The kids wanted to make a ginger bread house for Christmas this year. We tried a commercial ginger house package three years ago (which was easy to do but only marginally edible). Last year I tried to find a good recipe on the Internet, only to end up with a gingerbread house that really only kids could enjoy. So this year, I finally wanted to make something for everybody!
I noticed one particularly good bakery in Canberra selling ginger bread houses for a whopping $85.00 a piece. To be fair to the baker, he is a true master of his trade and his food is extremely good. Unfortunately though, that is way outside our budget. Luckily for me, the baker had added a little note to his merchandise, saying that his houses were based on a recipe called "Baseler Leckerli". I figured I might try one of those myself, and I was not disappointed.
This is the recipe:
300 g honey
100 g brown sugar
400 g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (or less) ground clover
1 pinch nutmeg
150g ground almonds (or alternatively ground hazelnuts)
and for the royal icing:
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3 cups (330 grams) icing sugar, sifted.
Make a paper model of your house. Remember that you will need two of everything - front and back, side walls, roof.
The dough will roll out to an area of slightly more than an A3 sized page.
Our house had the following dimensions:
front and back - width about 21 cm,
height to roof gable - 14.5 cm,
height of side walls - 7.5 cm.
Cut the side walls and the roof accordingly. We also added a Christmas tree and a few tiles from left-over dough for a "footpath".
Slowly warm the honey together with the brown sugar. Put flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ground clover, nutmeg and ground almonds in a large bowl. Add the honey-sugar to the dry ingredients. Mix well. Roll out the dough about 1 cm thick on a slightly floured surface.
Cut the shapes out of your dough and bake them at 200 C (180 C if using a fan forced oven) for about 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on your shapes, they should not become too dark.
Once the baked pieces are cooled down, the fun part begins. Prepare the royal icing by beating the egg whites with the lemon juice. Add the sifted powdered sugar and continue to beat until combined and smooth. The icing needs to be used immediately as royal icing quickly becomes hard.
Stick your house together with royal icing and decorate. The ginger bread house will be quite hard and have a lovely crunchy structure when you first make it. It will gradually become soft when exposed to air. It tastes best when fresh but it is still quite ok after a couple of weeks. We have been grazing on ours throughout the pre-Christmas season as a special treat after dinner.