I am late with this, but it has taken some doing to get all the photos compiled and edited (multiple cameras) and get this typed up... But there is still time before Christmas if you would like to take on a Gingerbread house. If you have already tried your hand at making the dough, don't worry, it will still be OK in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks. It's time for the first two steps of Gingerbread house construction. Creating the panels and "gluing" it together.
In the Gingerbread Recipe post, I made reference to the use of shortening instead of butter for this. Primarily because shortening contains no water, unlike butter, and makes for a slightly dryer baked product. Thus the gingerbread house will last longer than if it is made with Butter, but won't taste nearly as delicious.
There is one other draw back to using shortening other than flavor. It makes the dough a lot tougher to work with. Much more delicate and crumbly than if butter is used. So if the house will only be around for about 1 week or two, I would say go ahead and use the butter. Not that you are going to want to eat it if it has been sitting around collecting dust for 2 weeks, but in case you have little ones running around and the temptation is just too great, you at least want it to taste halfway decent.
If you need your house to last longer, or if you are in a particularly humid environment, I recommend going ahead and using the vegetable shortening.
OK, Before we get into the thick of this we need to make some candy glass... No, I am not going to go through the process of "Poured Sugar"; We are going to cheat.... Grab some Old Fashioned Lemon Drops..... (Although yellow LifeSavers will work too)...
and place them in a Zip-Loc bag, then beat the heck outta them with a meat mallet, until pretty uniformly crushed. Then set them aside for now.
Dig out a pattern... This is the one I use. Sorry that it's not on graph paper, but I didn't want to delay this post any longer...
Grab 1 square of dough from the refrigerator, a big tub of flour, a large rolling pin, a pizza cutter, a sharp knife, 2 large spatulas and a pastry brush... I use 2 - 1/4 inch dowels so I can set my pin on them as the dough gets thinner (this is how I cheat to make sure that the dough is completely even in thickness so none of the pieces burn in the oven) I know they make spacer rings for rolling pins, but it's another one of those "old dog new trick" things. I have the dowels (for years now), I have always done it this way, so I have just never bothered to purchase any. :)
Roll out the dough, trying to keep it as square as possible,
Lay out the pattern and "pizza roll" as much of it as possible, using the sharp knife to finish off the corners.
Flour your spatulas REALLY well and gently move from your working area to
a parchment lined baking sheet.
Now, for the piece that will be the front, you need to cut out a door. Be careful, cause you will need to bake that as well, and cut a tiny window above it.
I also like to cut windows on the sides, but I free hand those with a sharp knife.
Fill in the window cutouts with the crushed lemon drops (they will melt in the oven and make window panes)
Place the pieces in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes (possibly 12 for the roof pieces)
Let the pieces cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes to allow time for the windows to re-harden,
then move to a cooling rack and let set for 2 hours, to ensure the pieces are completely cool.
I also make mini-gingerbread men (and women) with the scraps... Shoving 1/2 of a toothpick into them so they will stand up in the Styrofoam (more on that in the decorating post)
Melt 1/2 cup sugar in a skillet over low heat (creating a dry caramel)
Dip both edges of the side pieces and attach the front and back, then dip the other side piece and attach on the other side (sorry, this is really quick and really hot, and REALLY hard to take pictures)
I always glue on the door next.
You will have to score little marks on the underside of the roof so you know where it will line up, then using a spoon, drizzle the caramel, quickly in a line then press onto the top of the house frame; Repeat with the other roof piece....
I hope this helps at least a little bit... Like I said, once you start working with the caramel (which is about 315-320 degrees) it gets a little difficult to take step by step pictures, but I tried... just not very successfully...
Next up, decorating... But I need to wait until I can complete a house with my niece before I post about it... That will not be until the day before Christmas eve...
Until then Peace, Love and Dairy Cows!