The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

    This was a fun challenge for me, because I'd never made a gingerbread house from scratch before. In the past, I've always used kits or graham crackers, and the focus was always on attaching as much candy to the house as possible, rather than making it look good. This time, because I was making my own gingerbread, I was able to play around more with the shape and size of the house and cut out windows before baking the pieces. I decided to go for the feel of a California mission, which was good because my house came out looking like it had been through an earthquake. You can't really tell from the photo, but a few of the pieces shrunk when I baked them, so the sides didn't line up right when I was putting the house together. The roof pieces especially wanted to cave in.

    I used the recipe Y used, which came from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book. The resulting gingerbread looked and tasted like cardboard ("I've found a recipe for cardboard!" I exclaimed). It worked well as a building material, but I wouldn't recommend trying to eat it.

*makes one large gingerbread house

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp cinnamon
4 tsp ground ginger
3 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup boiling water (you will probably need more)
5 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Incorporate the cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. In a separate, small bowl, combine the baking soda with the boiling water. Add this and 3 cups of flour to the ingredients in the large bowl, and mix well. If the dough is still wet and sticky, add another cup of flour. Add flour gradually until the dough is dry but workable. Roll the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic, and chill for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Remove dough from the refrigerator. Allow it to come to room temperature so that you can roll it out, then roll it out on a floured surface to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Cut out the pieces you need for your house. If necessary, re-roll the dough to cut out more pieces. I used a template I made by lining up pieces of computer paper and cutting straight lines.

    I had a front and back  which were the same size and shape, two sides of the same dimensions, two roof pieces that were about half and inch longer then the sides and half an inch wider than the sides of the triangle at the top of the front and back pieces. I made a porch piece with three arches, and a roof for the porch. In the end, I also had to use an extra piece of gingerbread that was the same height as the porch to help support the porch roof.

Bake the gingerbread at 375 degrees F for 10-15 minutes, until the dough is firm. If necessary, trim the edges of the pieces while they are still warm. Allow the gingerbread to cool completely before assembling the house. Decorate the sides before assembly to avoid frosting drips.

Royal Icing to assemble the house:
2 egg whites (I used powdered egg whites because they  are pasteurized and safe to eat)
3 cups powdered sugar
enough water to make a thick icing, added gradually by tablespoons.

If you want to make snow, sift powdered sugar over the finished house.