Cookie House Fronts

What You Need:
Get creative with your gingerbread

Several recipes Gingerbread Cookie Dough
Graph paper
Clear self-adhesive shelf paper (optional)
Pastry bags, couplers, and assorted tips (small, round, star, zigzag)
Waxed paper (optional)
Assorted candies, candy-coated gum, peanuts, cookies, and pretzels
Royal Icing


1. Make a sketch of the house you want to duplicate, using a photo, or use a photocopier to enlarge or shrink a photo to about 6 to 7 inches tall. Simplify small details, but keep those that characterize the house. For example, omit siding and gutter details, but include the style of a door, shutters, and special trim. Alternatively, copy one of the house styles shown in our gallery.

2. Check supermarkets and bulk candy stores for lots of colorful decorating possibilities -- cookies, pretzels, candies, gum, and nuts.

3. Prepare desired dough. Cover and chill while preparing patterns.

4. To make patterns, trace house shapes onto graph paper. Make 2 copies for each house. From one pattern, cut out details that add dimension to the house, such as dormers, a roof, or a front porch. If desired, cover pattern pieces with clear self-adhesive shelf paper to make them more durable.

5. Lightly grease the back of a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking pan. Roll some of the dough to 1/4-inch thickness on the greased pan. Place some of the pattern pieces 1 inch apart on dough. Cut around piece with a sharp knife, as shown. Remove excess dough (save for rerolling). Leave dough cutouts on the pan and bake in a 375 degree F oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are browned.

6. Place pattern pieces on the warm baked cookie pieces and trim edges. Cool 3 minutes on pan. Loosen cookie pieces with a spatula. When completely cool, transfer to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough and patterns.

7. To decorate, prepare the Royal Icing. Divide and tint icing as desired, using paste food coloring. Fit pastry bags with couplers and tips. Fill bags with icing, keeping any remaining icing covered with plastic wrap; refrigerate until needed, if desired, place cookie cutouts on waxed paper. Decorate as desired, piping on windows, doors, trim, and other elements as shown. Use icing to attach candies, other cookie cutouts, and edible garnishes. (If icing in bag begins to dry and plugs the decorating tip, just wipe tip with a clean wet cloth.) Use the house front photos on these pages for decorating ideas. Allow decorated cookies to dry about 2 hours.

Gingerbread Cookie Dough

One batch of dough is enough to make about 4 house fronts (or 3 house fronts and several details). If you want to make additional cookie houses, prepare separate batches of dough. A double recipe is too much for most large mixing bowls.

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
1 tablespoon vinegar
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1. Beat shortening in a large mixing bowl 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.

2. Beat in molasses, egg, and vinegar until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour with a wooden spoon.

3. Cover and chill about 3 hours or until dough is easy to handle. Roll out, cut, and bake as directed.

Royal Icing

3 tablespoons meringue powder
1/3 cup warm water
1 16-ounce package powdered sugar, sifted (4-1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Paste food coloring

In large bowl combine meringue powder and water; add powdered sugar, vanilla, and cream of tartar. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined; beat on high speed for 7 to 10 minutes or until very stiff.

Divide icing, and tint with paste food coloring as desired. Place in pastry bags that are fitted with decorating tips. Pipe icing onto cookies or cake. When not using icing, keep it covered with clear plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. Thin icing with water to use as a glaze. Makes 3 cups.

Make-Ahead Tip: Cover icing with a damp cloth or white paper towel; cover tightly with plastic wrap or foil. Store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.