icing dries.<BR><BR> Small Room: Attach an end piece of small room to end piece of larger room with icing, centering small end piece on large end piece. (You may need to shave end piece with small knife or sandpaper to achieve a flush fit. Do this before applying icing.) Add window to 1 small side wall. Attach small side wall pieces to end piece with icing, keeping in mind that window on small wall and the door on large wall should be on the same side of the house. Sandwich remaining small end piece inside opposite end and attach with icing, creating an open-topped box. Prop with cans, mugs, etc., to hold walls up until icing dries. Let stand at least 1 hour before continuing.<BR><BR> Center chimney on the smaller end piece and attach with icing.<BR><BR> Roof: Remove any props before adding roof. Pipe icing along top edges of walls of large room. Top with the 2 large roof pieces, adjusting until roof pieces meet at the top. Pipe a line of icing where the 2 roof pieces meet. Repeat with smaller roof pieces and small room. Props may be needed to hold roof pieces in place until icing dries.<BR><BR> Porch Roof and Door: Center door on large room side wall and attach with icing. Attach porch roof over door with icing. Porch roof may have to be propped until icing dries.<BR><BR> If necessary, reinforce joints with additional icing. Let stand at least 3 hour before decorating.<BR><BR> Gently move house to the board or baking sheet base.<BR><BR> Secure to base with icing, then ice entire base to simulate snow.<BR><BR> Decorate as desired. If you’re handy with a decorating bag, finish roof and wall edges with icing scrolls or shells.
<b>Decorating Ideas:</b> Browse through your supermarket’s cereal and candy aisles. You’ll find plenty of inspiration for decorating your gingerbread house, yard and accessories. Here are some ideas to give you a start.<BR><BR> Stepping stones: Vanilla wafers, licorice pieces or candy of your choice for stepping<BR><BR> Shutters for windows: Pretzel sticks or wafer cookies<BR><BR> Roof shingles: Necco Wafers or mini shredded wheat cereal (use sugar-coated shredded wheat cereal for snow effect). Use royal icing to attach. Start from bottom edge of roof and overlap roofing material, working your way to peak of roof.<BR><BR> Fence: White chocolate or chocolate covered small pretzel twists<BR><BR> Brick: Red licorice bites Porch pillars: Peppermint sticks<BR><BR> Chimney: Cocoa-flavored corn puff cereal, multi-colored cereal pieces, caramel and/or chocolate covered popcorn pieces, chocolate covered raisins, held in place by royal icing “mortar”<BR><BR> Snowman: Marshmallows or royal icing balls<BR><BR> Sled/toboggan: Small strip of fruit roll-up for wooden slats attached with royal icing to pretzel sticks used for sled runners<BR><BR> Evergreens trees:<BR> • Use ice cream cones as the base for evergreen trees. Using a decorating bag filled with green-tinted royal icing and a star tip, pipe elongated stars one layer at a time beginning at the bottom of the tree. Continue piping star layers until you reach the top of the tree.<BR> • For easy evergreen trees, use a small spatula to cover ice cream cones with green-tinted icing, using the spatula to gently pull icing out slightly to form tree branches. For Christmas tree lights, use a decorating bag filled with tinted royal icing and a round tip to pipe dots on the tree, or sprinkle with fruit-flavored sweetened rice cereal.<BR> • For a larger tree, stack 2 cones together, attaching them with royal icing. Decorate as described above.<BR> • For small tree, trim bottom of cone. Decorate as described above.<BR> • Dab a small amount of white royal icing on tree branches for a snow effect.<BR><BR> Shrubs or bushes: Green spearmint leaves jelly-type candy<BR><BR> Porch steps: Wafer or any rectangular cookies<BR><BR> Icicles: With a decorating bag filled with untinted royal icing and small round tip, pipe small icicles from house and porch roof.<BR><BR> Gumdrops, starlight mints, mini marshmallows, red hots candy, and various colors of licorice pieces all make decorative additions
<b>Decorating and Assembling Tips:</b><BR> Royal Icing: Make sure all bowls and utensils are completely free of grease. Icing will break down with even a drop of grease in the mixture. Keep icing covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying while assembling and decorating gingerbread house.<BR><BR> Prepare additional batches of Royal Icing for tinting. Divide icing among small bowls. Tint with McCormick® Food Color of your choice for decorations.<BR><BR> For ease in decorating, use disposable decorating bags and decorating tips.<BR><BR> Use round tip for piping light strings and/or garland.<BR><BR> Use round tip and desired McCormick® Food Color to pipe holiday lights.<BR><BR> Use a star tip or leaf tip to make wreaths. Pipe wreaths on waxed paper and let harden completely before attaching to house.<BR><BR> Use leaf tip, round tip, or basketweave tip to create bows or ribbons.<BR><BR> Place gingerbread house on a sturdy base, such as a board or baking sheet, to support the finished house.<BR><BR> Place base and gingerbread house on a lazy Susan for ease in turning the house when decorating.<BR><BR> Windows:<BR> • For precise placement of windows, cut out window templates and place on unbaked gingerbread. Lightly score around template with a small knife, outlining window. Baked gingerbread will retain faint score marks.<BR> • Thin yellow-tinted royal icing with small amount of water and paint windows. Let dry, then paint on curtains with thinned royal icing tinted with your choice of food color.<BR> • Pipe window pane divisions with untinted icing in decorating bag using a small round decorating tip.
<b>Pattern Dimensions: </b><BR> Small roof: 4-inch wide x 5 1/2-inch high<BR><BR> Door: 1 3/4-inch wide x 3 1/4-inch high<BR><BR> Chimney:<BR> • Overall height: 10 1/4-inch<BR> • Chimney base width: 2 3/4-inch<BR> • Base height to indented area: 2-inch<BR> • Narrow chimney height: 7 1/2-inch<BR><BR> Large wall side: 5-inch wide x 6-inch high<BR><BR> Porch roof: 3 1/4-inch wide x 7/8-inch high (cut in half widthwise)<BR><BR> Large roof: 5 1/2-inch wide x 6-inch high<BR><BR> Small end: 5-inch wide x 5-inch high<BR> • Peak: 5 1/4-inch high<BR><BR> Small wall side: 3 1/2-inch wide x 5-inch high<BR><BR> Large end: 6-inch wide x 6-inch high<BR> • Peak: 5 1/4-inch high