An easy recipe for a snowy fairytale scene that’s as fun to decorate as it is to eat
While there is satisfaction in building an architecturally elaborate structure with perfect snowy icing, it’s more fun to get the whole family involved in a magical creation dripping with sweets and candied fruit that is as quick and easy to build as it is to devour.
- Makes 1 house: you will need
- 1 A4 sheet of paper
- 2 large baking trays
- star-shaped cookie cutter
- For the gingerbread
- plain flour 750g
- ground ginger 3 tsp
- ground cinnamon 3 tsp
- ground cloves 1 tsp
- salt ¾ tsp
- unsalted butter 225g
- light brown sugar 375g
- golden syrup 12 tbsp
- bicarbonate of soda 3 tsp
- just boiled water 3 tbsp (45ml)
- For the icing
- icing sugar 450g, sifted
- egg whites 2 large
- to decorate sweets such as Smarties, jelly babies, liquorice or dried/candied fruit and nuts
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Put the plain flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a large mixing bowl.
Stir with a wooden spoon until all the ingredients are evenly mixed. Melt the butter, brown sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring until evenly combined. Pour the butter mixture over the flour mixture.
Mix the bicarb soda and water together in a little bowl and pour this over the other ingredients. Use a wooden spoon to mix everything into a stiff dough. Knead the dough with your hands for a minute or two until silky.
Divide the dough into three pieces. Lay a large tray-sized piece of non-stick baking parchment on the work surface.
Take a piece of the dough and roll it out to ½cm thickness and the size of an A4 sheet of paper, Trim the edges to neaten. Slide the parchment onto a baking tray. This is the base of the house.
Do the same again but this time cut the A4 sized piece of dough in half, so that you now have two A5 size pieces of dough. If possible spread the two pieces apart a little to avoid sticking. Slide the parchment onto a baking tray. These pieces are the roof of the house.
Place the trays into the oven and bake for 10-14 minutes (ovens vary so greatly, as do the sizes of each of these gingerbread pieces) until deep golden brown all over. Remove from the oven, allow to cool and stiffen slightly on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
While the first lot of dough is baking, roll out the third piece of dough just as in the last step. This time trim 3cm off the top of the shorter side of each A5 piece. Now measure halfway in (this should be 7.5cm from each side) and cut long sided triangles from the base to this point. Slide the parchment onto a baking tray. These are the sides of the house.
Knead all the dough off-cuts together and roll out on a piece of baking parchment until ½ cm thick. Cut out Christmas tree shapes and a couple of small triangles to hold the Christmas trees upright. Any spare dough can be used for Christmas tree decorations. Bake the last two trays in the oven the same as before but check the tray with the trees after 8 minutes as these pieces will cook quicker.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool. As soon as the triangle sides of the house are baked, you can cut out a little mouse hole shape for the door at the base of one of the triangles. A star-shaped window cut out with a cookie cutter also looks pretty just below the top of the triangle. Transfer the triangles to a wire rack to cool.
Using a wooden spoon beat the icing sugar and egg whites together in a bowl until a thick icing forms.
Place the A4 gingerbread base onto a large wooden board. Pipe or spread a ½cm thick ribbon of icing around the shorter edges of the roof pieces and all the way round the triangular sides.
You will need assistance for this next step. Using a couple of pairs of hands, assemble the house. Start by holding the house sides vertically and resting the roof pieces onto the diagonal edges.
I like to have a 1cm roof overhang on the front and back of the house. Pipe some more icing onto the top edge of the roof to ensure it sticks together properly.
Pipe or spoon a small amount of icing onto the back of each sweet and decorate with wild abandon.
Dollop some icing onto the base wherever you wish to plant a tree and carefully balance the tree in place using the triangular support.
The house will be edible for a couple of weeks, but is best eaten within the first five days. To turn stale gingerbread into a Christmas trifle: soak gingerbread in a mixture of brandy and apple juice, top with blackberry & apple compote, followed by custard, then softly whipped cream and lastly a sprinkling of toasted flaked almonds.
NOTE: I also use this dough recipe for tree decorations. Roll out to ½ cm thickness and cut dough into desired shapes with a cookie cutter. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Take out of oven and using a wooden skewer immediately make a hole near the top of decoration, transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool before decorating and adding string.