Christina's Gingerbread Dough
Combine the flour, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
In a heavy duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the shortening, powdered sugar, dark brown sugar, and molasses. Mix on low speed, just until smooth, trying not to incorporate too much air.
Add the flour mixture all at once, and mix on low to medium-low speed. As this begins to mix, add the 1/4 cup of cooled coffee. Watch closely as the dough begins to come together. If it looks and feels dry and crumbly, begin to add the remaining coffee, 1 tablespoon at a time as needed. The dough should be firm, but evenly moist.
Alternatively, this dough can be mixed by hand. If you choose to do this, add the flour mixture in 3 or 4 batches, instead of all at once, to the sugar and shortening mixture. Add the coffee, a little at a time, along with the flour.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into 2 flattened rectangles. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then place into an air-tight container or zip-top plastic bag. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours before rolling and cutting. The dough keeps for 4 days, refrigerated.
If dough has been chilled for longer than 1 to 2 hours, allow it to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before rolling.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment or foil, or very lightly grease.
Working with 1 piece of the chilled dough at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface to 3/8-inch thick (small, decorative pieces may be rolled thinner; pieces that will need to provide support may be rolled thicker). Transfer to prepared baking sheets, then cut to desired shapes using templates that have been lightly floured. Cut out desired shapes (use templates and lightly flour them before placing on the dough and cutting). If cutting windows, doors, etc., start by cutting them first, then cut the overall shape. This prevents distortion of the pieces. Keep similar sized pieces on each sheet for even baking. If you have the refrigerator space, a brief chilling at this point (15 minutes) will help the dough hold its shape in the oven, but this step is optional.
Lightly brush or spray the surface with water and bake 15 minutes for medium to large pieces (7 to 10 minutes for smaller pieces). Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes. With a sharp knife, carefully re-cut the hot gingerbread (using your templates) if any spreading occurred. Remove all scraps from the tray.
Return the baking sheet to the oven. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes more, even longer for very large or thick pieces, until dark brown, but not burned. You must bake gingerbread for houses much longer than you would bake cookies. It must be very dry throughout, and quite dark in color. The low oven temperature helps to keep the browning even, as opposed to dark around the edges. As oven temperatures will vary, check the pieces during the second baking frequently. If they are browning too quickly, lower the oven to 300 degrees F.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool 5 minutes on the baking sheet. Loosen the pieces from the tray with a thin spatula and continue to cool on the tray until firm. Remove the pieces from the tray and allow them to cool on a wire rack for several hours before assembling your house.
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