Instead of constructing a gingerbread house, try these rolled gingerbread cookies that are cut into the shapes of houses and decorated--no building skills required! These cookies are full of holiday spices: cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and black pepper. The brown sugar and molasses lend a deep brown color--the perfect contrast for the white royal icing used to decorate. For royal icing, I prefer to use a just-add-water mix. You can use whatever cookie cutters you'd like with this dough. For a simpler cookie decorating project, dip them in glaze and sprinkle with colored sugar.
Add the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, cloves, nutmeg, salt and pepper to a large bowl. Whisk to aerate and combine.
Cream the butter and brown sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the molasses and blend on medium until combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg and continue to mix on medium until combined, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl until the mixture comes together. Reduce the speed to low. Add the flour mixture and water, alternating in 3 additions. Mix until the ingredients are combined.
Mound the dough onto a clean workspace and press into two discs. Wrap each disc in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the dough to hydrate and the butter to firm up.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it to 1/4-inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut the dough into shapes and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze the cookie cut-outs for 15 minutes so they will retain their shape when baked.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place two racks in the upper and lower third of the oven.
Bake, switching the baking sheets halfway through, until the cookies have dried out and are baked through, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before decorating. Continue until all of the cookie dough has been used.
After cooling completely, decorate the cookies using royal icing or glaze.
To decorate with royal icing: Transfer 1/2 cup of royal icing to a piping bag with a #2 metal piping tip (small round tip). Pipe as desired--the royal icing will need about 1 hour to dry, or overnight if you plan to pack them for shipping. Add additional royal icing to the piping bag as needed.
To decorate with glaze: Dip the top half of the cookie into the glaze. Sprinkle the cookies with colored sugar as desired. Decorate with various candies if using.
Sift the powdered sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the egg whites and mix on low until combined, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and mix until smooth, about 5 minutes. With the mixer running, add 1 teaspoon of water at a time, if needed, to desired thickness.
Use immediately, as the royal icing will dry out. Or, store in a closed container in the refrigerator until ready to use (you may need to whisk in a little water again for it to be the desired thickness). Makes about 3 cups icing.
Add the ingredients to a small bowl and whisk until smooth. Spoon about 1 teaspoon on each cookie and use a small offset spatula or butter knife to spread the glaze on in an even layer. Sprinkle with colored sugar on top, if desired. Makes 1 1/2 cups glaze.