If you want a Christmas showstopper, look no further. Far form the overly decorated gingerbread houses full of sweets, this one is for the adults. It’s glamorous and tempting – let’s just hope you get to show it off before you break and eat it!
MAKES ONE HOUSE
Prep: two hours, plus cooling and setting
Cook: one hour
1. See the templates. Using a ruler, cut out firm paper or card versions. Heat the oven to 160°C / fan-assisted 140°C / gas mark 3. Cut a large piece of greaseproof paper and roll out the gingerbread on top of it to 8mm. Using the templates cut out the house pieces. You can use any leftover dough to make gingerbread men,
2. Cut three thick slits on each of the roofs for the ribbon to hold the roof up. Transfer carefully on the greaseproof paper to a flat baking tray. Keep the dough on the greaseproof paper to prevent it becoming misshapen while you move it. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes until hard then bake in the oven in batches for 10-20 minutes depending on size, until golden brown at the edges. Leave to cool for 5 minutes on the trays, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
3. To glue together, dip one edge of a front wall into the caramel glue until the edge is completely covered. Attach to a side wall at a 90° angle and hold together for a few moments while it hardens, then use tins or jars to support the walls while they set. Continue to stick together by attaching another wall and the back panel so you have the base of the gingerbread house. Leave to set completely for 1 hour or overnight. It needs to be firm to hold the weight of the roof.
4. Meanwhile, add a little water to the royal icing until you reach soft peak consistency. Spoon some of the icing into a piping bag fitted with a medium nozzle. Decorate by piping outlines of windows, doors etc.
5. Lay the roof pieces flat and in a steady and smooth line pipe outlines round the edges. Add a little extra water to two thirds of the soft peak icing to make flood icing – a thick but runny consistency. Spoon into a piping bag, cut off the end and carefully fill the centres with icing. Leave to set for 4 hours or overnight.
6. Once completely set, divide the remaining soft peak icing into two bowls and add a little red colouring paste to one and green to the other. Spoon into piping bags fitted with a fine nozzle to pipe holly leaves and berries and use a cocktail stick to drag out edges of the holly leaves. Add a little green icing or colouring paste to the leftover red icing to make it brown and pipe the holly tree branches. Carefully thread the roof panels with some ribbon and tie up together.
7. Remove the supports from the house and gently place the roof on the house.
Prep: 10 minutes, plus 1 hour 15 minutes chilling – Cook: 5 minutes
1. Pour the dark and light molasses into a large saucepan with the sugar, butter, zest and spices and melt over a low/medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar has dissolved.
2. Increase the heat to bring the mixture to boiling point. Remove from the heat and beat in the bicarbonate of soda. The mixture will froth up at this point as the bicarbonate reacts – mix briefly until combined, then leave to cool for 15 minutes.
3. Sift the flour and salt, then fold into the mixture in batches, using a wooden spoon or a stand mixer. Beat in the egg using a wooden spoon or stand mixer, until just combined. Do not overwork the mixture, or the biscuits will spread during baking.
4. The dough will be very sticky to begin with, but do not add any flour. Scrape out of the bowl onto a clean surface and knead together until just smooth. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.
Making caramel isn’t for everyone. It can be tricky and during preparation this syrup becomes very hot, so be careful not to burn yourself. If possible, do this part without the kids!
1. Put the sugar and water in a large, low-sided frying pan. Place over a medium-high heat. Without stirring, bring to 160°C / 320°F on a sugar thermometer. If you do not have one, you will know the syrup is ready when the sugar dissolves and turns a light golden colour.
2. Swirl the syrup gently in the pan to even out the colour. Then leave to cool for a few moments to thicken slightly to the consistency of honey.
3. If the syrup begins to harden in the pan, place it back over a gentle heat until it has returned to the required consistency.
Tip: Using a big frying pan for this makes it easy to dip the pieces of gingerbread into the pan to coat the edges.
1. Sift the sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the beaten egg white and lemon juice.
2. Whisk on a low speed, so you do not incorporate too much air into the icing, for 2–3 minutes until you have a smooth, but not wet, stiff peak consistency. It should be dense and spreadable but hold a stiff peak. If it looks dry and crumbly add a little water. If it looks slightly runny and glossy, add a little extra icing sugar.
3. You now have stiff peak icing for sticking houses together and placing decorations onto icing. Transfer to a bowl and cover with a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out. The icing can be prepared ahead and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
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