This colorful ranch house extends "Merry Christmas" wishes in true Southwest style. Constructed of sweet gingerbread, roofed in chewing gum tiles and decked with peppermint stick trims, icing and sprinkles, this adorable adobe "fixer-upper" comes with complete easy-to-follow directions. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 cups packed brown sugar
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 2 eggs
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 20 green apple hard candies, crushed
- ICING AND ASSEMBLY:
- 2 egg whites
- 2-2/3 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 8 to 10 drops green gel food coloring
- Pastry tips-round #5 and star #16
- Covered board (15 inches x 13 inches):
- 3 red and 4 brown miniature M&M's, divided
- 60 sticks cinnamon gum, divided
- 21 squares cheese-flavored snack crackers
- 2 peppermint sticks
- Malted milk balls
- Holly berry and leaf-shaped sprinkles
- 2 pretzel rods
- 2 large sourdough pretzel twists
- White sprinkles
- 2 caramel-filled chocolate candies
- 4 curved chocolate slices (Swoops), divided
- 2 thin pretzel sticks
- Light bulb-shaped sprinkles
- In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Beat in corn syrup and eggs. Combine the next five ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture. Divide into three portions. With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out one portion of dough directly onto a greased baking sheet to 1/4-in. thickness.
- With a sharp knife, cut out four 6-1/4-in. x 4-in. rectangles for ranch house sides and roof pieces. On two pieces, score two 2-1/2-in. high x 1-1/2-in. wide window outlines.
- Roll out second portion of dough. Position front and back wall patterns on dough; cut out. Score windows and door window on front. Cut out one 6-1/2-in. x 2-1/2-in. rectangle for porch awning.
- Bake at 400° for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. While still warm, place patterns over baked dough; trim. Cut out windows completely; cool. (Save cutouts for another use.)
- Place front and side walls on a foil-lined baking sheet. Spoon 2 teaspoons crushed hard candies into each window cutout. Bake at 400° for 3-4 minutes or until candy is melted. Cool completely on baking sheet before removing.
- For icing and assemble: In a bowl, beat egg whites, confectioners' sugar and cream of tartar on low for 1 minute. Beat on medium for 6-8 minutes or until stiff. Tint 3/4 cup icing green. Cover; refrigerate until ready to use.
- Cut a small hole in the corner of a pastry or plastic bag; insert #5 tip. Add some of the white icing. (Press plastic wrap over surface of unused icing and refrigerate between uses.) Pipe icing along base and sides of front wall and one side wall. Position at right angles to each other and place on covered board;prop with small cans. Repeat with second side section and back. Let dry; remove cans. Trim edges of windows, door window and door frame with icing. For doorknob, attach a red M&M with icing.
- For roof: Pipe icing along top edge of house. Position roof pieces; let dry. For roof tiles, cut 50 sticks of gum into thirds widthwise. Pipe and icing line 1/2 in. from bottom of one side of roof. Curve gum pieces and press along icing; repeat until one horizontal row is finished. Repeat six times, slightly overlapping each row until one roof piece is covered.
- Repeat on other side. Pipe a thick line of icing along top roof seam. Using the same technique, place final row of gum pieces at right angle to direction of roof tiles; let dry.
- For porch and awning: On covered board in front of ranch house, spread white icing into a 7-1/4-in. x 3-1/4-in. rectangle. Press cheese crackers 1/8 in. apart into icing; let dry. Pipe two mounds of icing 1 in. from the front of porch corners. Position peppermint sticks upright in mounds; let dry, propping if necessary. Pipe additional icing on peppermint stick tops and along one long edge of awning piece.
- Press long frosted edge against facade and over peppermint sticks; let dry. Pipe icing over top of awning. Press nine whole sticks of gum side by side lengthwise into icing; curve ends down.
- For antlers: Secure malted milk ball to a small piece of waxed paper with a dab of icing; pipe two antlers. Let dry; carefully peel away waxed paper. Center antlers above awning; attach holly berry and leaf sprinkles with icing.
- For cacti: Break a third off each pretzel rod; discard. For the arms (branches), break curved sides off pretzel twists and attach to sides of rods with icing; let dry. Using green icing and #16 tip, pipe small stars to completely cover one side of each cactus.
- Add white sprinkles; let dry. Turn over and repeat. Pipe white icing mouths; add remaining red M&M's for tongues. Attach brown M&M's for eyes; let dry.
- For hats, place caramel-filled chocolate candies inside curved center of two chocolate slices; pipe a hatband of icing to secure. Attach holly berry and leaf sprinkles; let dry.
- For rocking chair: Break pretzel sticks in half for chair legs. Attach with icing to the bottom of one chocolate slice; let dry. For rockers, cut remaining stick of gum in half lengthwise. Pipe a small amount of icing on tips of chair legs; attach gum strips and curve slightly. Let dry; invert. Pipe icing along back short side of chair seat; press remaining chocolate slice into icing for chair back. Let dry.
- For finishing touches: Carefully pipe swags of icing along tops of side windows, along edge of awning and around awning posts. Add light bulb sprinkles. Position cacti on board next to house and secure with icing; prop with small cans. Place hats on cacti. Place rocking chair in front of porch.
Originally published as Gingerbread Ranch House in Country Woman November/December 2004, p40
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