gingerbread house cutouts
- In a large mixing bowl beat shortening with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in molasses, egg, and vinegar until combined. Beat in whole wheat flour. Beat in as much of the all-purpose flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. Divide dough in half. Cover and chill about 3 hours or until dough is easy to handle. Meanwhile, have pattern pieces ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll one portion of the dough into a 1/4-inch-thick rectangle, sprinkling top of dough lightly with flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Place some of the pattern pieces on dough rectangle; cut around patterns with a sharp knife. Remove excess dough and patterns. Slide parchment paper onto a large cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes (cutouts will spread slightly during baking). Trim gingerbread cutouts to original shapes by re-placing patterns on hot gingerbread cutouts and cutting around patterns; remove patterns. Bake for 2 to 3 minutes more or until edges start to brown and centers are firm. Carefully slide parchment paper onto a wire rack; cool. Repeat with additional dough, additional parchment paper, and the remaining pattern pieces. (Reserve any remaining dough for another use.)
- To assemble gift, decorate craft box as desired. Place assorted candies in baggies or containers. Place in box. Place pattern pieces on top of designated baked gingerbread pieces. Wrap as desired. Place in box. Prepare Royal Icing. Place in a disposable decorating bag fitted with a small round/star tip. (Note storage instructions for icing.) Place in box.
- To assemble house, pipe icing onto the side edges of each of the four (2 long, 2 short) wall pieces. Quickly assemble walls, staggering the corners. If necessary, use cans of food or jars to prop up pieces. Let stand about 1 hour or until firm. For the side roof peaks, pipe icing onto the bottom long edge of each roof peak piece. Let icing stand for 10 minutes, then place roof peaks, icing sides down, on top of short walls. Prop up pieces; let stand about 1 hour or until firm. For the roof, pipe icing onto the sides of roof peaks and the top edges of long walls. Let icing stand for 10 minutes, then place roof pieces, one at a time, on top of roof peaks, pressing gently to secure (there will be a small gap in center of roof). Let stand about 1 hour or until firm. Pipe icing to fill gap in roof. If desired, use icing to make any finishing touches and to secure assorted candies. Let stand until icing is firm.
From the Test Kitchen
Store in the fridge, if iced (at room temperature if not), for up to 3 days;
- In a large mixing bowl stir together powdered sugar, meringue powder, and cream of tartar. Add the water and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. Beat on high speed for 7 to 10 minutes or until icing reaches a stiff piping consistency.**
- If not using immediately, cover bowl with a damp paper towel and then with plastic wrap; chill for up to 48 hours.
From the Test Kitchen
Look for meringue powder in the cake decorating aisle of hobby and craft stores.
To use Royal Icing as a glaze, stir in additional warm water, about 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until icing reaches a thin spreading consistency.