Gingerbread was first baked at the end of the 11th century, when Europe borrowed the technique of baking spicy bread from the Middle East. Ginger was tasty and helped preserve the bread. A gingerbread house is a model house made of gingerbread and is covered with a variety of candies and icing. Gingerbread houses are popular Christmas decorations and are often built by children with the help of their parents.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and baking soda together until the mixture is smooth. Blend in the flour and water to make a stiff dough. Chill at least 30 minutes or until firm
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
Cut out the following paper patterns for the gingerbread house template: Two rectangles, 3 by 5 inches, to make the front and back of the house. Two rectangles, 3 by 5 1/2 inches for the roof. Two pieces for the ends of the house, 3 inches wide at the base, 3 inches to the roof line, and slanted to a peak 5 1/2 inches from the bottom. Four smaller rectangles, 1 1/2 by 1 inch for the roof and sides of the entryway. And one piece, 2 inches wide at the base, 1 1/2 inches to the roof line, and slanted to a peak 2 1/2 inches from the bottom for the front of the entryway
Roll gingerbread dough out to edges on a large, rimless cookie sheet. Place paper patterns onto the rolled out dough. With a sharp, straight edged knife, cut around each of the pieces, but leave pieces in place
Bake at 375 degrees F for about 15 minutes until dough feels firm
Place patterns on top of the gingerbread again and trim shapes, cutting edges with a straight-edged sharp knife. Leave to cool on baking sheet
Place royal icing into pastry bag with a writing tip and press out to decorate individual parts of house, piping on decorations, windows, door, etc., as desired. Let dry until hardened
Glue sides, front and back of house together at corners using royal icing. Place an object against the pieces to prop up until icing is dry (it only takes a few minutes)
Glue the two roof pieces to the pitched roofline of the house. Then, similarly, glue the sides and roof of the entryway together with icing. Attach the entryway to the front of the house
Continue decorating the house, glueing on gumdrops, licorice and peppermint, as desired
Royal Icing: Mix all of the ingredients together using an electric hand mixer, until the icing is smooth and thin enough to be pressed through a pastry bag with a writing tip. Add more lemon juice, if necessary
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