I'm not sure what resulted in the gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel becoming a seasonal tradition but I've been itching to make one for years. Finally this year I'm unemployed so I had no problems investing about 8 hours in this lovely gingerbread chalet (yay?).
(I later used the same recipe with a different template to create this gingerbread village.)
For the building itself I used a simple gingerbread architecture, as I'm thoroughly inexperienced in construction, using gingerbread or otherwise. Below is the blueprint I started with. I had initially planned to use shredded wheat for the roof tile, but then decided on using biscuits. As you can see I used candy canes to provide a sturdy structure, using caramel syrup as cement, in order to protect the house against earthquakes, or in case a bad wolf tries to blow the house in (no wait, that's a different fairytale...). You could also use the icing provided by the recipe to glue the pieces together, but it's not as strong, and takes a while to set, so I thought caramel syrup was a surer option. The only disadvantage being that because the caramel hardens as soon as it cools, you'll have to keep reheating it. Some sort of fondue heater may have come in useful at this point, but I don't have one.
Using the recipe and template below you will end up with more with more dough than you need, which you can use to make an extension, 2. floor, or gingerbread men to inhabit the house. Alternatively, you can keep it spare in case you have a problem with one of the parts (one of mine broke!) and you can remake it.
For the gingerbread:
300 g butter
125 g caster sugar
125 g brown sugar
225 g honey, or golden syrup
725 g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Melt the butter, caster sugar, brown sugar and honey in a large saucepan. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon together, add the melted butter and sugar mixture and stir well until it comes together like sticky dough. If it is too crumbly add 1-2 teaspoons of water and mix it in. On a floured surface flatten the dough into a 2cm thick round, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Grease a baking tray. Cut out the templates with measurements provided above. Place a piece of greaseproof paper (of a size that would fit into the baking tray) on a work surface dust with flour and roll out a quarter of the remaining dough to 5mm thick. Place one of the paper templates on top and with a sharp knife cut around. Repeat the process with the other templates using the remaining dough and rolling up the trimmings – until you have a front and back wall, two side walls and two roof panels (you may need to use multiple pieces of greaseproof paper - I used about 4). Also cut out any other pieces you want to add e.g. I made venetian blinds and a balcony.
Carefully move the pieces on their baking parchment to baking trays and bake for 12 – 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove the trays from the oven and allow stand for a few minutes. Cut out a door on the front wall and windows on the side walls while the gingerbread is still soft and reserve the cut-out pieces for later. Place on a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
For the icing:
1 egg white
250 g icing sugar
Place the egg whites and sift in the sugar, stir to make a thick, smooth icing. Spoon into a piping bag.
For the caramel syrup:
1 1/3 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
Bring sugar and the water to a boil in a medium saucepan; reduce heat, and simmer until thickened and light brown, about 10 minutes (I let it get to 140 degrees C on the candy thermometer).
Biscuits with scalloped edges (I used Petit-Beurre, Leibniz-Keks are also an option)
Cut the edges of the pieces so they are all straight, then glue them together using the caramel syrup (work one by one as you will have to hold the pieces together for a bit until the caramel hardens). Cut the sides of the biscuits and glue them onto the roof (I used the icing to glue these). Use the icing to decorate.
Recipe sources: uktv, martha stewart