1. Roll chilled dough out on a well-floured surface to a 1/8-inch thick square.
2. Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place template on top of dough; using the tip of a sharp paring knife, trace the shape. Transfer shapes to parchment-lined pan, and chill in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
3. Remove dough from refrigerator. Sprinkle crushed red candies in the spaces cut out for the windowpanes. The candy will melt and create a stained glass effect for windows (optional). Bake 20-30 minutes until center is firm; don't let edges get too dark. Cool completely before removing from parchment.
4. Assemble your components and build your house (see main Gingerbread Houses article). Fill your piping bag with royal icing. Pipe a thick line of icing on the bottom (base) edge of the first side wall. Stand side wall on your sturdy foundation, icing side down, 2 inches in from the edge of the "yard." Hold for about 5 minutes to set; use cans from your pantry to stabilize--one on each side of the wall--and hold it in place.
5. Pipe a thick line of icing onto front edge of side wall. Pipe icing along base of front panel and press edges of walls together at a right angle. Hold walls together for about 5 minutes and then hold up with cans. Pipe icing along the front of the vertical seam where the two walls meet, and along the bases to stabilize.
6. Add second side wall to the front panel in the same fashion: stabilize with icing, hold to set, and prop up with cans. Pipe icing on vertical seam and along the base.
7. Pipe more icing and reposition cans to stabilize walls, if necessary.
8. Add back panel: pipe icing along edges of side walls and along the bottom of the back panel. Press the back panel into place and hold for 5 minutes. Carefully reach inside the house from above and pipe icing along all bases and seams to reinforce the walls. Use cans for support, if needed. Let stand for 30-60 minutes until dry and hard before adding the roof.
9. Remove cans from inside the house before assembling the roof. Pipe a line of icing along the diagonal edge front wall, continuing to pipe icing along edge of top of adjoining side wall, then up the diagonal edge of the back panel.
10. Pipe a line of icing around the inside edge of the roof panel, and press it into place. The top edge of the roof should align with the edges of the front and back panels.
11. The edge of the roof should create an "eave," an overhang of about ¾ inch or so. Hold the roof panel in place for 5 minutes. Pipe additional lines along roof joints, and carefully reach inside the house pipe inner seams as well. Repeat with second half of the roof. If necessary, prop up the roof with cans to hold the panels in place. Let the house sit a minimum of 6 hours or overnight so that the icing can harden.
12. When the house is assembled and dry, you can begin decorating! Start with the roof. Spread icing over the entire rooftop.
13. Starting from the top, affix white chocolate tiles in alternating rows of 3 and 4 pieces all the way to the bottom of the roof edge.
14. Place a small dot of icing on the bottom of the chocolate stars and add them to the roof in between the white chocolate tiles. (It's ok to see the white base--the tiles won't cover it completely). Pipe a line of icing across the top of the roof and add almonds and white chocolate-covered pretzels.
15. Trim the windows in white icing and garnish with black licorice ropes. Pipe a small amount of icing to the back of the pretzel square "shutters" and place them beside the windows. Pipe dots of icing along licorice border and use tweezers to add silver balls on the icing--these are your Christmas lights!
16. Pipe a dab of icing on the back of the chocolate candies. The brand name (such as M&M's®) should face inward as you adhere them to the base of the house.
17. Pipe a window frame and windowpanes on the front panel using a small plain tip.
18. Pipe an outline for the walkway, then spread entire path with icing. Line the edges of the path with licorice ropes and press in decorative candy paving stones. (Shown here are small decorative pastilles found at a specialty candy store, but anything with a flat surface will work.)
19. Finishing Touches:
These accessories can be assembled in advance, while you wait for the house to dry.
Front door: Spread icing along the back of the door cut-out and press against front panel; hold for 5 minutes.
Green swag: Mix green food coloring into portion of royal icing; pipe greenery along the edge of the house and the door. Press in red decorative candies for holly berries.
Yard: Spread icing along the remaining of the house and sprinkle coconut on top.
Chocolate hedge: Pipe along the bottom edge of cookies; affix to edge of yard, leaving about a ½-inch clearance. Pipe additional icing along edges to stabilize the fence.
Trees: Dip ice cream cones in melted almond bark. Use tweezers to trim the trees with pumpkin seeds, silver balls, and red candies.
Woodpile: Cut "logs" from wafer cookies and stack with dabs of icing. Place woodpiles by the front door and the side of the house.
Candles: Use a red jellybean or hot cinnamon jelly candy. Cut off the rounded tip so it will stand up straight. Apply a dab of icing to create a flame, and dip in yellow edible glitter.
Lamppost: Cut candy cane to 5-inch height. Pipe a ball of icing as the globe of the lamp and dip into yellow edible glitter sprinkles; let dry completely. Use super glue to adhere post to base--it is too heavy to be affixed with icing.
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