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For the look of a gingerbread house without the three-dimensional construction, make a facade instead. This one is based on a photograph of the house in which it is displayed. Two supports, cut from gingerbread and attached at the back, keep it upright.
What You'll Need:
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Using a photocopier, enlarge to desired size the photograph or drawing of the building you would like to render in gingerbread. (Make sure rendering will fit on your largest baking sheet.) Place a sheet of tracing paper over enlarged image; trace it. Be sure to include all the exterior details and features of the house -- doors, windows, eaves, shutters, shingles -- so you can outline with icing later. Copy the tracing onto a sheet of card stock to make a template; cut it out. To make the supports, enlarge template to the height of the facade. Trace onto card stock; cut out. Tip: You will need molding clay to make windowpanes. Use windowpanes as soon as possible after making them; if stored, they become tacky and impossible to work with. Don't make the caramel syrup until the molds are ready.
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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out gingerbread dough on a Silpat to about 1/4 inch thick. Chill until firm, about 1 hour. Lightly dust top of dough with flour.
Place facade template over chilled dough; cut out with a paring knife. Remove excess dough from around template (reserve). Cut out windows from facade with a small utility knife. Gather together and roll out scraps of dough; cut out two shutters and two supports. Bake and cool as directed in recipe.
Place Silpat with house pieces on a baking sheet. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until just beginning to brown, about 18 minutes. Let cool completely.
Place template over baked gingerbread. Using a utility knife, lightly score along roof lines, shingles, and door (to serve as guides when piping). Gingerbread can be stored on baking sheets, covered with plastic wrap, up to 1 week at room temperature.
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Using a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip (No. 2), pipe icing to outline any areas you wish to cover completely, such as eaves or turrets (use scored lines as guides); let set 5 to 10 minutes. While it sets, "draw" shingles by piping along scored lines, using the same tip. Then, with a pastry bag fitted with another small plain tip (No. 3), draw tight zigzags within the outlined areas to fill in (this is known as flooding). While icing is still wet, spread evenly with an offset spatula. When icing is dry, use the No. 2 tip to pipe decorative lines on flooded areas. Decorate shutters as desired.
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Roll out molding clay 1/4 inch thick on a Silpat. Measure windows of house; add 1/2 inch all around. With a utility knife, cut out molds from clay using measurements. Make the Caramel Syrup, and pour into molds. Let set in molds until completely dry, about 1 hour. Carefully lift clay, leaving windowpanes behind.
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Let set, then use Royal Icing to glue onto back of facade. Turn facade over so you can work from the back. "Glue" panes into window frames: Outline back of frame with icing by piping a line 1/4 inch from edge of frame. Press "glass" into place. Let icing dry completely, about 1 hour. Turn house right side up. Embellish windows with icing, if desired.
Lightly brush some un-iced areas of gingerbread with egg wash; liberally sprinkle nonpareils or sanding sugar over top. (Work quickly, as egg whites dry rapidly.) Let sit 20 minutes, then brush off any excess.
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Attach the shutters. To attach shutters, pipe a very thick line of icing along the edges of the windows. While still wet, attach shutters at a slight angle. If necessary, prop up shutters with a 1/2-inch piece of toothpick or crumpled paper towel to hold them slightly away from front of house as the icing dries.
Once the shutters are set, attach supports for the house to either end: Pipe icing along the angled edge of support, using a small plain tip (No. 3). Hold support, narrow end up, flush against one side of the house until set. Repeat on the other side of the house.